LDR to Begin Issuing Refunds the Week of March 2

BATON ROUGE – In response to the recent increase and still unfolding developments centered around fraudulent tax returns filed across the country, the Louisiana Department of Revenue announced today that the Department is taking extra precautions to verify the filings and refunds of taxpayers and will extend the date to begin issuing refunds by one week, until the week of March 2.

“Given the increase in the filing of fraudulent tax returns around the country, where criminals are stealing identities and claiming refunds in others’ names, we decided to implement additional security measures this year to ensure we detect any suspicious activity, and to protect the identities of our taxpayers,” said Secretary of Revenue Tim Barfield.

The extended period will provide the Department with more time to closely review returns and to utilize its identification verification process for individual taxpayers when and if inconsistencies in returns are identified.

While identity-based tax refund fraud is still a relatively new problem for revenue departments in the 43 states where taxpayers file tax returns, the Department of Revenue is ahead of the curve. Over the past two years, LDR has prevented over $11 million in fraudulent tax refunds from going out the door. Also, through a joint anti-fraud initiative with the state Attorney General’s office, 40 people have been arrested for fraudulent activity.

“We recognize that this situation places an undeserved burden on the thousands of taxpayers who consistently do the right thing. It is unfortunate that at this time the good taxpayers will suffer for those who have chosen to be criminals,” added Barfield. “This is the very reason why the Department of Revenue must do all that we can to safeguard our taxpayers against this type of fraudulent activity.”

Taxpayers who have concerns about the security of their personal information provided to any third party tax preparation software vendor should contact that vendor immediately.  Taxpayers who have a reason to believe they may be a victim of identity theft can contact LDR’s Criminal Investigations Division on its fraud hotline at 1-866-940-7053. They can also file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission at www.ftc.gov/complaint.

LDR began accepting returns on January 20, and was originally scheduled to begin issuing returns on Tuesday, February 24. To date, the Department has received 664,956 electronic returns. On average, the Department processes 1.9 million electronic returns during the tax filing season. The backlog of refund requests received is expected to take a week to complete processing. Once the Department is current, normal processing times of 21 days for electronic returns and 10 weeks for paper returns can be expected.

Taxpayers can check the status of a refund by visiting www.revenue.louisiana.gov/refund.

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LDR Discovers Attempts to File Fraudulent Income Tax Returns through TurboTax software

BATON ROUGE – The Louisiana Department of Revenue has discovered a number of attempts to file fraudulent income tax returns for the 2014 filing season. LDR has reason to believe the fraudulent filings originated from data compromised through Intuit/Turbo Tax software. To our knowledge, all information in the State’s tax computer system remains secure and has not been compromised.

To date, LDR has flagged 2,011 returns filed through TurboTax software.  LDR is taking extra precautions to verify the filings and refunds to ensure that taxpayers receive their proper refunds. The Department is using all available technology and resources to help protect and secure all taxpayer data. When inconsistencies in returns are identified, LDR will utilize its identification verification process for individual taxpayers.

“It is our responsibility to protect the personal information of taxpayers, and we do not take that responsibility lightly” said Secretary of Revenue Tim Barfield. “To our knowledge, our systems at the Louisiana Department of Revenue have not been compromised, but we want to alert all taxpayers who may have been victimized and had their personal information comprised by TurboTax, so they can take the steps needed to protect themselves. “

LDR has been in contact with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and other states that have identified potential problems and will work with them and any other appropriate authorities to make certain Louisiana citizens are protected and apprised of the latest developments.

LDR began accepting returns on January 20, and began processing them on February 3. LDR is scheduled to begin issuing tax refunds around February 24. Since tax refunds have not been issued at this time, LDR is in an even better position to safeguard taxpayers against fraudulent activity, including the suspicion of identity theft, through the Department’s fraud detection systems.

“We will continue to monitor this situation closely, and will work diligently to ensure we do everything possible to protect taxpayer’s information and to ensure they receive the refunds they deserve,” said Barfield.

Taxpayers who have concerns about the security of their personal information provided to TurboTax should contact them at 1-800-944-8596.

Taxpayers may verify the current status of their state income tax return by going to www.revenue.lousiania.gov.

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Virginia man jailed in Louisiana for interstate tax fraud scheme

Charles Lawrence Fisher

Charles Lawrence Fisher

BATON ROUGE – A resident of Virginia faces felony charges in Louisiana for allegedly stealing thousands of dollars in state income tax refunds.

Charles Lawrence Fisher, of Palmyra, VA, is accused of submitting Louisiana individual income tax returns in the names of two unsuspecting Louisiana residents and directing the refunds to a bank account in his own name.

In one case, the Louisiana Department of Revenue (LDR) processed the return and issued a refund in the amount of $2,123, which was deposited electronically into a checking account at a bank in Virginia.

In the second case, a refund of $2,697 was intercepted before being issued when LDR’s fraud detection protocols flagged the return as suspicious.

The subsequent investigation linked both fraudulent returns to Fisher.

Louisiana authorities transported Fisher to Baton Rouge on Friday where he was booked into the East Baton Rouge Parish Prison on one count each of Injuring Public Records, Computer Fraud, Theft and Attempted Theft.

Fisher is the 40th person arrested under a joint anti-fraud initiative of the Department of Revenue and the state Attorney General’s office.

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Booking Photo: Charles Lawrence Fisher

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Business owner arrested for collecting, keeping sales taxes

 

Miriam Robertson

Miriam Robertson

BATON ROUGE – A Jackson Parish business owner faces felony charges for allegedly failing to remit sales taxes to the state, the Louisiana Department of Revenue (LDR) announced Thursday.

Miriam Robertson, of 134 Country Road in Jonesboro, is accused of keeping more than $100,000 in state sales taxes she collected on purchases at Deals & Discounts, a furniture store she operated in Jonesboro

Investigators say between 2009 and 2014, Robertson submitted sales tax returns to LDR that underreported the amount of sales tax she collected and pocketed the difference. Records show she failed to remit $105,155.20 owed to the state.

Robertson was arrested on Thursday, January 22 and booked into the East Baton Rouge Parish Prison on one count of Criminal Penalty for Failing to Account for State Tax Monies.  She is the 39th person arrested under a joint anti-fraud initiative of the Department of Revenue and the state Attorney General’s office.

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Booking Photo – Miriam Robertson

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New Orleans woman arrested for filing false tax returns to get illegal refunds

 

Qwanda Lampeer

Qwanda Lampeer

BATON ROUGE – A New Orleans woman accused of filing false tax returns in her own name and in the names of unsuspecting strangers faces multiple felony charges for fraud.

Qwanda Lashay Dampeer, of 7520 Crestmont Road in New Orleans, is accused of receiving thousands of dollars in illegally obtained income tax refunds. She allegedly filed phony Louisiana individual income tax returns, with fake W-2 withholding forms, in her own name and in the names four other people, directing the refunds to her own bank accounts.

Owners of the businesses identified on the phony withholding forms told investigators that the people named on the returns did not work for them during those periods.

Dampeer is accused also of reporting personal i

ncome from businesses she claimed she owned, but investigators determined those businesses did not exist.

She allegedly received $4,515 in illegally obtained refunds. An additional $458 in fraudulent refunds was stopped by fraud detection methods at the Louisiana Department of Revenue before being issued.

The alleged fraud took place during the 2011, 2012 and 2013 tax years.

Dampeer was arrested on January 15, 2015, and booked into the East Baton Rouge Parish Prison on seven felony counts including Computer Fraud, Theft, Attempted Theft and Injuring Public Records. She is the 38th person arrested under a joint anti-tax fraud initiative of the Louisiana Department of Revenue and the state Attorney General’s Office.

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Booking Photo: Qwanda Dampeer – 7520 Crestmont Road, New Orleans

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Tax fraud scheme involving prison inmates results in felony arrest

 

Thelma Lee

Thelma Lee

BATON ROUGE – A New Orleans woman faces multiple felony charges for a tax fraud scheme that involved filing false state income tax returns in the names of unsuspecting people, including some prison inmates.

Thelma Jean Lee, of 5115 North Prieur Street in New Orleans, is accused of filing dozens of phony Louisiana individual income tax returns and receiving thousands of dollars in fraudulent tax refunds.

Investigators say Lee filed 38 false returns, including fake W-2 withholding forms, during the 2010 and 2011 tax years. The owners of the businesses named on those forms said the people identified as having filed the returns were not their employees during those periods.

And many of the people whose names were on the returns were in fact locked up in state and local prisons at the time.

Banking records show that Lee directed $11,266 in illegally obtained state income tax refunds to accounts in her name as a result of the alleged fraud.

She was arrested on January 14, 2015, and booked into the East Baton Rouge Parish Prison on 38 felony counts including Filing or Maintaining False Public Records, Identity Theft, and Illegal Transmission of Monetary Funds.

Thelma Jean Lee is the 37th person arrested under a joint anti-tax fraud initiative of the Louisiana Department of Revenue and the state Attorney General’s office.

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Booking Photo: Thelma Jean Lee – 5115 North Prieur Street, New Orleans

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Baton Rouge mother and son charged with filing false tax returns

Top: Madie Langley Bottom: Darin Langley

Top: Madie Langley
Bottom: Darin Langley

BATON ROUGE – A Baton Rouge woman and her son face a total of 40 felony counts of suspected fraud in their work as tax preparers, the Louisiana Department of Revenue reported Wednesday.

Madie Langley of 6150 Lotus Street in Baton Rouge and her son Darin Langley of 260 Sharp Rd., Apt. 104 in Baton Rouge are tax preparers at Matrix Computers and Tax Services. Both were arrested for filing or maintaining false public records and computer fraud.

“The Department of Revenue is committed to combatting tax fraud. As we begin the tax season, these recent arrests emphasize the need for Louisiana taxpayers to choose carefully when selecting a tax preparer,” Secretary of Revenue Tim Barfield said. “Taxpayers should be aware that when they select someone to prepare their tax returns, they are ultimately responsible for the accuracy of the information and any funds that the Department will seek to recover.”

During the investigation, interviews with clients show that tax returns submitted by the mother and son team had suspicious information, showing a false businesses and false business losses when, in fact, the client did not own a business or had not sustained a loss.

The use of business losses is a common technique among unscrupulous tax preparers who guarantee their clients larger refunds than they would receive otherwise. It is one of the practices targeted by LDR and the state Attorney General’s Office in their joint anti-tax fraud initiative that has resulted in 36arrests since it began in March 2013.

Attorney General Buddy Caldwell said, “Our partnership with the Department of Revenue signifies Louisiana’s commitment to combating tax fraud.  This is not a victimless crime and those who choose to prepare fraudulent tax returns will be held accountable.”

Darin Langley faces 24 counts of suspected fraud and was arrested on December 22, 2014. Madie Langley faces 16 counts of suspected fraud and was arrested on Monday, January 12, 2015.

The Department of Revenue encourages taxpayers to be selective when choosing a tax preparer. The following steps can help you protect yourself against tax-preparer fraud:

  • Try to find a preparer who will be around to answer questions after the return has been filed.
  • Avoid preparers who base their fee on a percentage of the amount of the refund or who claim they can obtain larger refunds than other preparers without first reviewing your returns.
  • Review and ask questions before signing a return.
  • Ask others that you know who have used that preparer if they were satisfied with the services that they received.
  • Ask any preparer that you are considering for references.
  • Ask and verify if the preparer belongs to a professional organization that requires its members to pursue continuing education and also holds them accountable to a code of ethics.
  • Always question entries on your return that you don’t understand.
  • Never sign a blank return.
  • Insist that the preparer sign the return and provide his appropriate information on the return.
  • Insist on receiving a copy of the return before it is filed.

LDR will begin accepting 2014 Louisiana Individual Income Tax Returns on Tuesday, January 20. LDR will begin processing returns on February 3 and will start issuing refunds on February 24.

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Madie Langley Booking Photo

Darin Langley Booking Photo

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Louisiana state income tax filing begins January 20, 2015

BATON ROUGE – The Louisiana Department of Revenue (LDR) will begin accepting 2014 state individual income tax returns the same day as the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), Tues., Jan. 20. LDR will begin processing returns on Feb. 3 and will start issuing refunds Tues., Feb. 24.

Following the initial Feb. 24 refund date, the expected refund processing time for returns filed electronically is up to 21 days. For paper returns, taxpayers should expect to wait 8 to 10 weeks.

Additionally, to safeguard taxpayers against fraudulent activity, including the suspicion of identity theft, a small percentage of refunds are delayed. When this occurs, the taxpayer is contacted through written correspondence with further instructions.

Delays can also occur when taxpayers fail to keep their most current contact information on file, including their name, address, and telephone number. If needed, taxpayers can visit www.revenue.louisiana.gov to update their contact information.

On January 20, state income tax forms will become available at www.revenue.louisiana.gov/taxforms.

To file taxes electronically, taxpayers can visit Louisiana File Online, the state’s free web portal for individual and business tax filers at www.revenue.louisiana.gov/fileonline. With Louisiana File Online, taxpayers can:

  • File returns and pay taxes electronically
  • Check the status of individual income tax refunds
  • Amend tax returns
  • View business tax information for current and previous years

There are no fees associated with its use. Taxpayers may also use commercial tax preparation software to file their state income taxes.

Taxpayers can check the status of a refund by visiting www.revenue.louisiana.gov/refund or by calling 888-829-3071. Taxpayers should note these applications are updated only once every business morning with the latest information on refunds. Taxpayers should only call LDR once their return has exceeded the expected processing times of 21 days for electronic returns and 10 weeks for paper returns.

The state income tax filing deadline is Fri., May 15, 2015.

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Tips for Taxpayers LDR recommends the following steps to ensure the fastest, most accurate tax return and refund processing:

  • File electronically – The expected refund processing time for returns filed electronically is up to 21 days; for paper returns, expect to wait 8 to 10 weeks.
  • Update your personal information if your name or address has changed during the tax year.
  • Double-check return information – Ensure that all Social Security numbers and tax computations are correct, and that all names and Social Security numbers are in the same order as previous years; math errors and incorrect tax-table information are leading causes of delayed refunds.
  • Include all supporting information such as W-2s; use paperclips, not staples, if filing a paper return.
  • Apply for extensions in a timely manner – Extension requests must be filed no later than the May 15 income tax filing deadline.
  • If additional tax is due, include the remittance coupon to ensure proper payment posting.
  • Make checks or money orders payable to the Louisiana Department of Revenue; do not send cash.
  • If filing a paper return, attach the proper label to the mailing envelope.

Basic tips to taxpayers in choosing a reputable tax preparer include:

  • Try to find a preparer who will be around to answer questions after the return has been filed.
  • Avoid preparers who base their fee on a percentage of the amount of the refund or who claim they can obtain larger refunds than other preparers without first reviewing your returns.
  • Review and ask questions before signing a return.
  • Ask others that you know who have used that preparer if they were satisfied with the services that they received.
  • Ask any preparer that you are considering for references.
  • Ask and verify if the preparer belongs to a professional organization that requires its members to pursue continuing education and also holds them accountable to a code of ethics.
  • Always question entries on your return that you don’t understand.
  • Never sign a blank return.
  • Insist that the preparer sign the return and provide his appropriate information on the return.
  • The preparer should meet with the taxpayer and go over the return before it is filed.
  • Taxpayers should be provided a copy of their return before it is filed.
  • Pay attention to media reports of persons who have been convicted of tax fraud.
  • Taxpayers should be aware that the information that they provide to their preparer could be used to commit identity theft by an unscrupulous preparer.

Taxpayers should also:

- Remember that they are ultimately responsible for what is included on their tax returns.

- Beware of telephone scams purported to come from LDR and remember that LDR will not:

  • Call a taxpayer to demand immediate payment or call about taxes owed without first having mailed a bill.
  • Demand the payment of taxes without allowing the taxpayer to question or appeal the amount owed.
  • Require the use of a specific method of payment.
  • Ask for credit or debit card numbers over the telephone.

If taxpayer feels that they are a victim of a telephone tax scam, contact:

  • LDR Criminal Investigations Division on its fraud hotline at 866.940.7053.
  • File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) ftc.gov/complaint.

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LDR Releases Statement Regarding Legislative Audit Report

BATON ROUGE – Today, the Louisiana Legislative Auditor (LLA) released a news release and summary of the results of a recent financial audit performed on the Louisiana Department of Revenue (LDR). The Auditor’s Office issued a list recommendations to LDR based on its findings.

“For the most part, we agree with the recommendations made by the Louisiana Legislative Auditor’s Office,” said Secretary of Revenue Tim Barfield. “It is also important to note that none of the findings resulted in any loss of revenue for the state or agency and prior to the LLA’s findings, the Department had already proactively begun taking actions to address the matters.”

Below is a list of the topics noted in the Legislative Auditor’s report and LDR’s responses regarding each matter:

Internal Audit Function

In late 2013, the Department recognized the focus of the Internal Audit Division was disproportionately weighted toward compliance. In February 2014, LDR applied to the Louisiana Department of State Civil Service to split compliance and internal audit functions into two divisions. Approval was received from Civil Service and on March 6, 2014 the split into two divisions was implemented, followed by the subsequent hiring of two directors – a director of internal audit and a director of compliance. In May 2014, the new director of internal audit restructured the division and started working with the Institute of Internal Auditors to perform a quality assurance review of the efficiency and effectiveness of the Department’s internal audit activities and develop a reasonable internal audit plan for 2014. All of these actions took place prior to the LLA’s review, but we believe these actions will address the LLA’s concerns.

Preparation of the Annual Fiscal Report

This finding did not include any financial loss to the state or agency. LDR has implemented a corrective action plan to address these types of errors and has already begun additional review processes for monthly and quarterly reports. Additionally, LDR has introduced new procedures, allowing more time for review and analysis of the final report.

LaCarte Card Purchases

LDR believes that none of the matters identified represent any misappropriation. LDR recognizes the importance of controls over the LaCarte Card Program, and has implemented a corrective action plan, including training sessions for card holders and approvers to improve overall compliance. Additionally, LDR has instituted a monthly reporting process to identify non-compliant employees and will reduce, suspend and/or eliminate spending authority as needed. In August 2014, LDR hired an assistant director of the Controllers Division who oversees the LaCarte Card Program.

Refunds from Legal Settlements

The settlements involved complicated matters that included multiple tax periods, issues and types and occurred during the 2013 Amnesty period, which required the refunds to be calculated manually instead of through the use of the Department’s systems. Through working with the taxpayer, LDR became aware of the refunds immediately after the incident occurred, corrected the taxpayer’s account, and in January 2014 swiftly moved forward in implementing greater controls and procedures for these extremely rare types of settlements. Going forward, the Department has mandated review and approval by both the Audit and Litigation Divisions of settlement reconciliations before any refunds are issued.

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2014 Louisiana Tax Amnesty Program to deliver $142 million to the State

BATON ROUGE – The 2014 Tax Amnesty Program has processed more than 41,000 applications and settlements, which is projected to deliver more than $142 million for the Amnesty Fund, the Louisiana Department of Revenue (LDR) announced Thursday.

“I was pleased with the response that we received from taxpayers fulfilling their obligations to the state during this year’s Amnesty period,” said Secretary of Revenue Tim Barfield. “In the coming weeks, we will continue to process applications that were submitted by the deadline, and we expect some additional upside as the mail comes in.”

In total, the Department is projecting over $169 million in Amnesty collections, of which $142 million will go into the Amnesty Fund and, as provided under the Amnesty statute, $27 million will be retained by LDR to pay an estimated $4 million of expenses for administering this year’s Amnesty Program and provide $23 million of self-generated funds to replace penalties and fees waived. Of the $169 million, the Department has received $136 million in payments, is awaiting receipt of $10 million relating to settlement payments mailed prior to the deadline, and projects $23 million through installment payments to be made by May 1, 2015.

“The increase in amnesty funds is welcome news for the state budget as we work to create a plan to eliminate the shortfall created by declining oil prices,” said Commissioner of Administration Kristy Nichols. “Some of these payments may be used to reduce the impact of expenditure cuts on state agencies and taxpayers.”

Of the $169 million collected, approximately $112 million relate to resolutions of audit and litigation cases, which generally are contested matters involving businesses, and $57 million relate to delinquent tax collections which generally involve individuals and small businesses.

The 2014 Tax Amnesty Program gave eligible taxpayers the chance to bring their accounts up to date by paying all taxes due, with a waiver of all penalties and 50 percent of the interest.

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