Five Tax Shelter Promoters and Two Appraisers Indicted in Syndicated Conservation Easement Tax Scheme

Five Tax Shelter Promoters and Two Appraisers Indicted in Syndicated Conservation Easement Tax Scheme

Conspiracy Allegedly Involved Sale of Over $1.3 Billion in Fraudulent Tax Deductions

The U.S. Justice Department (“DOJ”) announced on March 1, 2022 that a federal grand jury sitting in Atlanta, Georgia, returned a superseding indictment on February 24, 2022 charging seven individuals with conspiracy to defraud the United States and other crimes arising out of their promotion of fraudulent tax shelters involving syndicated conservation easements dating back nearly two decades. One of the defendants, Herbert Lewis, was previously charged in an indictment returned on June 9, 2021.

Alleged Syndicated Conservation Easement Tax Scheme

According to the superseding indictment, Jack Fisher, an Atlanta certified public accountant (CPA); James Sinnott; Yekaterina Lopuhina, aka “Kate Joy;” Lewis, an Atlanta-area CPA; Victor Smith, an Atlanta-area CPA; Clayton Weibel, a licensed appraiser; and Walter D. Roberts II, aka “Terry Roberts,” a licensed appraiser, engaged in a conspiracy to design, market and sell false and fraudulent charitable contribution tax deductions to high-income clients.

Fisher and Sinnott allegedly caused partnerships to donate conservation easements over land owned by the partnerships. In conjunction with those donations, Fisher and Sinnott allegedly used two hand-picked appraisers, Weibel and Roberts, to generate fraudulent and inflated appraisals of the conservation easements that frequently valued the easements at amounts at least 10 times higher than the price that was actually paid for the partnership — often within months of the appraisals. According to the superseding indictment, the partnerships then claimed a charitable contribution tax deduction in the inflated amount of the conservation easement, resulting in a fraudulent tax deduction flowing to the clients who purchased units in the partnership.

Fisher, Sinnott, Joy, Lewis, Smith and other co-conspirators allegedly promoted, marketed and sold partnership units for $25,000 and guaranteed at least a 4-to-1 tax deduction ratio to their clients, which meant that four units with a total cost of $100,000 would yield a $400,000 tax deduction. The marketing materials allegedly stated, for example, that depending on their personal tax rate, such a $400,000 deduction could result in the client receiving $170,000 back within months of purchasing their units for $100,000. Fisher, Sinnott and Joy allegedly provided Roberts and Weibel with spreadsheets containing information purportedly used to value the conservation easements necessary to deliver the tax deduction ratio promised to their clients.

Indictment Details

The superseding indictment charges that the syndicated conservation easement transactions were abusive tax shelters lacking in economic substance or a business purpose. Despite Fisher, Sinnott and Joy allegedly attempting to disguise the transactions as real estate deals, the indictment alleges that the transactions were simply the illegal sale of inflated tax deductions.

Additionally, Fisher, Sinnott, Joy, Lewis and Smith allegedly helped clients claim charitable contribution tax deductions after the close of the tax year by accepting late sales, generating backdated documents and preparing, and causing the preparation of, false and fraudulent tax returns and false documents, among other items. In total, the defendants allegedly sold over $1.3 billion in false and fraudulent tax deductions through this scheme.

All defendants are charged with conspiring to defraud the United States, for which they face a maximum sentence of 5 years in prison.

In addition, Fisher, Sinnott, Joy, Roberts and Weibel are charged with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, for which each faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison if convicted. Lewis and Smith are both charged with wire fraud, for which they each face a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison for each count.

Fisher, Sinnott, Lewis, Smith, Roberts and Weibel are charged with aiding and assisting in the preparation of false returns related to the syndicated conservation easement tax shelters, for which they face a maximum sentence of 3 years in prison for each count.

Fisher, Sinnott, Joy and Lewis are also charged with filing false personal tax returns, for which they each face a maximum sentence of 3 years in prison for each count.

Finally, Fisher is charged with money laundering arising from his purchases of multiple luxury vehicles and domestic and foreign properties with the proceeds of unlawful activity. He faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison for each count.

In addition to the statutory maximum periods of incarceration, each of the defendants also faces a period of supervised release, monetary penalties, restitution and forfeiture. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

** Keep in mind that an indictment is merely an allegation, and all defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law. **

Actions by DOJ help support IRS’ campaigns to fight fraudulent tax shelters.

Acting Deputy Assistant Attorney General Stuart M. Goldberg of the Justice Department’s Tax Division stated: “The Tax Division is continuing to prioritize prosecution of fraudulent tax shelters, which are designed to enable taxpayers to pay far less than their fair share.  Those who contemplate promoting fraudulent tax shelters involving syndicated conservation easements – and the accountants, appraisers and tax preparers who create and execute strategies to assist them – should know that the Tax Division and IRS will unravel even the most elaborate schemes.”

Chief Jim Lee of IRS Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI) stated: “This superseding indictment demonstrates IRS Criminal Investigation’s commitment to investigate and prosecute illegal tax shelters.  IRS-CI special agents are focused on ending abusive syndicated conservation easements that allow perpetrators of these schemes to enrich themselves while their wealthy clients skirt their tax obligations.”

What Should You Do?

Whether you are a involved in a potentially fraudulent tax shelter or the promoter of one, it is important that you seek legal counsel as soon as possible to preserve your rights and/or mitigate your losses.  The tax attorneys of the Law Offices Of Jeffrey B. Kahn, P.C. located in Orange County (Irvine), San Francisco Bay Area (including San Jose and Walnut Creek) and elsewhere in California know exactly what to say and how to handle issues with the IRS as well as State Tax Agencies.  Our experience and expertise not only levels the playing field but also puts you in the driver’s seat as we take full control of resolving your tax problems. Also, if you are involved in cannabis, check out what our cannabis tax attorney can do for you.  Additionally, if you are involved in crypto currency, check out what a bitcoin tax attorney can do for you.Top of Form

Justice Department Shuts Down Brooklyn Tax Return Preparation Business

Justice Department Shuts Down Brooklyn Tax Return Preparation Business

Recently, the U.S. Justice Department (“DOJ”) successfully secured injunctions from U.S Federal District Court for the Eastern District of New York barring Keith Sang, Kashana Sang, Tareek Lewis, Kimberly Brown and their business K&L Accounting Inc. from preparing tax returns.

K&L Accounting Inc. of Brooklyn, New York

The Tax Division of the DOJ announced that on February 26, 2022, a federal court in the Eastern District of New York issued a preliminary injunction against four Brooklyn tax return preparers and their business.

The civil complaint filed in the case seeks to permanently bar Keith Sang, Kashana Sang, Tareek Lewis, Kimberly Brown and their business K&L Accounting Inc. from preparing tax returns. The preliminary injunction bars the defendants from any involvement in the preparation of federal tax returns during the pendency of this case. Keith Sang, Kashana Sang, Lewis and the business made no objection to the injunction. Brown opposed it.

The complaint alleges that the defendants’ tax return preparation schemes include preparation of individual income tax returns that (1) contain false or exaggerated itemized deductions (for example, unreimbursed employee expenses and charitable donations), (2) false filing statuses, such as improper “head of household” elections, (3) fraudulent and/or fictitious business income and/or expenses, (4) returns that falsify customer’s self-employment income to bring the customer into the “sweet spot” for the maximum available earned income tax credit, and (5) false losses on forms that report supplemental income or loss. The complaint alleges that, each year, K&L is responsible for preparing over 2,000 tax returns for customers, and that Keith Sang, whose electronic tax filing privileges were revoked years ago, has taken numerous steps to disguise his involvement with the tax return preparation, while he continues to prepare returns and supervise others working at K&L.

In granting the preliminary injunction, the court found that defendants engaged in concerted and conscious steps to evade IRS enforcement; that they, acting as a unit, repeatedly filed tax returns understating taxpayer liabilities since at least 2016; and that their past efforts demonstrated that they would continue hampering IRS enforcement unless prohibited from acting as federal tax return preparers during the litigation.

Actions by DOJ help support IRS’ campaigns to fight refund fraud and identity theft. 

“Identity theft is a pervasive crime and stopping it remains a top priority of the IRS,” said IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig. “The IRS, with the help of our Security Summit partners, continues to make progress in this area, but we need to continue our significant efforts to protect taxpayers and assist those who have been a victim of identity theft. We are fighting this problem with enhanced systems, smarter technology and the efforts of our dedicated workforce, including Criminal Investigation. We will retain our relentless, vigorous pursuit of those who prey upon others in this arena”.

The Office of the Chief of IRS Criminal Investigation (“CI”) has previously stated that “Millions of taxpayers put their trust in tax professionals to prepare accurate and lawful returns. Unfortunately, a few bad apples take advantage of that trust for their own greed and profit. CI’s special agents are highly skilled at unraveling fraudulent schemes. With our partners in other agencies and the private sector, we are dismantling these crooked enterprises and enforcing our tax laws.”

What Should You Do?

Whether you are a victim of identity theft or the perpetrator of identity theft, it is important that you seek legal counsel as soon as possible to preserve your rights and/or mitigate your losses.  The tax attorneys of the Law Offices Of Jeffrey B. Kahn, P.C. located in Orange County (Irvine), San Francisco Bay Area (including San Jose and Walnut Creek) and elsewhere in California know exactly what to say and how to handle issues with the IRS as well as State Tax Agencies.  Our experience and expertise not only levels the playing field but also puts you in the driver’s seat as we take full control of resolving your tax problems. Also, if you are involved in cannabis, check out what our cannabis tax attorney can do for you.  Additionally, if you are involved in crypto currency, check out what a bitcoin tax attorney can do for you.Top of Form

IRS Making It Easier For Taxpayers To Come Into The Voluntary Disclosure Program

IRS Making It Easier For Taxpayers To Come Into The Voluntary Disclosure Program

A tax crime is complete on the day the false return was filed.

It is a federal crime for anyone to knowingly and willfully file an income tax return that he or she knows to be false in some material way. 26 U.S.C. § 7207 provides:

Any person who willfully delivers or discloses to the Secretary any list, return, account, statement, or other document, known by him to be fraudulent or to be false as to any material matter, shall be fined not more than $10,000 ($50,000 in the case of a corporation), or imprisoned not more than 1 year, or both. Any person required pursuant to section 6047 (b), section 6104(d), or subsection (i) or (j) of section 527 to furnish any information to the Secretary or any other person who willfully furnishes to the Secretary or such other person any information known by him to be fraudulent or to be false as to any material matter shall be fined not more than $10,000 ($50,000 in the case of a corporation), or imprisoned not more than 1 year, or both.

In filing false tax return cases, the Government does not need to prove that it has been deprived of any tax by reason of such filing of the false return; even if it is shown that additional taxes may be due, the person can still be held accountable because they willfully filed a false tax return.

Avoiding Criminal Prosecution By Submitting To Voluntary Disclosure

The Voluntary Disclosure Practice is a longstanding practice of IRS Criminal Investigation of taking timely, accurate, and complete voluntary disclosures into account in deciding whether to recommend to the Department of Justice that a taxpayer be criminally prosecuted.  It enables noncompliant taxpayers to resolve their tax liabilities and minimize their chances of criminal prosecution.  When a taxpayer truthfully, timely, and completely complies with all provisions of the voluntary disclosure practice, the IRS will not recommend criminal prosecution to the Department of Justice.  However, if the IRS has initiated a civil examination, regardless of whether it relates to undisclosed foreign accounts or undisclosed foreign entities, the taxpayer will not be eligible to come in under the IRS’s Voluntary Disclosure Practice.

Required Elements Of A Qualified Disclosure

IRS administrative practice recognizes that a taxpayer may still avoid prosecution by voluntarily disclosing a tax violation, provided that there is a qualifying disclosure that is (1) timely and (2) voluntary. A disclosure within the meaning of the practice means a communication that is truthful and complete, and the taxpayer cooperates with IRS personnel in determining the correct tax liability. Cooperation also includes making good faith arrangements to pay the unpaid tax and penalties “to the extent of the taxpayer’s actual ability to pay”.

Timely.

A disclosure is timely if it is received before the IRS has begun an inquiry that is (1) “likely to lead to the taxpayer” and (2) the taxpayer is reasonably thought to be aware” of that inquiry; or the disclosure is received before some triggering or prompting event has occurred (1) that is known by the taxpayer and (2) that triggering event is likely to cause an audit into the taxpayer’s liabilities.

Voluntary.

Voluntari­ness is tested by the following factors: (1) how far the IRS has gone in determin­ing the tax investigation potential of the taxpayer; (2) the extent of the taxpayer’s knowledge or awareness of the Service’s interest; and (3) what part the triggering event played in prompting the disclosure (where the disclosure is prompted by fear of a triggering event, it is not truly a voluntary disclosure).

No voluntary disclosure can be made by a taxpayer if an investigation by the Service has already begun. Therefore, once a taxpayer has been contacted by any Service function (whether it be the Service center, office examiner, revenue agent, or a special agent), the taxpayer cannot make a qualifying voluntary dis­closure under IRS practice.

A voluntary disclosure can be made even if the taxpayer does not know that the Service has selected the return for examination or investigation may be too restrictive. Consequently, if there is no indi­cation that the Service has started an examination or investigation, Tax Counsel may send a letter to the Service stating that tax returns of the taxpayer have been found to be incorrect and that amended returns will be filed as soon as they can be accurately and correctly prepared. This approach has the advantage of putting the taxpayer on record as making a voluntary dis­closure at a time when no known investigation is pending. However, neither the taxpayer nor the lawyer can be completely certain that the volun­tary disclosure will prevent the recommendation of criminal prosecution.

Form 14457, Voluntary Disclosure Practice Preclearance Request and Application

Form 14457 has been revised by IRS permitting taxpayers who may face criminal prosecution for willful violation of tax law to voluntarily disclose information to the IRS that they failed to previously disclose.

Updates and additions to this form include:

  • IRS Criminal Investigation now accepts photocopies, facsimiles and scans of taxpayer signatures. Previously, Part II of Form 14457 had to be mailed.
  • An expanded section for reporting virtual currency.
  • A penalty structure for employment tax and estate and gift issues.
  • A check-box for inability to pay in full.

Doug O’Donnell, Deputy Commissioner Services and Enforcement stated “This is an important form and process for people who recognize it’s better to step forward and address their tax situations head-on, before facing IRS enforcement action.  The revised form includes a number of updates, and we encourage people to review the guidelines and consult a trusted tax professional.”

“Quiet Disclosure”

Where no IRS examination or investigation is pending a taxpayer’s alternative is the preparation and filing of delinquent or amended returns. Such action is called a “Quiet Disclosure”.  The advantage of filing delinquent or amended returns without a communication drawing attention to them is that the returns may not even be examined after being received at the Service Center. In such an event, the taxpayer not only will have made a voluntary disclosure but will have avoided an examination as well. The disadvantage is that during the time the returns are being prepared, the taxpayer may be contacted by the Service and a voluntary disclosure prevented.  Another disadvantage is that the IRS could use the filed amended income tax returns to constitute an admission that the correct income and tax were willfully not reported and institute criminal prosecution.

What Should You Do?

There is no set formula as to whether a taxpayer should pursue a Voluntary Disclosure or Quiet Disclosure.  It really depends on a case by case basis which is why you are best served by consulting with a criminal tax attorney expert in evaluating these matters.  Your financial well being, as well as your personal freedom may depend on the right answers. If you or your accountant even suspects that you might be subject to a criminal or civil tax fraud penalty, tax attorneys of the Law Offices Of Jeffrey B. Kahn, P.C. located in Orange County (Irvine), San Francisco Bay Area (including San Jose and Walnut Creek) and elsewhere in California can determine how to respond to these inquiries and formulate an effective strategy.  Also, if you are involved in cannabis, check out what our cannabis tax attorney can do for you.  Additionally, if you are involved in crypto currency, check out what a bitcoin tax attorney can do for you.Top of Form

 

IRS Criminal Investigation Division Releases Its Top Cases Of 2021

IRS Criminal Investigation Division Releases Its Top Cases Of 2021

On January 3, 2022 the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI) began listing he top 10 cases for calendar year 2021 on its Twitter account which are considered to me the agency’s most prominent and high-profile investigations of 2021.

IRS-CI is the criminal investigative arm of the IRS, responsible for conducting financial crime investigations, including tax fraud, narcotics trafficking, money-laundering, public corruption, healthcare fraud, identity theft and more. IRS-CI special agents are the only federal law enforcement agents with investigative jurisdiction over violations of the Internal Revenue Code, boasting a nearly 90% federal conviction rate. The agency has 20 field offices located across the U.S. and 11 attaché posts abroad.

In issuing this list IRS-CI Chief Jim Lee stated: “The investigative work of 2021 has all the makings of a made for TV movie – embezzlement of funds from a nonprofit, a family fraud ring that stole millions in COVID-relief funds and a $1 billion Ponzi scheme used to buy sports teams and luxury vehicles. But this is real life and I’m grateful to our IRS-CI agents for pursuing these leads and ensuring that the perpetrators were prosecuted for their crimes.”

Here are the cases of 2021 that made the top 10 of IRS-CI cases in countdown order:

  1. Albuquerque couple sentenced to federal prison in Ayudando Guardians case
    Susan Harris and William Harris were sentenced to 47 and 15 years in federal prison, respectively. They stole funds from Ayudando Guardians Inc., a nonprofit organization that provided guardianship, conservatorship and financial management to hundreds of people with special needs.
  2. Rochester man going to prison and ordered to pay millions in restitution for his role in Ponzi scheme that bilked investors out of millions of dollars
    John Piccarreto Jr. was sentenced to 84 months in federal prison and ordered to pay restitution totaling $19,842,613.66 after he was convicted of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and filing a false tax return. He conspired with others to obtain money through an investment fraud Ponzi scheme.
  3. Orlando sisters sentenced in $25 million tax fraud scheme
    Petra Gomez and her co-conspirator, her sister, Jakeline Lumucso, were sentenced to eight and four years in federal prison, respectively. They operated a tax preparation business with five locations in central Florida that filed more than 16,000 false tax returns for clients from 2012 to 2016 with a total estimated loss to the IRS of $25 million.
  4. Russian bank founder sentenced for evading exit tax upon renouncing U.S. citizenship
    Oleg Tinkov, aka Oleg Tinkoff, was ordered to pay more than $248 million in taxes and sentenced to time-served and one year of supervised release after he renounced his U.S. citizenship in an effort to conceal large stock gains that were reportable to the IRS after the company he founded became a multibillion dollar, publicly traded company.
  5. Ontario man who ran multimillion-dollar unlicensed bitcoin exchange business sentenced to 3 years in federal prison
    Hugo Sergio Mejia was sentenced to three years in federal prison and required to forfeit all assets derived from running an unlicensed business that exchanged at least $13 million in Bitcoin and cash, and vice versa, often for drug traffickers. He charged commissions for the transactions and established separate companies to mask his true activity.
  6. Owner of bitcoin exchange sentenced to prison for money laundering
    Rossen G. Iossifov, a Bulgarian national, was sentenced to 121 months in federal prison for participating in a scheme where popular online auction and sales websites — such as Craigslist and eBay — falsely advertised high-cost goods (typically vehicles) that did not actually exist. Once victims sent payment for the goods, the conspiracy engaged in a complicated money laundering scheme where U.S.-based associates would accept victim funds, convert these funds to cryptocurrency, and transfer the cryptocurrency to foreign-based money launderers.
  7. Ex-pastor of Orange County church sentenced to 14 years in federal prison for orchestrating $33 million con that defrauded investors
    Kent R.E. Whitney, the ex-pastor of the Church of the Health Self, was sentenced to 14 years in federal prison and ordered to pay $22.66 million in restitution to victims after defrauding investors of $33 million by orchestrating a church-based investment scam. At his direction, church representatives appeared on television and at live seminars to make false and misleading claims to lure investors to invest in church entities. Victims sent more than $33 million to the church and received fabricated monthly statements reassuring them that their funds had been invested, when in reality, little to no money ever was.
  8. Prairie Village Man Sentenced to 12 Years for $7.3 Million Dollar Payday Loan Fraud, $8 Million Tax Evasion
    Joel Tucker was sentenced to 12 years and six months in federal prison and ordered to pay over $8 million in restitution to the IRS after selling false information or fictitious debts to payday loan businesses and not filing federal tax returns – for himself or his businesses – with the IRS for multiple years.
  9. DC Solar owner sentenced to 30 years in prison for billion dollar Ponzi scheme
    Jeff Carpoff, the owner of California-based DC Solar, was sentenced to 30 years in federal prison and forfeited $120 million in assets to the U.S. government for victim restitution after creating a Ponzi-scheme that involved the sale of thousands of manufactured mobile solar generator units (MSGs) that didn’t exist. He committed account and lease revenue fraud and purchased a sports team, luxury vehicles, real estate and a NASCAR team with the proceeds.
  10. San Fernando Valley family members sentenced to years in prison for fraudulently obtaining tens of millions of dollars in COVID relief
    The Ayvazyan family received sentences ranging from 17.5 years in prison to 10 months of probation for crimes ranging from bank and wire fraud to aggravated identity theft. The family used stolen and fictitious identities to submit 150 fraudulent applications for COVID-relief funds based on phony payroll records and tax documents to the Small Business Administration, and then used the funds they received to purchase luxury homes, gold coins, jewelry designer handbags and more. Richard Ayvazyan and his wife Terabelian cut their ankle monitoring devices and absconded prior to their sentencing hearing; they are currently fugitives.

IRS-CI reported that the agency initiated over 2,500 cases in fiscal year 2021 (up from 1,598 in the previous fiscal year), applying approximately 72% of its time to tax related investigations.

The Special Agent’s Role In The IRS Criminal Investigation Division

An IRS Special Agent works for IRS-CI. Special Agents are duly sworn law enforcement officers who are trained to “follow the money”. They investigate potential criminal violations of the Internal Revenue Code, and related financial crimes. Unless they are working undercover they will identify themselves with credentials which include a gold badge. The same gold badge appears on their business cards. Generally, IRS Special Agents travel in pairs if they are going to interview someone. One to conduct the interview, and the other to take notes, and act as a witness if necessary.

If you are contacted by an IRS Special Agent it is because he or she is conducting a CRIMINAL investigation. It is possible that the Special Agent is only interested in you as a witness against the target of the IRS investigation. However, it is a bad idea to speak to Special Agent without a criminal tax attorney present. IRS Special Agents are highly trained financial investigators. If you are the target or subject of an IRS criminal investigation you are not going to talk your way out of it, by “cooperating”; instead you may be giving the IRS more evidence to use against you.

Even if the IRS Special Agent tells you that you are only a witness you should still consult with an experienced criminal tax attorney BEFORE speaking with an IRS agent. If you make misstatements that you think put you in a better light you could change your role from a witness into a target. The best tactic is to simply tell the Special Agent that you are uncomfortable talking to him until you have had a chance to speak with your attorney. Then ask him for his business card. In this way your tax attorney can contact the Special Agent directly, and determine the best course of action.

There are a number of statutes in the Internal Revenue Code that authorize the federal government to prosecute individuals, including those dealing with tax evasion, fraud and false statements, failure to file returns, failure to pay tax, etc. Some, like the tax evasion statute, are worded in particularly broad terms and may ensnare the unwary or careless taxpayers.

If IRS-CI recommends prosecution, it will give its evidence to the Justice Department to decide the special charges. Individuals are typically charged with one or more of three crimes: tax evasion, filing a false return, or not filing a tax return. All of which are tax fraud.

Two Special Programs Run By IRS-CI

With the avalanche of billions of data flowing to IRS, IRS-CI has been running two special programs: the International Tax Enforcement Group (ITEG), and the Nationally Coordinated Investigations Unit (NCIU). Both focus on increasing the rate of taxpayer compliance with income reporting requirements contained in the Internal Revenue Code – particularly those pertaining to the disclosure of foreign financial accounts, reporting of virtual currency transactions, and reporting transactions involving cannabis.

What Should You Do?

Very quickly a criminal investigation can turn to the worst for a targeted taxpayer so you should promptly seek tax counsel who can act proactively before the IRS does. Let the tax attorneys at the Law Offices Of Jeffrey B. Kahn, P.C. located in Orange County (Irvine), Los Angeles and other locations within California protect you from excessive fines and possible jail time. Also, if you are involved in cannabis, check out how a cannabis tax attorney can help you. And if you are involved in crypto currency, check out what a bitcoin tax attorney can do for you.

IRS Criminal Investigation Division Releases Its 2021 Annual Report

IRS Criminal Investigation Division Releases Its 2021 Annual Report

On November 18, 2021 the IRS released the Criminal Investigation Division’s (CI) annual report, highlighting significant successes and criminal enforcement actions taken in fiscal year ending September 30, 2021.  The IRS noted that a key achievement was the identification of over $10 billion in tax fraud and other financial crimes.

In issuing this report IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig stated:  IRS-CI agents are the only federal law enforcement officers with the authority to investigate criminal violations of the U.S. tax code. Their work reinforces the backbone of our voluntary compliance tax system — a system that funds services and benefits for our nation, including defense, infrastructure and education.”

According to the report, CI initiated over 2,500 cases in fiscal year 2021 (up from 1,598 in the previous fiscal year), applying approximately 72% of its time to tax related investigations. CI is the only federal law enforcement agency with jurisdiction over federal tax crimes achieving a conviction rate of over 90% in fiscal year 2021.

IRS Criminal Investigation Division Expands Its International Network

The report states that in the last fiscal year IRS-CI built upon its existing network of U.S. field offices and international attachés to combat financial crimes across the globe through the agency’s alliance with the Joint Chiefs of Global Tax Enforcement (J5) and public-private partnerships with financial institutions and the Fin-Tech industry to deter and identify criminal activity. Additionally, IRS-CI established its first cyber attaché in The Hague, Netherlands, to proactively support cyber investigative needs in coordination with Europol.

IRS-CI Chief Jim Lee stated “IRS-CI continues to lead tax and financial investigations here in the U.S. and across the globe. In fiscal year 2021, as we faced the second year of a global pandemic, our team of agents continued to overcome personal and professional challenges to target criminals who exploited the U.S. tax and financial systems for personal gain.”

The Special Agent’s Role In The IRS Criminal Investigation Division

An IRS Special Agent works for CI. Special Agents are duly sworn law enforcement officers who are trained to “follow the money”. They investigate potential criminal violations of the Internal Revenue Code, and related financial crimes. Unless they are working undercover they will identify themselves with credentials which include a gold badge. The same gold badge appears on their business cards. Generally, IRS Special Agents travel in pairs if they are going to interview someone. One to conduct the interview, and the other to take notes, and act as a witness if necessary.

If you are contacted by an IRS Special Agent it is because he or she is conducting a CRIMINAL investigation. It is possible that the Special Agent is only interested in you as a witness against the target of the IRS investigation. However, it is a bad idea to speak to Special Agent without a criminal tax attorney present. IRS Special Agents are highly trained financial investigators. If you are the target or subject of an IRS criminal investigation you are not going to talk your way out of it, by “cooperating”; instead you may be giving the IRS more evidence to use against you.

Even if the IRS Special Agent tells you that you are only a witness you should still consult with an experienced criminal tax attorney BEFORE speaking with an IRS agent. If you make misstatements that you think put you in a better light you could change your role from a witness into a target. The best tactic is to simply tell the Special Agent that you are uncomfortable talking to him until you have had a chance to speak with your attorney. Then ask him for his business card. In this way your tax attorney can contact the Special Agent directly, and determine the best course of action.

There are a number of statutes in the Internal Revenue Code that authorize the federal government to prosecute individuals, including those dealing with tax evasion, fraud and false statements, failure to file returns, failure to pay tax, etc. Some, like the tax evasion statute, are worded in particularly broad terms and may ensnare the unwary or careless taxpayers.

If CI recommends prosecution, it will give its evidence to the Justice Department to decide the special charges. Individuals are typically charged with one or more of three crimes: tax evasion, filing a false return, or not filing a tax return. All of which are tax fraud.

Two Special Programs Run By CI

With the avalanche of billions of data flowing to IRS, CI has been running two special programs: the International Tax Enforcement Group (ITEG), and the Nationally Coordinated Investigations Unit (NCIU). Both focus on increasing the rate of taxpayer compliance with income reporting requirements contained in the Internal Revenue Code – particularly those pertaining to the disclosure of foreign financial accounts, reporting of virtual currency transactions, and reporting transactions involving cannabis. 

What Should You Do?

Very quickly a criminal investigation can turn to the worst for a targeted taxpayer so you should promptly seek tax counsel who can act proactively before the IRS does. Let the tax attorneys at the Law Offices Of Jeffrey B. Kahn, P.C. located in Orange County (Irvine), Los Angeles and other locations within California protect you from excessive fines and possible jail time. Also, if you are involved in cannabis, check out how a cannabis tax attorney can help you. And if you are involved in crypto currency, check out what a bitcoin tax attorney can do for you.

How To Know When You May Be A Target In An IRS Criminal Investigation

How To Know When You May Be A Target In An IRS Criminal Investigation

A simple mistake, oversight, or your accountant’s malpractice may trigger an IRS criminal investigation. Specifically, unreported income, mismatch of information on a tax return versus third-party reporting information, a false statement, the use of an impermissible accounting or banking service, or declaring too many deductions are things that could initiate an audit, which could then rise to the level of an IRS criminal investigation.

The IRS is the world’s most powerful collection agency, with tremendous resources, and its Criminal Investigation Division (CID) is ruthless. CID conducts criminal investigations regarding alleged violations of the Internal Revenue Code, the Bank Secrecy Act and various money laundering statutes. The findings of these investigations are referred to the Department of Justice (DOJ) for recommended prosecution.

A criminal investigation differs from an audit. With an audit, the IRS attempts to determine whether you have calculated your tax liability correctly. With a criminal investigation, the IRS seeks to mount a case against you so that the DOJ can prosecute you and hold you out as an example to others as to what will happen if you cheat the government.

The IRS Criminal Investigation Process

The IRS criminal investigation process is serious business. CID is composed of federal agents (called “Special Agents”), who are highly trained financial investigators that carry a gun and wear a badge. Unlike your typical police department, CID conducts a very thorough investigation which may last years while they interview your family, friends, co-workers, employees, and business associates, and bankers, among others, to acquire evidence as to the extent of the tax evasion or tax fraud that may have occurred.

Special agents analyze information to determine if criminal tax fraud or some other financial crime may have occurred. Relevant information is evaluated. This preliminary process is called a “primary investigation”. The special agent’s front line supervisor reviews the preliminary information and makes the determination to approve or decline the further development of the information. If the supervisor approves, approval is obtained from the head of the office, the special agent in charge, to initiate a “subject criminal investigation”.

After all the evidence is gathered and analyzed, if the special agent and his or her supervisor determine that the evidence is sufficient to support the recommendation of prosecution, the agent proceeds with the preparation of a written report detailing the findings of violation of the law and recommending prosecution.  The report is then forwarded to DOJ who if the case is accepted will initiate criminal prosecution to ultimately get a conviction.

A criminal tax violation conviction results in severe consequences, and in addition to monstrous fines, including the cost of prosecution and jail time.  Each count can result in five years in jail and it could spell financial, personal and social ruin. Compounding the situation is that often a taxpayer will not know when he is subject to an IRS criminal investigation until it is in its late stages at which time they surely have made incriminating admissions if they were not represented by competent counsel.

 Signs that You May Be A Target in an IRS Criminal Investigation –

(1) An IRS Revenue Officer abruptly stops pursuing you after he has been requesting you to pay your IRS tax debt, and now does not return your calls. The agent might be getting ready to refer your case to the CID to investigate previous or current tax evasion or crimes you may have committed within the collection process. (i.e., making false statements, hiding income or assets).

(2) An IRS Revenue agent has been auditing you and now disappears for days or even weeks at a time. After a case is referred to the CID, both the Collection and Examination Divisions put things on “pause” because they do not want to jeopardize a successful criminal prosecution. CID is incredibly resourceful and tactful. To better position yourself against them, it is best to obtain an experienced IRS tax attorney as early as possible where criminal tax exposure is apparent in your fact pattern (like where you know you cheated on the return that is under audit). This is true even if your case is only at the civil investigation stage.

(3) Your bank informs you that your records have been summoned by the CID or subpoenaed by the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

(4) Your accountant is contacted by Special Agents, or has been subpoenaed to appear before a grand jury and told to bring your tax records. Unfortunately, the “accountant-client privilege” simply does not protect you in a criminal case and any statements made to your accountant can be used against you in a criminal investigation, either through the “discovery” process leading to trial or where the accountant is called as a witness during criminal tax trial.

What Should You Do?

Whether and when to answer questions from the IRS, or whether to stand on your 5th Amendment rights, are questions that only a tax fraud lawyer can help you answer. Your financial well being, as well as your personal freedom may depend on the right answers. If you or your accountant even suspects that you might be subject to a criminal or civil tax fraud penalty, you should seek help immediately.

The tax attorneys at the Law Offices Of Jeffrey B. Kahn, P.C. located in Orange County (Irvine), Los Angeles (including Long Beach and Ontario) and elsewhere in California are highly skilled in handling tax matters and can effectively represent at all levels with the IRS and State Tax Agencies including criminal tax investigations and attempted prosecutions, undisclosed foreign bank accounts and other foreign assets, and unreported foreign income. You can also check out the KahnTaxLaw Coronavirus Resource Center.  Also if you are involved in cannabis, check out what a cannabis tax attorney can do for you.  And if you are involved in crypto currency, check out what a bitcoin tax attorney can do for you.

 

Can You Go To Jail For Not Filing Tax Returns? Beware this can happen to you.

Can You Go To Jail For Not Filing Tax Returns? Beware this can happen to you.

A man who did not file tax returns for 8 year in a row pleaded guilty before a Federal District Court Judge to evading his income taxes and now must serve 57 months in jail.

As reported by the Department Of Justice in a press release, from 2009 through 2016 Daryl Brown received taxable income, but did not file tax returns reporting his income or pay the taxes he owed.  To evade his taxes, Mr. Brown opened bank accounts and lines of credit in nominee names and used credit and debit cards from those accounts to pay for personal expenses.  He also bought money orders with cash, directed others to buy money orders for him, and structured his purchase of money orders–sometimes from several locations on the same day–to avoid triggering reporting requirements that would have flagged his activity to the IRS.  Court documents showed Mr. Brown’s conduct caused a tax loss of more than $250,000 to the IRS.

The Department Of Justice in a follow-up press release reported that on June 7, 2021 U.S. District Judge Timothy S. Black in the Southern District of Ohio sentenced Mr. Brown to 57 months in prison for tax evasion and ordered him to serve 3 years of supervised release and pay restitution to the IRS in the amount of $377,240.

An Opportunity To “Get Back Into The System” And Be Compliant.

The U.S. tax system relies on initial voluntary compliance where taxpayers each year file a tax return; however, there are millions of Americans who fail to file a tax return and what’s worse is that these failures are usually not limited to just one year. Taxpayers who either have never filed a tax return or those who were once compliant but stopped filing a tax return for a period of time, face the same penalties that stack up quickly.  Additionally, if the IRS chooses to pursue criminal prosecution and proves that the failure was willful, a taxpayer can be sentenced to prison.  So it is important to engage a tax attorney to come up with a plan to mitigate criminal exposure and establish an arrangement or settlement on the resulting tax liabilities.

An Opportunity For Taxpayers Who Owe The IRS.

As a prerequisite to any proposal (including but not limited to, an Offer In Compromise, payment plan or being put into “uncollectible status”) to the IRS, you must be in current compliance. That means if you have any outstanding income tax returns, they must be completed and submitted to IRS.

Also, if you are required to make estimated tax payments, you must be current in making those payments. Fortunately, as we are now towards the end of 2021, taxpayers who expect to owe for 2021 should have their 2021 income tax returns as soon as possible in 2022 so that the 2021 liability can be rolled over into any proposal and the requirement to make estimated tax payments will now start for 2022.

Remember that COVID-19 does not alter the tax laws, so all taxpayers should continue to meet their tax obligations as normal. Individuals and businesses should keep filing their tax returns and making payments and deposits with the IRS, as they are required to do.

Also, the IRS will continue to take steps where necessary to protect all applicable statutes of limitations. In instances where statute expirations might be jeopardized during this period and a taxpayer is not agreeing to extend such, the IRS will issue Notices of Deficiency and pursue other similar actions to protect the interests of the government in preserving such statute.

What Should You Do?

You know that at the Law Offices Of Jeffrey B. Kahn, P.C. we are always thinking of ways that our clients can save on taxes. If you are selected for an audit, stand up to the IRS by getting representation. Tax problems are usually a serious matter and must be handled appropriately so it’s important to that you’ve hired the best lawyer for your particular situation. The tax attorneys at the Law Offices Of Jeffrey B. Kahn, P.C. located in Orange County (Irvine), Los Angeles (including Long Beach and Ontario) and elsewhere in California are highly skilled in handling tax matters and can effectively represent at all levels with the IRS and State Tax Agencies including criminal tax investigations and attempted prosecutions, undisclosed foreign bank accounts and other foreign assets, and unreported foreign income. You can also check out the KahnTaxLaw Coronavirus Resource Center.  Also if you are involved in cannabis, check out what a cannabis tax attorney can do for you.  And if you are involved in crypto currency, check out what a bitcoin tax attorney can do for you.

First It Was Coinbase, Now It Is Poloniex – Court Authorizes Service of John Doe Summons Seeking Identities of U.S. Taxpayers Who Have Used Cryptocurrency

First It Was Coinbase, Now It Is Poloniex – Court Authorizes Service of John Doe Summons Seeking Identities of U.S. Taxpayers Who Have Used Cryptocurrency

Cryptocurrency / Bitcoin – Is this the 21st century answer to hiding assets in Swiss bank accounts? 

The IRS thinks this is the case which is why in 2018 the IRS announced a Virtual Currency Compliance Campaign to address tax noncompliance related to the use of virtual currency through outreach and examinations of taxpayers. The IRS will remain actively engaged in addressing non-compliance related to virtual currency transactions through a variety of efforts, ranging from taxpayer education to audits to criminal investigations.

IRS Access To Cryptocurrency Transactions.

Following the success of the results of a John Doe Summons issued to Coinbase, Inc. as I previously reported, on April 1, 2021 the U.S. Department Of Justice announced that a federal court in the District of Massachusetts entered an order today authorizing the IRS to serve a John Doe summons on Circle Internet Financial Inc., or its predecessors, subsidiaries, divisions, and affiliates, including Poloniex LLC (collectively “Circle”), seeking information about U.S. taxpayers who conducted at least the equivalent of $20,000 in transactions in cryptocurrency during the years 2016 to 2020. The IRS is seeking the records of Americans who engaged in business with or through Circle, a digital currency exchanger headquartered in Boston.

Under the order, Circle will be required to turn over the names, addresses and tax identification numbers on its account holders. The Court has ordered Circle to produce the following customer information: (1) taxpayer ID number, (2) name, (3) birth date, (4) address, (5) records of account activity, including transaction logs or other records identifying the date, amount, and type of transaction (purchase/sale/exchange), the post transaction balance, and the names of counterparties to the transaction, and (6) all periodic statements of account or invoices (or the equivalent).

“Those who transact with cryptocurrency must meet their tax obligations like any other taxpayer,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General David A. Hubbert of the Justice Department’s Tax Division. “The Department of Justice will continue to work with the IRS to ensure that cryptocurrency owners are paying their fair share of taxes.”

“Tools like the John Doe summons authorized today send the clear message to U.S. taxpayers that the IRS is working to ensure that they are fully compliant in their use of virtual currency,” said IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig. “The John Doe summons is a step to enable the IRS to uncover those who are failing to properly report their virtual currency transactions. We will enforce the law where we find systemic noncompliance or fraud.”

Cryptocurrency, as generally defined, is a digital representation of value. Because transactions in cryptocurrencies can be difficult to trace and have an inherently pseudo-anonymous aspect, taxpayers may be using them to hide taxable income from the IRS. In the court’s order, U.S. Judge Richard G. Stearns found that there is a reasonable basis for believing that cryptocurrency users may have failed to comply with federal tax laws.

Starting with 2019, Form 1040 Makes It Harder For U.S. Taxpayers To Avoid Non-compliance Or Claim Ignorance.

Since 2019, Form 1040, Schedule1, Additional Income and Adjustments to Income, now includes the following checkbox question:

At any time during [the calendar year], did you receive, sell, send, exchange or otherwise acquire any financial interest in any virtual currency?   ◊ Yes            ◊ No

Taxpayers who file Schedule 1 to report income or adjustments to income that can’t be entered directly on Form 1040 will now be required to check the appropriate box to answer the virtual currency question. Taxpayers do not need to file Schedule 1 if their answer to this question is NO and they do not have to file Schedule 1 for any other purpose. This requirement is similar to how the IRS includes questions on Schedule B inquiring whether a taxpayer has foreign bank accounts.

Taxpayers who answer “no” and for who the IRS later determines should have answered “yes” could face civil or criminal penalties and it could affect their success in having penalties abated for reasonable cause.

Penalties For Filing A False Income Tax Return Or Under-reporting Income

Failure to report all the money you make is a main reason folks end up facing an IRS auditor. Carelessness on your tax return might get you whacked with a 20% penalty. But that’s nothing compared to the 75% civil penalty for willful tax fraud and possibly facing criminal charges of tax evasion that if convicted could land you in jail.

Criminal Fraud – The law defines that any person who willfully attempts in any manner to evade or defeat any tax under the Internal Revenue Code or the payment thereof is, in addition to other penalties provided by law, guilty of a felony and, upon conviction thereof, can be fined not more than $100,000 ($500,000 in the case of a corporation), or imprisoned not more than five years, or both, together with the costs of prosecution (Code Sec. 7201).

The term “willfully” has been interpreted to require a specific intent to violate the law (U.S. v. Pomponio, 429 U.S. 10 (1976)). The term “willfulness” is defined as the voluntary, intentional violation of a known legal duty (Cheek v. U.S., 498 U.S. 192 (1991)).

And even if the IRS is not looking to put you in jail, they will be looking to hit you with a big tax bill with hefty penalties.

Civil Fraud – Normally the IRS will impose a negligence penalty of 20% of the underpayment of tax (Code Sec. 6662(b)(1) and 6662(b)(2)) but violations of the Internal Revenue Code with the intent to evade income taxes may result in a civil fraud penalty. In lieu of the 20% negligence penalty, the civil fraud penalty is 75% of the underpayment of tax (Code Sec. 6663). The imposition of the Civil Fraud Penalty essentially doubles your liability to the IRS!

Voluntary Disclosure – The Way To Avoid Criminal Fines & Punishment

The IRS has not yet announced a specific tax amnesty for people who failed to report their gains and income from Bitcoin and other virtual currencies but under the existing Voluntary Disclosure Program, non-compliant taxpayers can come forward to avoid criminal prosecution and negotiate lower penalties.

What Should You Do?

With only several hundred people reporting their crypto gains each year since bitcoin’s launch, the IRS suspects that many crypto users have been evading taxes by not reporting crypto transactions on their tax returns.  And now that like-exchange treatment is prohibited on transactions that occur after 2017, now is the ideal time to be proactive and come forward with voluntary disclosure to lock in your deferred gains through 2017, eliminate your risk for criminal prosecution, and minimize your civil penalties.  Don’t delay because once the IRS has targeted you for investigation – even it’s is a routine random audit – it will be too late voluntarily come forward.

Take control of this risk and engage a bitcoin tax attorney at the Law Offices Of Jeffrey B. Kahn, P.C. located in Orange County (Irvine), San Francisco Bay Area (including Walnut Creek and San Jose) and other California locations.  We can come up with solutions and strategies to these risks and protect you and your business to mitigate criminal prosecution, seek abatement of penalties, and minimize your tax liability.  Also, if you are involved in cannabis, check out what our cannabis tax attorney can do for you.

IRS Criminal Investigation Division Releases Its 2020 Annual Report

IRS Criminal Investigation Division Releases Its 2020 Annual Report

On November 16, 2020 the IRS released the Criminal Investigation Division’s (CI) annual report, highlighting significant successes and criminal enforcement actions taken in fiscal year ending September 30, 2020.  The IRS noted that a key achievement was the identification of over $10 billion in tax fraud and other financial crimes.

In issuing this report IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig stated: “The special agents and professional staff who make up Criminal Investigation continue to perform at an incredibly high-level year after year.  Even in the face of a global pandemic, the CI workforce initiated nearly 1,600 investigations and identified $2.3 billion in tax fraud schemes. This is no small feat during a challenging year, and their work is critical to protecting taxpayers and the integrity of our tax system.”

According to the report, CI initiated 1,598 cases in fiscal year 2020, applying approximately 73% of its time to tax related investigations. CI is the only federal law enforcement agency with jurisdiction over federal tax crimes achieving a conviction rate of 90.4% in fiscal year 2020.

The Special Agent’s Role In The IRS Criminal Investigation Division

An IRS Special Agent works for the CI. Special Agents are duly sworn law enforcement officers who are trained to “follow the money”. They investigate potential criminal violations of the Internal Revenue Code, and related financial crimes. Unless they are working undercover they will identify themselves with credentials which include a gold badge. The same gold badge appears on their business cards. Generally, IRS Special Agents travel in pairs if they are going to interview someone. One to conduct the interview, and the other to take notes, and act as a witness if necessary.

If you are contacted by an IRS Special Agent it is because he or she is conducting a CRIMINAL investigation. It is possible that the Special Agent is only interested in you as a witness against the target of the IRS investigation. However, it is a bad idea to speak to Special Agent without a criminal tax attorney present. IRS Special Agents are highly trained financial investigators. If you are the target or subject of an IRS criminal investigation you are not going to talk your way out of it, by “cooperating”; instead you may be giving the IRS more evidence to use against you.

Even if the IRS Special Agent tells you that you are only a witness you should still consult with an experienced criminal tax attorney BEFORE speaking with an IRS agent. If you make misstatements that you think put you in a better light you could change your role from a witness into a target. The best tactic is to simply tell the Special Agent that you are uncomfortable talking to him until you have had a chance to speak with your attorney. Then ask him for his business card. In this way your tax attorney can contact the Special Agent directly, and determine the best course of action.

There are a number of statutes in the Internal Revenue Code that authorize the federal government to prosecute individuals, including those dealing with tax evasion, fraud and false statements, failure to file returns, failure to pay tax, etc. Some, like the tax evasion statute, are worded in particularly broad terms and may ensnare the unwary or careless taxpayers.

If CI recommends prosecution, it will give its evidence to the Justice Department to decide the special charges. Individuals are typically charged with one or more of three crimes: tax evasion, filing a false return, or not filing a tax return. All of which are tax fraud.

Two Special Programs Run By CI

With the avalanche of billions of data flowing to IRS, CI has been running two special programs: the International Tax Enforcement Group (ITEG), and the Nationally Coordinated Investigations Unit (NCIU). Both focus on increasing the rate of taxpayer compliance with income reporting requirements contained in the Internal Revenue Code – particularly those pertaining to the disclosure of foreign financial accounts, reporting of virtual currency transactions, and reporting transactions involving cannabis.

What Should You Do?

Very quickly a criminal investigation can turn to the worst for a targeted taxpayer so you should promptly seek tax counsel who can act proactively before the IRS does. Let the tax attorneys at the Law Offices Of Jeffrey B. Kahn, P.C. located in Orange County (Irvine), San Francisco Bay Area (including San Jose and Walnut Creek) protect you from excessive fines and possible jail time. Also, if you are involved in cannabis, check out how a cannabis tax attorney can help you. And if you are involved in crypto currency, check out what a bitcoin tax attorney can do for you.

 

U.S. Successfully Disrupts Three Terror Finance Cyber-Enabled Campaigns

U.S. Successfully Disrupts Three Terror Finance Cyber-Enabled Campaigns

Using the same tools in the investigations of U.S. taxpayers, this is the largest ever seizure of terrorist organizations’ cryptocurrency accounts.

The Department Of Justice on August 13, 2020 announced the dismantling of three terrorist financing cyber-enabled campaigns, involving the al-Qassam Brigades, Hamas’s military wing, al-Qaeda, and Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS).  This coordinated operation is detailed in three forfeiture complaints and a criminal complaint unsealed in the District of Columbia.

The announcement states that these three terror finance campaigns all relied on sophisticated cyber-tools, including the solicitation of cryptocurrency donations from around the world.  The action demonstrates how different terrorist groups have similarly adapted their terror finance activities to the cyber age.  Each group used cryptocurrency and social media to garner attention and raise funds for their terror campaigns.  Pursuant to judicially-authorized warrants, U.S. authorities seized millions of dollars, over 300 cryptocurrency accounts, four websites, and four Facebook pages all related to the criminal enterprise.

“IRS-CI’s ability to trace funds used by terrorist groups to their source and dismantle these radical group’s communication and financial networks directly prevents them from wreaking havoc throughout the world,” said Don Fort, Chief, IRS Criminal Investigation.

The tools and systems used by IRS in nabbing the cryptocurrency accounts of these three terrorist organizations are the same as those being you to nab non-compliant U.S. taxpayers who are not reporting their cryptocurrency transactions.

Investigations Of U.S. Taxpayers

The IRS has one of the most extensive data collections in the world. Traditionally its power to enforce has come through the matching of data. For example, you received a W-2 Form from your employer showing how much you earned. That same form is submitted by your employer to the IRS. Now the IRS can match your return to that form to make sure you are reporting the income. The same thing goes for 1099 forms showing your earnings from miscellaneous income, gambling winnings, interest and dividend income, sales of assets, deductions, and so on.

But with Bitcoin and other crypto-currencies, there is no such third-party reporting.  Digital exchanges are not broker-regulated by the IRS. Exchanges do not issue a 1099 form, nor do they calculate gains or cost basis for the trader. But the IRS is not stopping here…

Chainalysis Reactor Software

Chainalysis is a company that created a cryptocurrency-tracing software dubbed “Reactor” which is being used by at least 10 federal agencies including the IRS.  The IRS Cyber Crimes Unit (CCU), a five-year-old division of its larger Criminal Investigation (CI) wing and the leader in the IRS’ cryptocurrency crimes investigations, uses this software as a tool to help identify taxpayers who could be non-compliant in the tax laws or involved in criminal activity.  The IRS has also engaged another company, Excygent, to further enhance the IRS’ investigative capabilities.

IRS-CI Deputy Chief Jim Lee has signaled that his agents’ crypto-tracing resources and expertise are “in demand” even outside of the IRS and that “U.S. Attorneys want IRS-CI agents in all of their financial crime cases. The fact of the matter is, if a case involves money and it’s a crime that rises to the federal level, IRS-CI almost always has jurisdiction. There is no better example to this than in tracing cryptocurrency transactions.”

IRS-CI Chief Don Fort has been even more explicit of CI agents’ assistance to other federal agencies stating that by utilizing Chainalysis the IRS and the Department of Justice dismantled a sprawling child pornography ring in South Korea.

Virtual currency is an ongoing focus area for IRS Criminal Investigation.

In 2018 the IRS announced a Virtual Currency Compliance Campaign to address tax noncompliance related to the use of virtual currency through outreach and examinations of taxpayers. The IRS will remain actively engaged in addressing non-compliance related to virtual currency transactions through a variety of efforts, ranging from taxpayer education to audits to criminal investigations.

IRS Access To Cryptocurrency Transactions.

A John Doe Summons issued by IRS was ruled enforceable by U.S. Magistrate Judge Jacqueline Scott Corley in November 2017 (United States v. Coinbase, Inc., United States District Court, Northern District Of California, Case No.17-cv-01431).  Coinbase located in San Francisco is the largest cryptocurrency exchange in the United States.  Under the order, Coinbase will be required to turn over the names, addresses and tax identification numbers on 14,355 account holders. The Court has ordered Coinbase to produce the following customer information: (1) taxpayer ID number, (2) name, (3) birth date, (4) address, (5) records of account activity, including transaction logs or other records identifying the date, amount, and type of transaction (purchase/sale/exchange), the post transaction balance, and the names of counterparties to the transaction, and (6) all periodic statements of account or invoices (or the equivalent).

ON MARCH 16, 2018 COINBASE COMPLIED WITH THIS SUMMONS AND TURNED OVER DATA OF 14,355 ACCOUNT HOLDERS TO IRS.

Now while this net may not pick up taxpayers whose accounts have less than $20,000 in any one transaction type (buy, sell, send, or receive) in any one year from 2013 to 2015, it should be clear that this is the first step for the IRS to crush non-compliance for all taxpayers involved with cryptocurrency just like the IRS was successful in battling taxpayers having undisclosed foreign bank accounts.

10,000 Cryptocurrency Owners Receiving Warning Letters From The IRS

After years of analyzing data from third parties involved in the cryptocurrency exchanges, the IRS announced in a press release on July 26, 2019 that it has started sending letters to cryptocurrency owners advising them to report their cryptocurrency transactions and pay their taxes. More than 10,000 taxpayers have been identified by IRS as being involved in cryptocurrency transactions but who the IRS believes may not have been compliant in reporting these transactions on their tax returns.

Taxpayers who do not properly report the income tax consequences of virtual currency transactions are, when appropriate, liable for tax, penalties and interest. In some cases, taxpayers could be subject to criminal prosecution.

Notices Being Sent To Taxpayers Are The First Step In IRS Enforcement Action

The IRS is using three types of notices to send to more than 10,000 taxpayers by the end of August 2019 – notices 61736174 or 6174-A. All three notices indicate the IRS has information that the taxpayer receiving the notice currently has or has had virtual currency. However, it is Letter 6173 that is most serious as it requires a signature from the recipient under perjury that they are compliant with the U.S. tax code or requiring taxpayers to respond to the IRS and either file delinquent returns for tax years 2013 through 2017 or amend previously filed returns and include the applicable forms or schedules reporting cryptocurrency transactions. If you receive a Letter 6173, it should be a virtual certainty that you will be selected for examination.

If you receive Letter 6173, you should consult with a tax attorney as the submission of a statement signed under penalties of perjury that is false can result in serious consequences including criminal prosecution.

2019 Form 1040 Makes It Harder For U.S. Taxpayers To Avoid Non-compliance Or Claim Ignorance.

The 2019 Form 1040, Schedule1, Additional Income and Adjustments to Income, now includes the following checkbox question:

At any time during 2019, did you receive, sell, send, exchange or otherwise acquire any financial interest in any virtual currency?   ◊ Yes            ◊ No

Taxpayers who file Schedule 1 to report income or adjustments to income that can’t be entered directly on Form 1040 will now be required to check the appropriate box to answer the virtual currency question. Taxpayers do not need to file Schedule 1 if their answer to this question is NO and they do not have to file Schedule 1 for any other purpose. This requirement is similar to how the IRS includes questions on Schedule B inquiring whether a taxpayer has foreign bank accounts.

Taxpayers who answer “no” and for who the IRS later determines should have answered “yes” could face civil or criminal penalties and it could affect their success in having penalties abated for reasonable cause.

Penalties For Filing A False Income Tax Return Or Under-reporting Income

Failure to report all the money you make is a main reason folks end up facing an IRS auditor. Carelessness on your tax return might get you whacked with a 20% penalty. But that’s nothing compared to the 75% civil penalty for willful tax fraud and possibly facing criminal charges of tax evasion that if convicted could land you in jail.

Criminal Fraud – The law defines that any person who willfully attempts in any manner to evade or defeat any tax under the Internal Revenue Code or the payment thereof is, in addition to other penalties provided by law, guilty of a felony and, upon conviction thereof, can be fined not more than $100,000 ($500,000 in the case of a corporation), or imprisoned not more than five years, or both, together with the costs of prosecution (Code Sec. 7201).

The term “willfully” has been interpreted to require a specific intent to violate the law (U.S. v. Pomponio, 429 U.S. 10 (1976)). The term “willfulness” is defined as the voluntary, intentional violation of a known legal duty (Cheek v. U.S., 498 U.S. 192 (1991)).

And even if the IRS is not looking to put you in jail, they will be looking to hit you with a big tax bill with hefty penalties.

Civil Fraud – Normally the IRS will impose a negligence penalty of 20% of the underpayment of tax (Code Sec. 6662(b)(1) and 6662(b)(2)) but violations of the Internal Revenue Code with the intent to evade income taxes may result in a civil fraud penalty. In lieu of the 20% negligence penalty, the civil fraud penalty is 75% of the underpayment of tax (Code Sec. 6663). The imposition of the Civil Fraud Penalty essentially doubles your liability to the IRS! And this is why the IRS is first sending Letter 6173 requiring a signature from the recipient under perjury that the taxpayer is compliant with the U.S. tax code BEFORE the IRS then decides to audit the taxpayer.

Voluntary Disclosure – The Way To Avoid Criminal Fines & Punishment

The IRS has not yet announced a specific tax amnesty for people who failed to report their gains and income from Bitcoin and other virtual currencies but under the existing Voluntary Disclosure Program, non-compliant taxpayers can come forward to avoid criminal prosecution and negotiate lower penalties.

What Should You Do?

With only several hundred people reporting their crypto gains each year since bitcoin’s launch, the IRS suspects that many crypto users have been evading taxes by not reporting crypto transactions on their tax returns.  And now that like-exchange treatment is prohibited on transactions that occur after 2017, now is the ideal time to be proactive and come forward with voluntary disclosure to lock in your deferred gains through 2017, eliminate your risk for criminal prosecution, and minimize your civil penalties.  Don’t delay because once the IRS has targeted you for investigation – even it’s is a routine random audit – it will be too late voluntarily come forward.

Take control of this risk and engage a bitcoin tax attorney at the Law Offices Of Jeffrey B. Kahn, P.C. located in Orange County (Irvine), San Francisco Bay Area (including Walnut Creek and San Jose) and other California locations.  We can come up with solutions and strategies to these risks and protect you and your business to mitigate criminal prosecution, seek abatement of penalties, and minimize your tax liability.  Also, if you are involved in cannabis, check out what our cannabis tax attorney can do for you.