A tax return preparer from Macon, Ga., pleaded guilty Thursday to filing a false claim for tax refund, theft of government money and aggravated identity theft, the Justice Department and the Internal Revenue (IRS) announced.
According to court documents, Willie C. Grant is a former tax return preparer who used many of his former clients’ names and Social Security numbers to file false federal income returns in their names and without their knowledge. On these tax returns, Grant intentionally claimed false tax refunds and directed the IRS either to electronically deposit the false refunds into his personal or business bank accounts or to issue paper refund Treasury checks which he then cashed or deposited into his personal or business bank accounts. Grant spent the proceeds of his false refund scheme on personal items including expensive cars and personal living expenses.
From 2003 through 2008, Grant owned and operated a tax return preparation business, Grant Income Tax Bookkeeping and Check Cash (GIT) out of his home in Macon, eventually closing GIT in 2009. During calendar years 2006 through 2009, Grant prepared and filed false tax returns in the names of unsuspecting individuals. Many of the individuals were elderly or disabled former clients of GIT or deceased individuals. Grant admitted that that he abused his position of private trust as a professional paid tax preparer in committing his crimes.
Grant faces a potential maximum sentence of 17 years in prison and a fine of up to $500,000. U.S. District Court Chief Judge C. Ashley Royal, who is presiding over this matter, set a sentencing date of Oct. 30, 2012.
Source: U.S. Department of Justice
There are so many of these fraud cases involving tax preparers that you may be curious as to whether this is a licensed profession. In general, it’s not, and as of last year, only two states require a license specific to tax preparation. The individual may need to obtain a general business license for their state or locality, but there doesn’t seem to be any system in place to check whether the individual is trustworthy, leaving consumers wide open to be rooked by firms that appear to be legitimate.
Given how much the government loses to IRS tax refund fraud and how damaging this can be to individuals whose identity info is misused in these schemes, one wonders why there hasn’t been more of an effort to get this profession under some regulation or checks.