The Justice Department has announced that a Gulfport, Mississippi tax return preparer pleaded guilty this week to obstructing the internal revenue laws and aiding in the preparation of a false tax return.
The announcement was made by Acting Deputy Assistant Attorney General Stuart M. Goldberg of the Justice Department’s Tax Division and Acting U.S. Attorney Harold Brittain for the Southern District of Mississippi.
According to documents filed with the court and information presented at the plea hearing, Doris Kelley, 65, operated a tax return preparation business from her home in Gulfport, MS.
She instructed several of her clients, who owed income taxes to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), to write payment checks directly to her rather than to the IRS. Kelley then kept these funds for herself and used most of the money to gamble at local casinos.
Typically, Kelley provided copies of accurate returns to her clients, but then did not file any return with the IRS. In some cases, however, she also filed false returns in her clients’ names without their knowledge.
Kelley made hundreds of thousands of dollars from her scheme and caused a tax loss to the government of more than $495,000.
The sentencing hearing is scheduled for July 7. Kelley faces a statutory maximum sentence of three years in prison on both counts. She also faces a term of supervised release, restitution and monetary penalties.
The investigation was conducted by special agents of IRS-Criminal Investigation.
How to Choose a Legitimate Tax Preparer
These are just a few of the tips the IRS provides on how to choose a tax preparer:
- Check a preparer’s qualifications by using the IRS Directory of Federal Tax Return Preparers with Credentials and Select Qualifications
- Check the preparer’s history through the Better Business Bureau
- Ask to e-file
- Make sure the preparer is available for questions after April 18
- Never sign a blank return
- Review the return carefully before signing it
The IRS recommends that taxpayers always keep a copy of their filed return.