Monsters Under the Bed

Two Florida tax preparers (I hesitate to use the word “professionals” based on what they’re accused of) are facing a lawsuit from the Department of Justice seeking a civil injunction to prevent them from owning a tax preparation firm and preparing returns for others. This lawsuit is derived from other lawsuits against individuals related to LBS Tax Services.

It seems that Christopher Lawrence and Kenneth Aikens, proprietors of “Tax Mon$Ter” and “Tax Pros,” are accused of doing many of the practices that bad preparers use to get bad refunds: false earned income tax credit, incorrect filing status, phony businesses, fake unreimbursed business expenses, and one that we don’t see that often: unconscionable fees. From the DOJ press release:

According to the complaint, Lawrence and Aikens target primarily low-income customers with deceptive and misleading advertisements, prepare and file fraudulent tax returns to fraudulently increase their customers’ refunds and profit through unconscionable, exorbitant and often undisclosed fees—all at the expense of their customers and the U.S. Treasury.

There are two main points to realize from this story. First, if it sounds too good to be true it probably is. If your tax “professional” is promising you a huge refund but something doesn’t sound right, there likely is something wrong. Second, the IRS has methods today to go after bad tax professionals. Suppose I start inventing deductions and credits, adding phony dependents, and otherwise abuse the system, the IRS can come after me. Even unlicensed tax professionals can be gone after–and it appears that’s the case here.

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