CINCINNATI — The Internal Revenue Service’s Criminal Investigation Division (IRS-CI) is reminding taxpayers to file accurate tax returns and choose a tax preparer wisely. The nation’s tax season starts on Friday when the agency begins accepting and processing 2020 tax year returns.
U.S. persons are subject to tax on worldwide income from all sources. Most taxpayers meet this obligation by reporting all taxable income and paying taxes according to the law. However, those who willfully hide income should know that the IRS works across its divisions to ensure the highest possible tax compliance. Taxpayers found to be committing fraud may be subject to penalties including payment of taxes owed plus interest, fines and jail time.
“Most Americans file accurate, honest, and timely tax returns,” said Bryant Jackson, Special Agent in Charge, IRS Criminal Investigation, Cincinnati Field Office. “IRS CI is committed to pursuing those who intentionally file false tax returns.”
Tax return preparers are vital to the U.S. tax system. As of tax year 2018, 55 percent of taxpayers used a paid preparer. Although most preparers provide honest and professional services, there is a small number of dishonest preparers who set up shop during filing season to steal money, personal and financial information from clients. Taxpayers can avoid falling victim to unscrupulous preparers by following important steps.
Tips when choosing a tax preparer:
Look for a preparer who is available year-round in case questions arise after the filing season.
Ask if the preparer has an IRS Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN), which is required for paid preparers.
Inquire about the preparer’s credentials and check their qualifications.
Ask about service fees. Avoid preparers who base fees on a percentage of their client’s refund or claim to offer a bigger refund than their competition.
Never sign a blank or incomplete return and review it before signing. Refunds should go directly to the taxpayer, not the preparer.
For more tips on choosing a tax professional or to file a complaint against one, visit IRS.gov. Taxpayers who suspect tax violations by a person or business, may report it to the IRS using Form 3949A, Information Referral.
The IRS Criminal Investigation Cincinnati Field Office is committed to protecting Ohio and Kentucky taxpayers from unscrupulous tax preparers and others cheating the U.S. tax system. Here are some examples of some of the most egregious criminals that have been recently investigated and brought to justice:
– Quiana Mathews was sentenced to 72 months in prison and was ordered to pay $1,952,896 in restitution to the IRS for conspiring to file false claims for income tax refunds with the IRS. Mathews, along with co-conspirators, Virginia Earnest and Barbara Huffman, operated GQ’s Tax Pros LLC out of Columbus, Ohio. The defendants filed approximately 1,221 income tax returns claiming more than $5.3 million in income tax refunds. The defendants filed returns with false Schedule C information in order to qualify taxpayers for the Earned Income Credit. Some returns also claimed fictitious dependents to generate tax benefits.
– Lesley Wade of Frankfort, Kentucky was sentenced to 60 months in prison for money laundering and filing a materially false tax return. Wade was an employee of the Franklin County Board of Education (FCBOE). She wrote unauthorized checks of FCBOE money to herself, then falsified the necessary FCBOE records and invoices to cover up her crimes. She also served as Treasurer of Leestown Gospel Church in Frankfort where she periodically used her control over the Church’s finances to launder money she had stolen from the FCBOE, using the Church’s account before writing checks to herself, attempting to avoid detection and making the checks appear legitimate. As a result of her actions, the FCBOE lost a total of $1,624,593. The total amount of tax loss as a result of false tax returns filed with the IRS was $315,677.