Archive for LDR News Release

Investigations uncover $1.4 million in tax fraud, yield multiple arrests

BATON ROUGE – Four separate investigations by the Louisiana Department of Revenue and the state Office of the Attorney General resulted in eight arrests in the month of July for felony tax fraud and uncovered more than $1.4 million in fraudulent refunds and improperly reduced tax liabilities.

“These arrests demonstrate the progress we are making in attacking fraud in Louisiana through our partnership with the Attorney General’s office,” Secretary of Revenue Tim Barfield said. “If these criminals thought of tax fraud as a low-risk, high-reward activity, they’re finding out they were wrong.”

“Tax fraud is not a victimless crime,” Attorney General Buddy Caldwell said.  “When a person cheats on their taxes, it puts the most vital services for our citizens at risk.”

Arrests

Elxzina Granger, of 311 Doc Duhon Street in Lafayette, was arrested on July 16, 2014, and charged with 13 counts each of computer fraud and filing or maintaining false public records. Granger, a tax preparer, allegedly fabricated business losses on federal and Louisiana state income tax returns for the 2012 tax year. Clients of Granger’s contacted by investigators said they did not own businesses, and had not provided her with any business-related documentation for their tax filings. Granger’s alleged crime resulted in $45,982 in fraudulent income tax refunds.

In a separate case, tax preparers working for We Care Tax Service at 3101 New Highway 51 in LaPlace are suspected of fabricating business losses for clients. Investigators determined that none of those clients owned a business. The alleged fraud in this case amounts to $1,175,541.

Five tax preparers at We Care Tax Service have been arrested and booked into the East Baton Rouge Parish Prison:

  • Sara Daspit-Lee, of 125 Oak Ridge Drive in LaPlace, arrested on July 22 and charged with nine counts of filing or maintaining false public records and nine counts of computer fraud
  • Emile Lee III, of 125 Oak Ridge Drive in LaPlace, arrested on July 22 and charged with nine counts of filing or maintaining false public records and nine counts of computer fraud
  • Johnnae Smith, of 107 4th Street in Chalmette, arrested on July 30 and charged with 11 counts each of computer fraud and filing or maintaining false public records
  • Bridget Butler, of 2229 Feliciana Street in New Orleans, arrested on July 30 and charged with nine counts each of computer fraud and filing or maintaining false public records
  • Delecisha Amos-Allen, of 19 Rush Drive in LaPlace, arrested on July 30 and charged with five counts each of computer fraud and filing or maintaining false public records

On Friday, July 25, investigators arrested Ashley Clement, of 2316 Ormond Boulevard in Destrehan, and booked her into the East Baton Rouge Parish Prison. She faces felony charges of fabricating business losses on her own Louisiana individual income tax return. Clement received $2,287 in fraudulent refunds. An additional $4,397 in attempted fraudulent refunds was blocked by the Department of Revenue’s Tax Refund Intercept Program (TRIP). Clement faces one count of theft and one count of attempted theft.

And in a fourth case, Deatrice Garrison Minor, of 1516 Westminster Boulevard in Marrero, was arrested on July 30 and booked into the East Baton Rouge Parish Prison on six felony counts related to tax fraud. Minor is accused of submitting fraudulent income tax returns on behalf of clients of her business, Divine Vision Boutique & Tax Service, with addresses listed in Lafayette, Gretna and Marrero. Investigators say that along with the improper returns, Minor submitted false W-2 withholding forms with inflated wages and withholding amounts. The clients told investigators that they had never been employed by the individuals and entities listed on the documents, and that they had never given Minor permission to file income tax returns on their behalf. Minor faces one count of injury to public records, one count of illegal transmission of monetary funds, one count of principal to theft, one count of theft, and two counts of attempted theft. The alleged fraud in this case amounts to $36,986 in theft and $136,324 in attempted theft.

Booking Photos

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Many back-to-school expenses eligible for state income tax deductions

BATON ROUGE – The Louisiana Department of Revenue encourages families to retain their receipts while shopping for back-to-school items such as books, uniforms, supplies, and equipment required by schools. Many families will buy these items during the state’s annual sales tax holiday August 1 and 2, when most retail purchases are exempt from the 4 percent state sales tax. But they might not know these expenses may qualify also for a series of income tax deductions on their state individual income tax returns.

And these deductions apply to eligible expenses paid throughout the tax year, not only during the two-day sales tax holiday.

There are three income tax breaks under the Louisiana School Tuition and Expense Deductions:

Income Tax Deduction for Elementary and Secondary School Tuition - Allows an income tax deduction for amounts paid during the year for tuition and fees at a qualifying nonpublic elementary or secondary school. The deduction is for 100 percent of qualified expenses paid per dependent, limited to $5,000 per dependent.

Income Tax Deduction for a Quality Public Education – Allows an income tax deduction for the following expenses for a dependent enrolled in a public elementary or secondary school:

  • Purchases of school uniforms required by schools for general day-to-day use
  • Purchases of textbooks, curricula or other instructional materials required by schools
  • Purchases of school supplies required by schools

The deduction is for 50 percent of qualified expenses paid per dependent, limited to $5,000 per dependent.

Income Tax Deduction for Home-Schooling Expenses – Allows an income tax deduction for amounts paid for the purchase of textbook and curricula necessary for home-schooling. The deduction is for 50 percent of qualified expenses paid per dependent, limited to $5,000 per dependent.

These deductions can reduce your taxable income when you file your 2014 Louisiana Individual Income Tax Return by May 15, 2015. To qualify, you must be able to claim the student as a dependent on your state individual income tax return, and you must be able to document the expenses.

Visit www.revenue.louisiana.gov/schooldeduction for a full explanation of the provisions of the Louisiana School Tuition and Expense Deductions.

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Office of Debt Recovery to be fully operational within three years

BATON ROUGE – The Louisiana Office of Debt Recovery (ODR) is on schedule to be fully operational within three years, Secretary of Revenue Tim Barfield reported to the state Cash Management Review Board on Thursday.

ODR will be a highly automated, efficient, and centralized debt collection office that provides collection services for state agencies. It will include a suite of debt collection tools and will work with the Office of the Attorney General and outside collection agencies to perform collection services.

ODR was created by the Louisiana Legislature to assist state agencies in collecting overdue debts determined to be “final debt” after exhausting all administrative and legal due process. Housed in the Louisiana Department of Revenue, ODR will use new tools to identify and collect final debt payments on behalf of those agencies.

Implementation is progressing quickly, largely using LDR’s existing human and budgetary resources. “Looking at the states with state-of-the-art centralized collection operations, this implementation will be completed at least 25% and as much as 50% faster,” Barfield said.

“ODR has already implemented its electronic debt registry, significantly expanded use of an existing collection tool, implemented two new collection tools and has begun collecting debts,” Deputy Secretary of Revenue Jarrod Coniglio said.

Collection tools already in use by ODR include LDR’s state tax refund offset; financial institution data match (FIDM) that allows it to identify and levy final debt payments from the bank accounts of debtors who have exhausted their due process; and a federal vendor payment intercept program that allows ODR to collect final debt from payments owed to companies doing business with the federal government who have exhausted their due process.

Already, 281 of 340 (82%) financial institutions have signed up for participation in the FIDM program, which are estimated to cover over 90% of deposit accounts in the state.

A request for proposals (RFP) for the automated collection system is currently being developed. “Today, we’re working with manual processes, but will issue an RFP in mid-August to develop a fully automated case management system,” Coniglio said. “The automated system will be fully scalable, and will allow ODR to increase its workload with a minimum of additional human resources.”

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2014 Louisiana Annual Sales Tax Holiday: Most retail purchases exempt from state sales tax August 1 & 2

BATON ROUGE – Just in time for back-to-school shopping, most retail purchases in Louisiana are exempt from the 4 percent state sales tax on Friday, August 1, and Saturday, August 2. The 2014 Louisiana Annual Sales Tax Holiday applies to most individual consumer purchases of tangible personal property.

Conditions

The sales tax holiday exempts the first $2500 of the purchase price of each eligible item when the customer:

  • Buys and accepts delivery of eligible property;
  • Places property on layaway;
  • Acquires property that was previously placed on layaway; or
  • Places an order for immediate delivery, even if the delivery must be delayed, provided the customer has not requested delayed delivery

The sales tax holiday applies only to the 4 percent state sales tax. Local sales taxes still apply unless the local taxing authority creates its own exemption.

Exceptions

The sales tax holiday does not apply to:

  • Vehicles subject to title and license
  • Meals prepared for consumption on premises or to-go; and
  • Taxable services such as hotel occupancy, laundry services, printing services, telecommunication services, the furnishing of cold storage space, leases or rentals of tangible personal property, repairs to tangible personal property, and admission to athletic, amusement, or recreational facilities or even

Visit www.revenue.louisiana.gov/taxholiday for a full explanation of conditions of the 2014 Louisiana Annual Sales Tax Holiday.

Back-to-School Tax Deductions

The Louisiana Department of Revenue reminds shoppers to retain receipts for back-to-school items such as supplies, uniforms, and equipment required by schools. These purchases may qualify for tax deductions on 2014 Louisiana Individual Income Tax Returns due May 15, 2015. The deductions apply to educational expenses for public, private, parochial, and home schools. To claim the deductions, you must be able to claim the student as a dependent on your state individual income tax return, and you must be able to provide documentation for the expenses.

For more information about the Louisiana School Tuition and Expense Tax Deductions, visit www.revenue.louisiana.gov/schooldeduction.

 

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Misuse of state childcare tax credits leads to fraud arrests

BATON ROUGE – Two Louisiana tax preparers face felony charges for filing tax returns that investigators say improperly claimed state tax credits for childcare expenses.

Gwana White, of 308 Devon Road in LaPlace, was arrested on Tuesday, June 17, and charged with computer fraud and filing or maintaining false public records.

In an unrelated case, Ericka Lewis, of 929 Starrett Street in Metairie, was arrested also on June 17, and charged with computer fraud and filing or maintaining false public records.

White worked as a tax return preparer for Quick, Fast and EZ Tax Service, LLC in LaPlace. Lewis worked for Quick EZ Taxes of Kenner, LLC.

Each is accused of preparing returns for clients containing false information on wages earned and false claims for tax credits for childcare expenses, resulting in fraudulent state individual income tax refunds.

Gwana White’s alleged fraud cost Louisiana taxpayers $13,647.

The alleged fraud in the Ericka Lewis case amounted to $12,643.


Booking Photos:

Gwana White

Ericka Lewis

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Protect tax records and financial documents during hurricane season

BATON ROUGE – The Louisiana Department of Revenue encourages taxpayers to protect their tax records and other financial documents from flood damage and other weather-related threats during hurricane season.

“A little preparation goes a long way,” Secretary of Revenue Tim Barfield said. “A few common-sense precautions can make the recovery process easier in the aftermath of an emergency.”

Keep documents secure

Paper records are especially vulnerable to water damage. Protect these documents by placing them in airtight plastic containers or zip closure bags, and moving them out of harm’s way.

Use paperless media

Bank statements and other financial documents are available as electronic records from your financial institution. Preserve these records by saving them to portable memory drives or burning them to CDs. Store them in airtight containers.

Scan important records such as such as tax returns, W-2s and payroll records into an electronic format. Many commercially available home printers include scanning features.

Web-based email services such as Google’s Gmail and Microsoft’s Hotmail offer account holders free online data storage. You can upload electronic records from your home computer and retrieve them later from any device with Internet access. This can be helpful if you are evacuated from your home.

Document valuables and business equipment

Compile a room-by-room list of your belongings or business equipment. Photograph or videotape the contents of your home or business, especially items of high value. Having a visual record of your valuables can provide proof for an insurance claim. It can also help to verify a loss claim on state and federal tax returns.

In case of a disaster, the Department of Revenue can provide information on potential tax deductions or credits, filing extensions, and other tax-related information. Bookmark www.revenue.louisiana.gov.

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Slidell business owner charged with tax fraud

BATON ROUGE – A Slidell woman faces two felony counts for payroll tax fraud, the Louisiana Department of Revenue announced Thursday.

Toniko Manning Brown, of 127 Herwig Bluff Road, in Slidell, is the 19th person arrested in a joint anti-tax fraud initiative by the Department of Revenue and the Louisiana Attorney General’s Office.

Brown, owner of Little Beautiful Minds, a child care provider in Metairie, is accused of failing to remit to the State of Louisiana $39,246.94 that she withheld from employees’ paychecks from 2007 to 2014. She was arrested on Tuesday, May 27, and booked into the East Baton Rouge Parish Prison on charges of Injuring Public Records (La. R.S. §14:132)  and Criminal Penalty for Failing to Account for State Tax Monies (La. R.S. §47:1641).

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Louisiana state tax filing deadline is Thursday, May 15

BATON ROUGE – Thursday, May 15 is the deadline for filing 2013 Louisiana Individual Income Tax returns.           

The Louisiana Department of Revenue recommends electronic filing for the fastest, most error-free tax return and refund processing. Electronic filing options include commercially-available tax preparation software, and Louisiana File Online, the state’s free tax filing web application. Visit www.revenue.louisiana.gov/fileonline.

Filing Extensions

Taxpayers who need more time to prepare their 2013 individual state income tax returns must submit an extension request by the May 15 deadline to avoid late filing penalties. An extension allows more time to file a return, but it does not allow more time to pay taxes due. Payments made after May 15 are subject to penalties and interest. Extension requests must be submitted electronically, or by phone for those with limited Internet access. Visit www.revenue.louisiana.gov/extensions or call 888-829-3071.

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New Orleans woman arrested for tax fraud

BATON ROUGE – A New Orleans woman faces five felony counts related to tax fraud, the Louisiana Department of Revenue announced Monday.

Charnell R. Haymond, of 6921 Bunker Hill Road, New Orleans, is the 18th person arrested under a joint anti-fraud initiative of the Department of Revenue and the Louisiana Office of the Attorney General.

Haymond is accused of filing false state individual income tax returns and collecting $22,208 in fraudulent refunds. She is charged with theft, identity theft, computer fraud, monetary instrument abuse, and injuring public records.

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2014 Louisiana Hurricane Preparedness Sales Tax Holiday is May 24 & 25

BATON ROUGE – Flashlights, batteries, portable generators and other emergency supplies are free from the 4 percent state sales tax on Saturday, May 24 and Sunday, May 25.

The 2014 Louisiana Hurricane Preparedness Sales Tax Holiday gives Louisiana residents a chance to get ready for storm season before the Atlantic Hurricane Season begins on June 1.

“There is no substitute for early preparation,” Secretary of Revenue Tim Barfield said. “This sales tax holiday is the best opportunity to stock up early on the items that can keep your family safe and comfortable during and after a storm.”

The sales tax holiday exempts each eligible item from the 4 percent state sales tax. It applies to the first $1,500 of the purchase price of each item.

Eligible purchases include:

  • Self-powered light sources, such as flashlights and candles
  • Portable self-powered radios, two-way radios, and weather-band radios
  • Tarpaulins or other flexible waterproof sheeting
  • Ground anchor systems, straps or tie-down kits
  • Gas or diesel fuel tanks
  • Batteries, sizes AAA, AA, C, D, 6-volt, or 9-volt (Automobile batteries and boat batteries are ineligible)
  • Cellular phone batteries and chargers
  • Non-electric food storage coolers
  • Portable generators
  • Storm shutter devices (Materials and products manufactured, rated, and marketed specifically for the purposes of preventing window damage from storms)
  • Carbon monoxide detectors
  • “Blue Ice” (and similar re-usable cooling products)

The exemption applies only to the 4 percent state sales tax. Local taxes apply unless specifically exempted by local taxing authorities.

Visit www.revenue.louisiana.gov/hurricaneprep for more information.

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