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Taxes

Most accountants, CPAs, and certified tax preparers are honest, hardworking people who are dedicated to their profession. Most tax professionals simply want to secure the best possible tax deal for their clients while following all best practices regarding accuracy. However some tax professionals may over emphasize their ability secure favorable tax treatment for their clients and may cross the line into overly aggressive tax minimization strategies. Even more troubling, other tax preparers may be corrupted by greed and act dishonestly by improperly obtaining or using client tax refunds or other client funds.

If you are a tax professional, you already understand the devastating impact allegations of this type can have on your professional reputation and livelihood. Therefore any tax professional potentially facing an investigation or referral to the IRS Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) should immediately retain tax counsel. However laypeople may not understand that mistakes or other improprieties found in tax filings are ultimately the responsibility of the filer.

#1 Tax Lady Indicted for Tax Fraud
Before proceeding any further, it is important to note that this is merely an indictment meaning that charges have been filed and have been presented to the defendant, but they have not yet been proven. The defendant is still innocent under the laws of the United States until prosecutors can prove otherwise. However, this brings us to another important point; the IRS times its announcements of indictments, convictions, and plea deals to coincide with tax time. This approach is intended to deter both tax professionals and taxpayers from taking overly aggressive positions or engaging in questionable tax acts. Furthermore it has the added benefit of making taxpayers more wary so that they are more likely to ask their tax professional tough questions if things don’t seem quite right.

However, according to a press release from the U.S. Department of Justice, this deterrent effect did not prevent a slew of tax crimes from a Kalamazoo, Michigan based business. Federal prosecutors allege that Fontrice Lenee Charles participated in a number of tax schemes while promoting herself as the #1 Tax Lady. The main allegations contained in counts 1 through 25 of the indictment allege that Ms. Charles provided false information to the IRS to ensure that her clients would receive large tax refunds. Prosecutors alleged that Ms. Charles provided false information on 482 tax returns that resulted in excessive deductions of about $2 million. If convicted, Ms. Charles could face up to 5 years in prison, among other consequences, for each of these charges.

Ms. Charles also faces charges for alleged improprieties on her own income tax filings for 2010 and 2011. Prosecutors have alleged that Ms. Charles did not report the income from her tax preparation business in these returns and that she claimed a deceased individual as a dependent. Upon conviction, filing a false return can be punished with a prison sentence of up to 3 years.

Tax filers are also impacted by return preparer fraud

For clients of an accountant, CPA, or other tax professional who is convicted of fraud, providing false information or other improprieties the consequences can be harsh. The taxpayer is responsible for the information he or she provides to the IRS. In fact, when a taxpayer signs or otherwise authenticates their tax return, they are certifying the information contained within the tax filing is true and correct under the penalty of perjury. Even if the taxpayer was legitimately fooled by the representations of the tax preparer, errors will have to be corrected. This may include paying additional tax, interest and penalties to correct an underpayment. If excessive deductions were taken, the money will have to be paid back and additional penalties may also apply. In short, failing to ask difficult questions and make sure what your tax preparer is telling you adds up can lead to significant tax problems that may take years to correct.

Rely on our experience when handling tax issues due to preparer errors
The tax attorneys of the Brager Tax Law Group can provide representation for tax preparers who have been accused of tax fraud, errors or other improprieties. Furthermore we can work with individual tax payers who are simply attempting to return to compliance after discovering a tax problem. To schedule a consultation, 800-380-TAX-LITIGATOR or contact us online.

Taxes

The Wisconsin owner of several self-help and life development companies received a rather jarring wake-up call when he was convicted on tax crimes and sentenced to a year in federal prison. Eric T. Plantenberg had failed to file taxes for ten years from 2000 to 2010 after he began subscribing to the views of the Church of Compassionate Service. According to court documents the Church of Compassionate Service is a group that advances frivolous tax arguments, chiefly to individuals who are receptive to an anti-tax or anti-government message. Arguments related to and reminiscent of the group’s anti-tax position have been determined to be clearly frivolous by the courts since at least the early 1980s.

What did the tax scam consist of?
It is not uncommon for those promoting tax scams or frivolous tax arguments to associate their argument with a fundamental right and legitimate tax structures. Such an approach can give the frivolous tax argument an air of legitimacy by association and the strength of the fundamental right can cause a layperson to have questions about the extent of rights such as the freedom of speech or religion. In the case of the Church of Compassionate Service, their argument was that a taxpayer could take a religious oath of poverty and become “minister” in their organization. The minister’s income would then flow into the church, operating as a “corporation sole”, thereby relieving the “ministers” of any income, and thus, the obligation to pay or file taxes. The church would then return the money to the “ministers”. The church did not hold religious service or otherwise have any members beyond the “ministers”.

Can I stop filing taxes and paying taxes on religious grounds?
While an attorney or tax professional cannot offer tax advice regarding your specific circumstances without first scrutinizing your tax and financial records, the vast majority of people will not be able to successfully rely on a tax minimization argument like the one above. In fact, for nearly all taxpayers advancing an argument of this type would be considered frivolous. Advancing a frivolous tax argument can potentially be punished by a fine of $5,000, any other accuracy-based civil or criminal tax consequences, a penalty for an erroneous refund, and a civil fraud penalty.

There are extremely limited circumstances where a “corporation sole” argument could withstand scrutiny – chiefly when a bona fide religious leader holds property in the entity for the benefit of the religious organization. But, consider that as early as 1980, the courts had already announced that this type of tax scheme would not be applicable for the majority of filers. In United States v. Peister, the argument that a taxpayer was not liable to file or pay tax after taking an oath of poverty and becoming minister of a church of his own founding was rejected by the courts. In separate 1985 and 1986 cases criminal tax convictions were upheld against defendants who utilized religious entities to avoid tax obligations. In the 1987 case Svedahl v. Commissioner, a $5,000 penalty under § 6673 – Frivolous Tax Arguments – was imposed after defendants argued that purported church entities shielded their income from taxation. In the 2013 Berryman case it was noted that, “[c]ourts have repeatedly rejected similar [corporation sole] arguments as frivolous, imposed penalties for making such arguments, and upheld criminal tax evasion convictions against those making or promoting the use of such arguments.”

What violations and crimes are associated with the failure to file taxes?
Even without advancing a frivolous tax argument, failing to file taxes can constitute a crime or violation.. If this occurs you could be guilty of violating a number of provisions of the tax code including:

  • IRC 6651: It is a violation of the tax code to fail to file or pay taxes. Section (a)(1) discusses the failure to file which can be punished by a penalty of 5 percent, if the failure is for less than a month, or an additional 5 percent per a month thereafter – up to a 25 percent penalty in the aggregate.
  • IRC 6031: this section of the tax code makes it mandatory to file a partnership return. Failures to file these returns is addressed by IRC 6031.
  • IRC 6699: Addresses the failure to file for an S Corporation.

Failing to file taxes by itself, can lead to tax problems including fines and penalties. When those filing failures are further exacerbated by frivolous tax arguments and attempts to conceal the unfiled and unpaid taxes, facing criminal tax charges become increasingly likely. If you have failed to file taxes or are otherwise looking to correct past problems while minimizing the costs of coming back into compliance contact us online or call 800-380-TAX-LITIGATOR today.

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Each and every year April 15th brings fear and dread for millions of Americans who fear that they will face a hefty tax liability. Some may even choose to put off the filing by requesting an extension prior to the filing deadline, but the fact remains that the tax will have to be reported and paid at some point. However, for some, their tax return may contain an unexpected surprise: a significant tax refund.

But, if you didn’t expect to receive anything back or if you expected to have to pay, proceed with caution. The refund may be the product on an IRS error. Although the original mistake may be the fault of the IRS, you can still face an audit and other serious tax consequences.

Why are tax refunds issued?
When tax liabilities are exceeded by the tax payments a refund is due. Sometimes a refund is caused by excessive tax withholding. According to the IRS, in 2004, 77% of filed returns triggered a refund. The average refund for that year was $2,100. However, some refunds were significantly higher than this amount. If you receive a refund that doesn’t match your tax return it may indicate that a mistake has been made by the IRS.

You should expect a notice from the IRS within a few days of receiving the refund. If the amount is out of line with what you expected, it is prudent to hold on to the funds and not to spend them until you receive this notice that should explain the refund. If the explanation does not match the refund, you may need to return some or all of the money to the IRS. If you fail to do so the IRS can pursue you for the inadvertently disbursed funds, with interest.

A Mistaken Tax Windfall Can Result in a Prison Sentence
Consider the infamous case of, a Laguna Beach, California man, Stephen McDow who was mistakenly issued an IRS tax refund of $110,000. Mr. McDow found the refund deposited in his Citibank account after the rightful recipient, 67 year old Michelle D., mistakenly provided the IRS with her former bank account number that had been closed in or about 2005. After Mr. McDow received the money, he claimed he thought it was an answered prayer and spent the money to resolve past debts including student loans and expenses from a foreclosure.

Mr. McDow was charged with one felony count of theft of lost property. The potential sentence for the crime was enhanced by the fact that the property was worth over $65,000. Despite the fact that Mr. McDow may not have thought he stole anything he faced a 4 year prison sentence. It pays to be cautious and to wait for an explanation prior to spending a larger than expected refund. In the end, Mr. McDow’s family loaned him the funds to pay back Michelle D, and he was sentenced to 60 days in jail, and 18 months of probation. However if these resources had not been available, the consequences could have been even more severe.

An audit often comes after the refund
This case is clearly an outlier but errors of this type can and do occur and taxpayers must be wary. This is because many people assume that the issuing of a refund indicates approval or, at least, some level of review by the IRS. In reality, the audit can often follow the refund. In fact, in most situations, the IRS has up to 3 years to audit your return. Even if your return has been reviewed and the IRS has corrected math errors, an audit can still occur.

Rely on our experience to resolve your tax problems
The Brager Tax Law group is dedicated to assisting individuals and business with serious tax problems including those caused by an erroneous refund. We can advocate on behalf of the taxpayer and negotiate with the IRS to resolve the issue. To schedule a confidential and initial consultation call 800-380 TAX LITIGATOR or contact us online today.

Taxes

It is not uncommon for many people to want to get done with their taxes as quickly as possible and not devote a moment beyond what they have to. If they complete their own taxes using computer software or an online program, they may rush through the process and fail to read and understand what is being asked. This can lead to failure to make required disclosures, submitting erroneous information to the IRS, and other tax problems. Even if you work with a tax preparer, rushing through the process can still land you in a difficult situation should you fail to disclose all sources of income, submit incomplete tax documents, or fail to provide the tax preparer with all of the information he or she will need to complete your taxes accurately. These failure can result in a tax audit which may reveal further noncompliance with the US Tax Code and additional penalties.

At the Brager Tax Law Group, one of our goals is to provide taxpayers with the information they need to avoid preventable mistakes. Because our practice is focused on helping clients through difficult tax problems we have seen some of the common mistakes filers make because they are rushing through the return or otherwise fail to provide complete and accurate information.

You did not include all sources of income
The failure to report all sources of income is one of the top reasons why individuals end up facing a tax audit. In some instances, the reporting failure may be attributed to an independent contractor position where, rather than a W-2, the worker receives a 1099. The worker may not initially recognize the additional tax burden 1099 status can entail. When the larger than expected tax bill comes due, there can be a strong temptation to “fix” the tax problem by failing to disclose the 1099 income. However, the IRS has systems and procedures in place to catch these instances where the numbers provided by the taxpayer simply do not add up.

In other instances the failure to report foreign income or foreign accounts may lead to a tax audit. The US is one of only a handful of countries that taxes its citizens and green card holders on their worldwide income regardless of where it was earned. In recent years the IRS has significantly stepped up its efforts at detecting and prosecuting offshore tax evasion. If you also hold foreign financial accounts to which an FBAR of FATCA disclosure duty apply, the risks of detection and an audit or criminal investigation become even more pronounced.

You use only whole, round numbers in your filings
While working in powers of tens and using nice, round even numbers makes the math easy to handle, such an approach immediately raises a red flag because the odds of such figures are, at best, implausible. Real life is messy. Rarely will your net earnings, withholdings and deductions equal rounded numbers. Such acts make it easy for the IRS to identify that you did not provide accurate information on your tax return. Aside from facing criminal or civil consequences for providing false or inaccurate tax information, the IRS may also decide to launch an audit to uncover additional wrongdoing.

You take excessive deductions
Tax deductions are intended to prevent taxpayers from paying taxes on certain expenditures. However certain deductions, such as the home office deduction, attract suspicion because it is so commonly abused. Furthermore, excessive deductions are also a common reason for triggering an audit. Some people may think, “How will the IRS know what deductions are legitimate?” However, the IRS does have a general idea because it can compute the average deduction for a filer with similar income levels and circumstances. If your claimed deductions depart significantly from the average, the IRS agent may decide to inquire further through an audit.

Understanding Random Audits
The random audit is also a means through which some people come under additional scrutiny and tax problems are uncovered. Therefore, it is essential that you provide accurate tax information for each and every year where the duty to file taxes exists. If you fear that past filings may subject you to a future audit or you are already facing a tax audit, call the Brager Tax Law Group at (800) 380-TAX LITIGATOR or contact us online today.

Taxes

While many people think that a criminal tax situation is something that cannot happen to them unless they had the intent to defraud the government, the truth is that criminal tax charges can be triggered by even a slight misstep. Mistakes on your taxes that are perceived as willful misstatements by an IRS agent, and accountant or tax preparer malpractice are but a couple of the common ways that well-meaning taxpayers find themselves facing serious criminal penalties including a federal prison sentence.

In short, the things an average person does not know about tax law or tax crimes can hurt them when faced with an IRS audit or criminal investigation. A tax lawyer can help a taxpayer by providing context for any actions or inactions that might be misinterpreted by the agent, and negotiate a more favorable outcome.

Indicators of Tax Fraud
IRM 25.1.2 provides guidance for IRS agents in investigative techniques to be used in identifying tax fraud. One of the methods utilized by agents is to look for and identify indicators, or “badges” of fraud. The IRS has developed lists of these badges of fraud regarding a taxpayer’s income, expenses and deductions, financial books and records kept, income allocations, the taxpayer’s conduct, and the methods of concealment utilized. In brief, the listed indicators of fraud for each category include:

  • Income – Signs of fraud include entire sources of income being omitted, unexplained increases in net worth, expenditures substantially exceed income, no explanation for the source of certain bank deposits, concealing accounts or assets, excessive dealing in cash, and cashing checks considered income at check cashing services.
  • Expenses or Deductions – Claiming dependency status for independent, deceased, or non-existent individuals, claiming false deductions, and claiming business deductions that are actually personal expenses are all considered badges of fraud.
  • Books & Records – Keeping multiple sets of books, irregularly numbering invoices, making false entries in the records, failing to keep records, providing false receipts, and engaging in nonstandard accounting practices can all lead to tax problems.
  • Allocations of Income – If income or profits are distributed to fictitious individuals, the IRS will consider this a sign of fraud.
  • Taxpayer Conduct – Rude or abusive behavior toward the agent, making false statements, incomplete disclosures, failure to follow the advice of an accountant, backdated documents, submission of a false W-4 and other similar acts are all considered badges of fraud.
  • Methods of Concealment – Placing assets in the names of others, transferring property in anticipation of tax bills, secret transactions, transactions outside the typical course of business, and reservation of rights or interests in purportedly transferred property are all considered to be as badges of fraud.

The foregoing is not a comprehensive list of all items considered badges of fraud by the IRS, but it does indicate the types of issues they are looking for.

What actions by the IRS agent may reveal a pending investigation?
If you are already in contact with an IRS agent, certain actions may tip you off that an investigation may soon follow. While it is good practice to contact a tax attorney immediately upon contact with an IRS agent, you should do so immediately if one of the following scenarios occurs:

  • You have been selected for a random audit and you know that the relevant tax years contain false statements or understatements of income.
  • An agent contacts you seeming particularly concerned about your goals for a transaction and what you hoped to accomplish rather than the form of the transaction itself.
  • You have been audited and in regular contact with an IRS agent. The agent then disappears for weeks at a time and will not return your calls.
  • You have been pursued by an IRS agent requesting that you satisfy a tax debt. You call the agent and he or she will not return your calls.
  • Your accountant, bank or financial institution informs you that your records have been subpoenaed.

While these scenarios do not cover every scenario that should raise an alarm, they do give a good sense of the types of events and scenarios that should trigger concern by a taxpayer. If you find yourself in one of the above situations or in similar circumstances, contact the Brager Tax Law Group immediately. Our tax professionals will work to protect you. Contact us by calling (800) TAX LITIGATOR or contact us online.

Taxes

If you were to ask people about the things that they should do every single year, they are likely to mention visiting the doctor for a physical, taking their car in for preventative maintenance, and maybe even a tradition that the person spearheads every year. It is unlikely, however, the individual will mention their yearly duty to file and pay taxes. While taxes are due each and every year, they are typically something that we prefer not to dwell on, unless forced to. In fact, many people will not even consider taxes until days before the due date when the media is saturated with messages about tax filing. As tax attorneys we work to provide strategies that mitigate the risk or consequences of civil or criminal tax exposure. The simplest one is to file your tax return on time!

Nearly all citizens and green card holders have an obligation to file taxes
Nearly all US citizens or legal permanent residents, have an obligation to file taxes due to their level of income or for other reasons. For instance for the 2014 tax year, an individual under age 65 who is filing as single would have an obligation to file taxes if he or she makes $10,150 or more. The same would apply to a married couple filing jointly if they earn more than $20,300 a year. In some cases even smaller amounts of income can require the filing of a tax return. In short, the income thresholds to trigger a tax reporting obligation are not high and apply to almost all US citizens and green card holders.

Failure to file can mean open-ended liability
The failure to file taxes extends the statute of limitations in perpetuity. In most tax situations not involving willful conduct if a tax return was filed, the IRS has 3 years to assess any additional the tax and another ten years to take any enforcement action. However, if you fail to file taxes, this time period is open-ended. While it is unlikely that the IRS would pursue very remote tax years, such a strategy is unnecessarily risky and is never advisable. Furthermore, failing to file taxes when a reporting obligation exists can result in harsh tax penalties.

The penalties for a failure to file are more severe than a failure to pay
While there are penalties that can be imposed for both the failure to file taxes and for the failure to pay taxes, the penalties for a failure to file are typically worse. A failure to file penalty can be punished by a 5% penalty on the unpaid amounts for each month it was due and owing, up to a maximum of 25%. Because the IRS counts a partial month – even a single day – the same as a month where the tax was owed the entire time, the total penalty for failure to file often exceeds the amount expected by the taxpayer. For instance, if a tax return was to be filed by April 15th, but the return is not filed until June 2nd then the failure to file penalty would apply to 3 months – the entire month of May and the partial months of April and June. If the return is filed more than 60 days late, a minimum penalty of 100% of the unpaid tax or $135 can apply.

Filing taxes can prevent the problems caused by tax scams
Electronic filing of taxes is extremely convenient as it allows taxpayers to receive a more timely notification that their return has been accepted by the IRS. However, there is a dark side to the electronic filing system. Unscrupulous individuals who steal your Social Security number and other personally identifying information can file taxes in your name. This filing will typically understate earnings or otherwise fraudulently maximize the refund issued. The scammer then steals the overstated refund. However, filing your taxes as soon as possible can prevent this scam and the serious consequences that can follow.

Filing a return is the only way to claim a refund
Even if you do not make enough to trigger the tax filing requirement, filing taxes can still be essential as it is the only way to claim any tax refund that you may be owed. If you fail to file taxes, you may be handing over your hard-earned money to the government unnecessarily. Unfortunately, many Americans are not diligent about filing to receive their tax refund. In March 2014 the IRS announced that there was still three-quarters of a billion dollars in unclaimed tax refunds available. For most people, the refunds from the 2010 tax year is no longer available because the law generally doesn’t allow for refunds on tax returns filed more than three years late.
However, refunds from the 2011 and later tax years are still available. The experienced tax professionals of the Brager Tax Law Group can discuss any unfiled tax returns, and develop a strategy for moving forward. To schedule a tax consultation call 800-380-TAX LITIGATOR.

form 1040

US citizens, legal permanent residents, and other covered individuals have an obligation to file and pay taxes on all sources of worldwide income. If an individual does not satisfy his or her filing and payment obligations, he or she may be subject to penalties for a failure to pay taxes, the failure to file taxes, or both.

While the following article will address a number of the penalties which can apply for non-filed taxes or nonpayment of taxes, this article does not address when civil or criminal fraud penalties could apply. Furthermore, if the failure to file or pay includes the failure to report sources of foreign income or foreign accounts, additional problems are likely to arise. The experienced tax attorneys of the Brager Tax Law Group can discuss your concerns, identify legal problems and work to develop effective solutions to your tax compliance issues.

What are the consequences for failure to file taxes?

A failure to file has occurred if, by the tax return’s due date, you have neither submitted a return nor made a request to the IRS for an extension of time. An individual or business entity’s failure to file is addressed by an array of statutes, including:

  • IRC 6651: Addresses the failure to file a tax return or to pay required taxes. IRC 6651 (a)(1) addresses the failure to file, while IRC 6651 (a)(2) addresses the failure to pay.
  • IRC 6654: Addresses the failure to pay an estimated tax onbligation. This law typically requires four estimated yearly payments with each payment comprising roughly 25% of the estimated tax liability. The amount of penalty is calculated as per IRC 6621.
  • IRC 6698: Addresses the failure to file a return for a partnership. Partnership returns are made mandatory by IRC 6031.
  • IRC 6011(e)(2): Addresses the failure to provide a required electronic return for partnerships with greater than 100 partners. The penalty is assessed for each partner beyond the 100 partner threshold.
  • IRC 6699: Addresses the failure to file for an S Corporation.

The failure to file penalty is typically greater than a failure to pay penalty. In most circumstances, the failure to file penalty is assessed at 5% of the unpaid taxes. This penalty is assessed for each and every month or part of a month where the tax is late. That is, if your filing deadline was April 15 and you do not file until June 2 of the same year, a penalty would be assessed for three months: May and the partial months of June and April. However, this penalty is capped at 25% of the amount of unpaid taxes. In contrast, if your return is filed more than 60 days late, a minimum penalty of the lesser of 100% of the unpaid tax or $135 will be imposed.

What are the penalties for failure to pay my full tax obligation?

The failure to pay penalty is assessed at half of 1% of the unpaid tax liability for each month or part of a month where the unpaid tax is overdue. Thus, as discussed above, the failure to pay taxes for even a single day in a month can result in the imposition of the full penalty. The failure to pay penalties can apply to income, gifts, estates, and certain excise tax returns.

However, it is important to note that a strategic request for an extension can reduce or eliminate potential tax penalties. That is, if a taxpayer requests a filing extension prior to the original deadline and pays a minimum of 90% of the actual tax owed by the original due date, then no failure-to-pay penalty will be assessed provided that the balance is covered by the extended payment date.

What if both the failure to pay and the failure to file penalty apply?

When both a failure-to-pay and a failure-to-file penalty can be imposed in any month, the penalty will be computed by subtracting the failure to pay penalty from the failure to file penalty. However, as discussed above, if your return is filed more than 60 days late, the IRS can impose a minimum penalty of the lesser of $135 or 100% of the unpaid tax.

The penalties that can be imposed due to a failure to file or pay taxes in a timely manner can, generally, only be eliminated if a taxpayer can show reasonable cause or otherwise prove that the failure was not due to willful neglect. The Brager Tax Law Group can work with US taxpayers to develop a legal strategy to correct tax compliance issues. To schedule a confidential consultation with an experienced tax lawyer call 800-380-TAX LITIGATOR, or contact our law offices online.

Law

Conversations between a CPA and his or her clients may or may not be shielded from disclosure to third parties. Whether the accountant-client privilege exists is a fact-specific inquiry where the fact that your disclosures may not have been confidential may not emerge until it is already too late. This is chiefly because federal law does not recognize a generalized privilege between accountants and their clients.

While a selection of states including Colorado, Missouri and Florida do recognize the privilege, the privilege will only apply in state courts or in federal courts that are applying state law. In federal courts applying federal law, only a limited statutory protection applies to accountant-client communications. In contrast, the attorney-client privilege is recognized by all 50 states and in the federal courts. Furthermore, additional confidentiality may be provided through the work-product doctrine.

What is the purpose of confidentially privileges?
The intent of the attorney-client privilege and the accountant-client privilege is to foster an environment that is conducive to the client being able to offer all relevant information without fear of subsequent disclosure. These privileges are created to encourage people to seek, respectively, legal or financial advice. Such rules can encourage individuals to seek advice and proactively resolve their problems rather than conceal issues until they become insurmountable. Without an expectation of confidentiality, it is foreseeable that individuals would forego professional advice or withhold essential information. However, before making a disclosure it is essential to understand that the accountant-client privilege can be extremely limited.

The accountant-client privilege is subject to many exceptions
When it exists, the accountant-client privilege prohibits the disclosure of confidential information that has been provided to an accountant by a client. The statutory basis for the limited federal protections, 26 U.S.C. § 7525(a)(1), reads, “With respect to tax advice, the same common law protections of confidentiality which apply to a communication between a taxpayer and an attorney shall also apply to a communication between a taxpayer and any federally authorized tax practitioner to the extent the communication would be considered a privileged communication if it were between a taxpayer and an attorney.” In other words, in situations where the privilege is permitted to be asserted, the privilege would be equivalent to that provided by an attorney-client relationship.

Unfortunately, the broad sense of protection created by the previous provision is largely illusory. This is because the following section of the statute limits the application of the privilege to noncriminal tax matters before the IRS and noncriminal tax proceedings in the federal courts. 26 U.S.C § 7525(a)(2). Furthermore, any written communications relating to or regarding the promotion of the indirect or direct use of a tax shelter, as defined by 26 U.S.C § 6662 (d)(2)(C)(ii), are not protected by the privilege.

Furthermore, if a client was to pursue a malpractice action against his or her CPA, previously privileged communications may be admissible into evidence if they are relevant. Although similar problems can occur when suing an attorney for malpractice attorneys generally have higher duties of confidentiality than accountants. Considering that the taxpayer is ultimately responsible for the information he or she submits to the IRS, the possibility of malpractice can put an individual in a difficult quandary where they must choose between seeking accountability and disclosing their own tax problems.

Understanding the attorney-client privilege as applied to tax concerns
Many types of tax advice and legal guidance provided by a tax attorney may be protected by the attorney-client privilege, provided that the relevant requirements are met. This privilege is generally much more robust than the account-client privilege, although it cannot extend to the actual preparation of a tax return because such work is not generally considered to be legal advice.

However, a federal court recognized in US v. Deloitte, LLP that when at least some aspect of the material is prepared as part of an independent audit it can be protected by work-product if it is determined that the relevant portion of the material was prepared because of anticipated litigation. Furthermore, an individual who first retains an attorney and the attorney then engages with an accountant through a Kovel letter may be able to extend the confidentiality protections to cover the CPA as well. The use of an attorney merely as an intermediary would be insufficient to establish the privilege, but if the accountant is working under the direction of the attorney, the privilege would be likely to cover the accountant provided that the Kovel letter itself met legal requirements.

Put our legal experience resolving tax problems to work for you
The tax attorneys at the Brager Tax Law Group are dedicated to correcting taxes problems for our clients. To discuss your concerns confidentially, contact the Brager Tax Law Group online or call 800-380-TAX LITIGATOR to discuss your options.

Law

Las Vegas criminal defense attorney Paul Wommer, was convicted of tax evasion based on his failure to pay approximately $13,000 of interest and penalties imposed on the principal of his delinquent taxes. In a somewhat novel appeal to the 9th Circuit he argued he hadn’t committed “tax evasion” under Internal Revenue Code § 7201 because he had paid all of his tax debt, just not the penalties and interest. The court disagreed and instead took a more broad approach to the definition of taxes. Citing Internal Revenue Code § 6665(a)(2), which states that a tax shall also refer to the “additions to the tax, additional amounts, and penalties provided by this chapter,” the court found that the penalties would be considered taxes for tax evasion purposes. The Court also pointed to IRC Sections 6601(e) and 6671(a). IRC Section 6601(e) provides:

Interest prescribed under this section on any tax shall be paid notice and demand, and shall be assessed, collected, and paid in the same manner as taxes. Any reference to this title (except subchapter B of chapter 63, relating to deficiency procedures) to any tax imposed by this title shall be deemed also to refer to interest imposed by this section on such tax.

IRC Section 6671(a) provides:

Any reference to this title (except subchapter B of chapter 63, relating to deficiency procedures) to any tax imposed by this title shall be deemed also to refer to interest imposed by this section on such tax.

Thus, as the 9th Circuit saw it, tax evasion includes evading the payment of interest and tax penalties. Still its striking that the IRS would choose to pursue a criminal tax case based upon such a small amount of unpaid interest and penalties. Clients often do not view their conduct as being criminal, or they believe that because they are “small fish,” that the IRS will not bring a criminal tax case. While that may be true a lot of the time as Mr. Wommer found out with the wrong set of facts even small tax debts can morph into big tax problems.

Wommer’s case illustrates an increasing use of the evasion of payment prong of the criminal tax evasion statute. Internal Revenue Code Section 7201 makes it a crime not only to evade tax (as in filing a fraudulent tax return), but also willfully evading the payment of tax. Thus someone who willfully fails to pay their tax debt can be convicted of tax fraud even though their original tax return was perfectly proper. Of course not all non-payment of tax debt is considered tax evasion. However, Wommer stepped over the line when he started depositing money into the account of another individual in order to prevent the IRS from issuing a tax levy.

Call our experienced criminal tax attorneys at 1-800 Tax Litigator (1-800-208-6200) for a confidential consultation to discuss available options if you have been contacted by the IRS in connection with civil or criminal tax fraud or tax evasion, or any other high stakes tax problem.

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For the IRS to issue a Collection Due Process or CDP Notice. The CDP Notice is required by Internal Revenue Code Section 6330. The CDP notice is generally issued by the IRS on either Form LT-11 or Letter 1058, and it is titled “Notice of Intent to Levy and Right to Request A Hearing.” These letters give a taxpayer, who owes the IRS money, 30 days to file a request for a hearing with the Internal Revenue Service’s Appeals Division. More on this in a moment.

If the taxpayer doesn’t request a Collection Due Process hearing IN WRITING within the 30-day period, then the IRS may immediately begin seizure of bank accounts, accounts receivable, or any other assets. The IRS may even seize someone’s home, although this requires a lot more paperwork, and the approval of a federal district court judge.

An IRS internal document known as an IRS Program Manager Technical Assistance recently provided information on what will happen if the request for a CDP hearing is mailed timely to an incorrect office. The short answer is that the CDP hearing will be denied, and the IRS is legally free to begin levies and seizures. However, a taxpayer in this situation is, generally, permitted an “equivalent” CDP hearing; however, an equivalent CDP hearing does not carry with it the right to appeal to the United States Tax Court. It is only a timely filed request for a CDP hearing that will be appealable to the Tax Court if the IRS Appeals decision is not to the taxpayer’s liking.

In order for a CDP hearing request to be timely it must either be received by the correct IRS office within 30 days of the date of the CDP notice, OR be mailed timely to the correct office. In order to prove that the request has been mailed timely the best practice is to mail it by certified mail, return receipt requested, and obtain a stamp from the Postal Service showing the date on which the CDP request was mailed. Alternative delivery services such as FedEx may be used also, but the rules are a bit tricky.

Typically the CDP hearing requests must be sent to one of the four automated collection sites (ACS) maintained by the IRS around the country. However, cases assigned to an IRS revenue officer require that the request be sent to the Revenue Officer. In any event, the letter itself will explain where the CDP request should be sent, and if those instructions are followed, there won’t be a problem.

A CDP hearing is a valuable right which should almost never be waived. At a CDP hearing the Appeals Officer will consider:

• Collection alternatives such as installment agreement or offers in compromise.
• Whether the IRS has followed all laws and procedures • Subordination or discharge of a lien.
• Withdrawal of Notice of Federal Tax Lien.
• Innocent Spouse defenses • In limited situations, the correctness of the tax liability.

So if you receive a Notice of Intent to Levy and Right to Request a Hearing, make sure that you request a hearing within the 30-day time frame.

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