Articles Posted in Tax Preparer Penalties

In May, the IRS Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) issued penalty guidelines, sometimes referred to as a “penalty grid” for imposing penalties on tax preparers, and others who are tax attorneys, CPAs, or enrolled agents who fail to file timely income tax returns. The late filing of an income or employment tax return by a CPA, tax attorneys, or enrolled agent is considered a violation of IRS Circular 230, punishable by suspension from practice before the IRS. The guidelines issued by OPR first point out that sanctions are determined on a fact specific basis, and the penalty grid is not intended to establish a rigid standard. The guidelines including the actual penalty grid made be found at the OPR website.

The penalty grid imposes a guideline penalty of two to four months for each late filed tax return, even though no tax was due. If the tax return is still not filed at the time OPR contacts the tax preparer then the guideline is four to six months for each non-filed tax return. If the late filings continue for four or more years than the baseline can be doubled! Thus a simple late filing of tax returns for four years can result in a suspension from practice for 32 months even though no tax is due.

If you are CPA, tax lawyer, or enrolled agent who has not filed his tax returns you have a serious tax problem, and you may wish to contact the tax controversy attorneys at Brager Tax Law Group, A P.C.

Effective April 1, 2009 the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) will have a new Director- tax controversy attorney Karen Hawkins, Esq. Having known Karen professionally for a number of years I am confident that she will bring a well needed dose of practicality to OPR. Karen has worked tireless in many areas of tax litigation including most notably the innocent spouse arena where she successfully persuaded Congress to pass legislation clarifying (someone would say expanding) the availability of judicial review for innocent spouse cases under IRC Section 6015(f).

OPR has the responsibility for enforcing standards of competence, integrity and conduct for tax attorneys, CPAs, and enrolled agents who practice before the IRS. It enforces Circular 230, the rules and regulations which govern tax lawyers, CPAs, enrolled agents and others who practice before the IRS. Tax lawyers, CPAs and enrolled agents who violate Circular 230 are subject to discipline which may include suspension of practice before the IRS, and/or monetary fines.

Tax practitioners may run afoul of OPR if, for example, tax preparer penalties are imposed against them pursuant to IRC Section 6694 which provides for monetary penalties against tax preparers for various types of incorrect tax returns. Sometimes tax preparers agree to pay what in some instances is a small penalty under IRC Section 6694 rather than fight to have it set aside. This is generally a mistake since agreeing to an IRC Section 6694 penalty will almost always lead to an investigation by OPR, and possibly a suspension from practice.

Michael Fuller, an accountant from Florida, and Carl Perry, a food broker from Greenville, South Carolina, were sentenced on May 5, 2008 in federal court for tax evasion. Fuller was found guilty by a jury in July of 2007 and Perry pleaded guilty in May 2007 for conspiracy to defraud the United States pursuant to 18 U.S.C. 371. United States Circuit Judge William Wilkins sentenced Fuller and Perry to twelve months and one day in prison and three years probation, respectively.

Fuller and Perry committed tax evasion during a period from the late 1990’s till 2001. According to the Department of Justice, Perry used offshore accounts and other entities, which were set up by Fuller, to hide income from the Internal Revenue Service (“IRS”). A credit card was also set up with another offshore bank which was funded with Perry’s untaxed income. Fuller filed false income tax returns and other documents with the IRS to hide their tax evasion scheme.

If you have been accused of tax evasion contact the Southern California tax lawyers at Brager Tax Law Group, A P.C.

A Southern California tax return preparer, Matthew Carl Berry, was convicted of one count of conspiracy to defraud the IRS pursuant to 18 U.S.C 371, and three counts of filing false federal income tax returns. According to the indictment among other things Berry prepared false documents to be used in IRS tax audits. According to the press release issued by the Department of Justice Tax Division’s criminal tax attorneys, Berry prepared fraudulent tax returns by claiming mortgage interest deductions for taxpayers who did not own homes. Berry faces up to 5 years imprisonment, and a fine of up to $250,000 for the conspiracy conviction, and another three years for the criminal tax convictions for filing false income tax returns. Berry could also be subject to civil tax preparer penalties pursuant to Internal Revenue Code § 6694.

If you have concerns about exposure to criminal tax fraud penalties or civil tax fraud penalties contact the tax dispute lawyers at Brager Tax Law Group, A P.C.

Tax lawyers from the Department of Justice are seeking to enjoin two tax return preparers from representing anyone before the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) , acting as tax preparers or engaging in any other tax related conduct. The IRS complaint also seeks an injunction barring the tax preparers from engaging in conduct which is subject to the tax preparer penalties of Internal Revenue Code § 6694. The injunction was requested pursuant to Internal Revenue Code § 7407 and Internal Revenue Code § 7408.

According to the IRS complaint the tax return preparers committed tax fraud by filing fraudulent tax returns, and fraudulent amended tax returns claiming deductions for bogus mining development costs. Interestingly the IRS complaint alleges that 7 of the customers who had fraudulent tax returns prepared were NFL football players. The IRS complaint does not reveal the names of the players, and there is no indication in the complaint that the players knew that tax fraud had been committed.

If you are a tax preparer who has been accused by the IRS of tax fraud, tax evasion or violation of the tax return preparer penalty rules under Internal Revenue Code § 6694 contact the Southern California tax lawyers at Brager Tax Law Group, A P.C. Our tax lawyers represent clients throughout California, including Orange County, the Inland Empire, San Bernardino County, and Riverside County including the cities of Newport Beach, Laguna Beach, San Juan Capistrano, San Clemente, Mission Viejo, Laguna Niguel, Laguna Hills, Dana Point, Huntington Beach, Long Beach, Costa Mesa, Anaheim and Santa Ana.

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has issued a memorandum outlining its procedures for investigating tax preparers who show patterns of abuse, and thus may be subject to tax preparer penalties. The memo sets forth some interesting information. At least in cases initiated through LMSB (Large and Midsize Business) Division the approval of the IRS Director of Field Operations is necessary. Once an investigation has been approved the IRS may select up to 30 tax returns prepared by the preparer, and a tax audit of those returns will be opened. Of course this means that the tax return preparer’s clients will be contacted, and once the preparer’s client’s realize that they are being subjected to a tax audit solely because of who prepared their tax return it is likely they will find a new tax preparer in short order. They may also tell their friends, who are also clients, about their tax audit. In short a preparer investigation can quickly devastate a thriving practice even if the tax preparer is ultimately determined to have acted properly. For this reason it is critical that any hint of an IRS investigation must be responded to quickly, with the hope of rapidly putting it to an end.

If you are a tax preparer, and believe you may have been targeted by the IRS for a tax preparer penalty investigation contact California State Bar Certified Tax Specialist Dennis Brager.

The Internal Revenue Service’s (IRS) Taxpayer Advocate Nina Olsen has released her 2007 Annual Report to Congress. It consists of two large volumes outlining:

• The Most Serious Problems Encountered by Taxpayers • Key Legislative Recommendations, and Additional Legislative Recommendations • Most Litigated Issues • Case and Systemic Advocacy.

The Taxpayer Advocate’s Report has a great deal to say, and we will be commenting on many of those items over the next months. Number 9 on the list is tax preparer penalties, and the bypass of taxpayer representatives including tax attorneys, and CPAs. The Taxpayer Advocate’s Report criticizes the IRS for not doing more to enforce tax preparer penalties. She notes that only $2.8 million in penalties were assessed for FYE Sept. 2007. However, this is about a 50% increase over the prior year.