Attorney Gets Tax Lien, Then Allegedly Commits Tax Evasion

Lee Gottesman is a bankruptcy attorney in Toms River, New Jersey. He is also facing a heap load of tax troubles for some of the usual reasons.

According to the Department of Justice, Mr. Gottesman allegedly created a sub account within his attorney trust account after he had a tax lien filed against him in 2002. That account was for his wife…but his wife supposedly wasn’t a client. Then he allegedly ran all his expenses — both personal and business — through that sub-account. Adding to his troubles, from 2006 through 2009 Mr. Gottesman supposedly didn’t file tax returns…while allegedly earning more than $400,000. According to the indictment, Mr. Gottesman had a CPA prepare tax returns; he just couldn’t be bothered to file them. That’s tax evasion. The indictment noted that Gottesman, “…created and began to use the Sub Account to deposit business income and to pay personal expenses after the 2002 Tax Lien due to his belief that the IRS could not levy the Gottesman [Attorney Trust Account].”

But the reason he likely got into trouble is something that I’ve mentioned over and over again: Withholding payroll taxes but not remitting them. If you do this, you will be investigated. The indictment states, “He [Gottesman] knew that he was required to pay payroll taxes to the IRS, but that he had not.” Given that he allegedly collected (withheld) taxes on his employees but didn’t remit them, that’s a huge mistake. That’s another 15 counts to go with the four counts of tax evasion.

I look at the press release and the indictment and have to wonder. An attorney knows (or should know) the rules regarding taxes. He apparently had good advice from a CPA. He practices in bankruptcy, so he knows that there are alternatives to simply not filing and paying taxes. Yet Mr. Gottesman allegedly committed numerous felonies–and apparently admitted doing so to investigators.

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