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July 27, 2011

Tax Frauds You Should Be Wary About


Here are five year-round scams every taxpayer should know about.

1. Hiding Income Offshore The IRS aggressively pursues taxpayers involved in abusive offshore transactions and the promoters who facilitate or enable these schemes. Taxpayers have tried to avoid or evade U.S. income tax by hiding income in offshore banks and brokerage accounts, or by using offshore debit cards, credit cards, wire transfers, foreign trusts, employee-leasing schemes, private annuities or life insurance plans.
In February, the IRS announced a second voluntary disclosure initiative to bring offshore money back into the U.S. tax system. The new voluntary disclosure initiative will be available through Aug. 31, 2011.
2. Phishing Scam artists use phishing to trick unsuspecting victims into revealing personal or financial information. Scams take the form of e-mails, phony websites or phone calls that offer a fictitious refund or threaten an audit or investigation to lure victims into revealing personal information. The IRS never initiates unsolicited e-mail contact with taxpayers about their tax issues. Phishers use the information to steal the victim’s identity, access their bank accounts and credit cards or apply for loans. Please forward suspicious scams to the IRS at phishing@irs.gov. You can also visitwww.irs.gov, keyword phishing, for additional information.
3. Return Preparer Fraud Dishonest tax return preparers cause trouble for taxpayers by skimming a portion of the client’s refund or charging inflated fees for tax preparation. They attract new clients by promising refunds that are too good to be true. To increase confidence in the tax system, the IRS now requires all paid return preparers to register with the IRS, pass competency tests and attend continuing education. Taxpayers can report suspected return preparer fraud to the IRS on Form 3949-A, Information Referral.
4. Filing False or Misleading Forms The IRS continues to see false or fraudulent tax returns filed to obtain improper tax refunds.
Scammers often use information from family or friends to file false or fraudulent returns, so beware of requests for such data. Don’t claim deductions or credits you are not entitled to and never willingly allow others to use your information to file false returns. If you participate in such schemes, you could be liable for financial penalties or even face criminal prosecution. The IRS takes refund fraud seriously, has programs to aggressively combat it and stops the vast majority of incorrect refunds.
5. Frivolous Arguments Promoters of frivolous schemes encourage people to make unreasonable and outlandish claims to avoid paying the taxes they owe. If a scheme seems too good to be true, it probably is. The IRS has a list of frivolous legal positions that taxpayers should avoid on www.irs.gov. These arguments are false and have been thrown out of court repeatedly.

For the full list of 2011 Dirty Dozen tax scams or to find out how to report suspected tax fraud, visit www.irs.gov.

July 8, 2011

California's New Voluntary Compliance Initiative Includes Unreported Foreign Income

California's Voluntary Compliance Initiative 2 will run from August 1, 2011 through October 31, 2011. It provides (for those who file amended returns and participate) for reduced penalties and can avoid criminal action by California for those who have participated in abusive tax avoidance transactions or offshore financial arrangements.

What is an offshore financial arrangement? 
An offshore financial arrangement (OFA) is any transaction designed to avoid or evade California income or  franchise tax through the use of: (a) offshore payment cards, including credit, debit, or charge cards issued  by banks in foreign jurisdictions, or (b) foreign banks, financial institutions, corporations, partnerships, trusts, or other entity.  This would include interest, dividends, capital gains, rental income, etc. that were not reported on your California tax return solely because those items were located or occurred in a offshore countries.


What is an abusive tax avoidance transaction?
Abusive tax avoidance transaction (ATAT) means a:  
• Tax shelter as defined under Internal Revenue Code (IRC) Section 6662(d)(2)(C)
• Reportable transaction as defined under IRC Section 6707A(c)(1) that is not adequately disclosed in
accordance with IRC Section 6664(d)(2)(A),
• Listed transaction as defined under IRC Section 6707A(c)(2),
• Gross misstatement within the meaning of IRC Section 6404(g)(2)(D), or
• Transaction to which the noneconomic substance transaction (NEST) penalty applies under Revenue and
Taxation Code (RTC) Section 19774.

Read More Here.  Let us help you amend your current and past returns and enter the program while there is still time to take advantage of its benefits.  


July 7, 2011

Attorney-Client Privilege - CPAs, Enrolled Agents, and Tax Preparers Do Not Have It

When you are discussing your personal tax situation (and problems) with your CPA, Enrolled Agent or tax preparer, everything you say to them and all of their files and notes on your conversations with them, must be revealed to the IRS if subpoenaed or requested in a legal action.  They can also be forced to testify on everything you said during meetings with the preparer or on the phone.

When you consult with a licensed attorney, everything you tell them, including notes in their files, and in most situations the tax research and their advice and recommendations to you is privileged and private. The attorney cannot be forced to reveal any of those items if subpoenaed or questioned by the IRS or in a legal matter.

You need to keep this Attorney-client privilege in mind when consulting a tax professional concerning entering any of the IRS Voluntary Disclosure Programs and seeking counsel on past unfiled tax returns or tax problems (both civil and criminal). Discussing the situation with anyone other than an attorney could later be used against you.

It is often best when their are potential tax problems or possible criminal consequences to have an Attorney actually hire the accountant to prepare any required returns in order to keep as much as information as legally possible from being subject to discovery.  Documents that are connected with the actual preparation or information which is on your tax return (or information which should be on your return)  cannot be kept confidential.