Married tax-preparer couple arrested for fraud

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Constance Brown-Chester

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James Terry Chester

BATON ROUGE – The married owners of a Lafayette tax preparation business face dozens of felony charges for a fraud scheme that cost Louisiana taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars.

James Terry Chester and Constance Brown-Chester (Booking Photos), of 107 Kingswood Drive in Lafayette, are accused of filing fraudulent state income tax returns for their clients and themselves.

Investigators with the Louisiana Department of Revenue say the Chesters, owners of C&B Tax Service, submitted state tax returns containing fabricated business losses for clients who had sustained no losses and in many cases were not business owners. In addition, Constance Brown-Chester filed returns on behalf of C&B Tax Service claiming business losses that could not be verified with any documentation.

The scheme resulted in $226,000 in fraudulent income tax refunds.

James Chester is charged with five counts each of Computer Fraud and Filing or Maintaining False Public Records. Constance Brown Chester is charged with 11 counts each of Computer Fraud and Filing or Maintaining False Public Records. Each was booked on Wednesday, October 14 into the East Baton Rouge Parish Prison.

These arrests bring to 52 the number of suspects charged under a joint anti-fraud initiative of the Department of Revenue and the state Attorney General’s Office.

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Clarification of Press Release Dated September 29, 2015

 

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The Louisiana Department of Revenue would like to provide clarification regarding its press release issued earlier today.

JP Morgan Chase is ending its prepaid debit card services for those taxpayers receiving the Louisiana MyRefund Prepaid Debit Card.

The updated release is below:

Important Changes Coming to LDR Tax Refund Options

BATON ROUGE – Due to JPMorgan Chase ending its line of business for prepaid debit card services, taxpayers will no longer be able to choose the Louisiana MyRefund Prepaid Debit Card as an option to receive their tax refund from the Louisiana Department of Revenue, effective Friday, October 2.

Taxpayers will continue to have the option of receiving their tax refund through direct deposit or by a paper check. The department strongly urges taxpayers to choose the direct deposit option to ensure the fastest and most secure means to receive their refunds.

Any refunds approved and processed by LDR beginning October 2, where taxpayers have requested a Louisiana MyRefund Prepaid Debit Card for their refund option, will default to a paper check and will be mailed to the taxpayer’s address on file.

Existing Louisiana MyRefund Prepaid Debit Card holders with funds currently available on their cards will still be able to use them after October 2; however, once funds are depleted, they will not have the option to request that future refunds be placed on a card.

For additional information about tax refund options, visit www.revenue.louisiana.gov or call 1-855-307-3893.

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Important Changes Coming to LDR Tax Refund Options

BATON ROUGE – Due to J.P. Morgan Chase eliminating its debit card services, taxpayers will no longer be able to choose the MyRefund Debit Card as an option to receive their tax refund from the Louisiana Department of Revenue, effective Friday, October 2.

Taxpayers will continue to have the option of receiving their tax refund through direct deposit or by a paper check. The department strongly urges taxpayers to choose the direct deposit option to ensure the fastest and most secure means to receive their refunds.

Any refunds approved and processed by LDR after October 2, where taxpayers have requested a MyRefund Debit Card for their refund option, will default to a paper check and will be mailed to the taxpayer’s address on file.

Existing MyRefund Debit Card holders with funds currently available on their cards will still be able to use them after October 2; however, once funds are depleted, they will not have the option to request that future refunds be placed on a card.

For additional information about tax refund options, visit www.revenue.louisiana.gov or call 1-855-307-3893.

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Gretna tax preparer is 50th person arrested in statewide tax fraud crackdown

Joyce Marie Gaines

Joyce Marie Gaines

BATON ROUGE – The owner of a Gretna tax preparation business is the 50th person arrested under a statewide initiative to crack down on tax fraud in Louisiana.

Joyce M. Gaines of Harvey (Booking Photo) is owner of Tax Town, LLC. She is accused of filing state income tax returns containing fabricated business losses for hundreds of clients, many of whom were not business owners. The scheme resulted in more than a quarter-million dollars in fraudulent state income tax refunds.

Gaines was booked into the East Baton Rouge Parish Prison on Thursday, September 24, on charges of Filing or Maintaining False Public Records and Illegal Transmission of Monetary Funds. Two of her employees, Tamicka Kitts and Raquel Walker, were arrested on the same charges on Tuesday, September 22.

Gaines is one of dozens of tax preparers, business operators and individual taxpayers arrested since the Louisiana Department of Revenue (LDR) and the Office of the Louisiana Attorney General joined forces in 2013 to investigate and prosecute tax fraud.

When data indicated several years ago that tax fraud was on the rise, LDR hired two full-time investigators and assigned them to work with Louisiana Department of Justice on the issue.

“Louisiana taxpayers need and deserve a strong enforcement program to stop criminals from taking advantage of the system,” Secretary of Revenue Tim Barfield said. “This milestone demonstrates the investment is paying off.”

Since the joint anti-fraud crackdown began in March 2013, LDR has recovered $416,638 in court-ordered restitution of fraudulent refunds. There have been 17 criminal convictions.

“When someone cheats the system by committing tax fraud, the hard working, tax-paying citizens of Louisiana are left with the bill,” Attorney General Buddy Caldwell said. “We are achieving great results through our partnership with the Department of Revenue and will continue to take action against those who threaten the vital services we all depend on.”

The anti-tax fraud initiative is one part of a broader LDR effort to ensure the integrity of the tax refund system. Since 2014, the department has saved taxpayers more than $50 million through identity verification, restitution payments, investigation collections, refund desk audits and reviews, and the Tax Refund Intercept Program (TRIP), which stops fraudulent refunds before they are issued.

Protect yourself from fraud

Even if someone else prepares your tax return, you are legally accountable for its content. If you receive unearned refunds due to a fraudulent return, you are responsible for making restitution to the state. Protect yourself by choosing a reputable tax preparer.

Tips for selecting a preparer:

  • Choose a preparer who will be available to answer questions after the return has been filed
  • Find out what the preparer’s service fees are before the return is prepared
  • Avoid preparers who base their fee on a percentage of the amount of your refund or who claim they can obtain larger refunds than other preparers without first reviewing your returns
  • Avoid tax preparers who ask you to sign a blank tax form
  • Before signing your return, carefully review it and ask questions
  • Ask any tax preparer for references
  • Check to see if the tax preparer has any questionable history with the Better Business Bureau, the state’s board of accountancy for CPAs or the state’s bar association
  • Check to see if the tax preparer belongs to a professional organization that requires its members to pursue continuing education and holds them accountable to a code of ethics
  • Check to see if the tax preparer has a proper Preparer Tax Identification Number (“PTIN”) from the Internal Revenue Service, which is necessary for filing federal tax returns
  • Ensure that the IRS has not obtained a permanent injunction prohibiting the tax preparer from preparing federal tax returns
  • Always question entries on your return that you do not understand; never sign a blank return
  • Insist that the tax preparer sign the return and provide appropriate taxpayer information on the return

Traits of a reputable preparer:

  • They ask multiple questions to determine whether expenses, deductions and other items qualify as legitimate tax deductions
  • They remind clients they should keep careful and complete records in order to substantiate information contained on their tax return
  • They provide their clients with a copy of their completed return for their records

They respond to contacts made by their clients in a reasonable period of time

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New Orleans area tax preparers arrested for fraud

Raquel Walker

Raquel Walker

Tamicka Kitts

Tamicka Kitts

BATON ROUGE – Two employees of a Gretna tax preparation business face multiple felony charges for a criminal scheme resulting in more than a quarter-million dollars in fraudulent state income tax refunds.

Raquel M. Walker of Harvey (Booking photo), and Tamicka D. Kitts of Gretna (Booking photo) are employees of Tax Town, LLC.  Investigators with the Louisiana Department of Revenue say they filed state income tax returns containing fabricated business losses for hundreds of clients who had reported no losses, and who in many cases were not business owners. The tax filings resulted in the state issuing more than $250,000 in fraudulent refunds.

Kitts was convicted in federal court in 2004 for similar activities.

Fabricated business losses are a common fraud technique used by unscrupulous tax preparers to inflate their fees for more complex tax filings, and to ensure repeat business from clients. But even when tax preparers commit fraud, taxpayers are responsible for paying back the improperly issued refunds. The Department of Revenue encourages taxpayers to examine carefully all tax documents filed on their behalf.

Tamicka Kitts and Raquel Walker were booked into the East Baton Rouge Parish Prison on Tuesday, September 22 on charges of Principal to Filing or Maintaining False Public Records and Principal to Illegal Transmission of Monetary Funds.

These arrests bring to 49 the number of suspects charged under a joint anti-fraud initiative of the Department of Revenue and the state Attorney General’s Office.

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2015 Second Amendment Weekend Sales Tax Holiday: September 4-6

BATON ROUGE – The 2015 Louisiana Second Amendment Weekend Sales Tax Holiday will take place Friday, September 4 through Sunday, September 6.  During that time, guns, ammunition and other hunting supplies will be exempt from state and local sales taxes.

The sales tax holiday applies to individual consumer purchases of a wide range of hunting gear. Eligible hunting supplies include:

  • Firearms that may be legally sold or purchased in Louisiana
  • Ammunition intended to be fired from a gun or firearm
  • Archery supplies to be used for hunting
  • Apparel such as safety gear, camouflage clothing, jackets, hats, gloves, mittens, face masks and thermal underwear manufactured and marketed as being primarily for wear or use while hunting
  • Off-road vehicles such as all-terrain vehicles designed and intended primarily for hunting; the exemption does not apply to golf carts, go-carts, dirt bikes, mini-bikes, motorcycles, tractors, motor vehicles which may be legally driven on the streets and highways of Louisiana, or heavy equipment such as cranes, forklifts, backhoes and bulldozers

By state law, the Louisiana Second Amendment Weekend Sales Tax Holiday is an annual event that takes place the first consecutive Friday through Sunday each September.

Visit www.revenue.louisiana.gov/secondamendment for more information, including the full list of eligible purchases, as well as those that do not qualify for the sales tax exemption.

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Baton Rouge tax preparer arrested second time on new set of fraud charges

Chandris Ferguson

Chandris Ferguson

BATON ROUGE – A Baton Rouge tax preparer on bail from a 2013 arrest is back in custody facing multiple felony counts for tax fraud, the Louisiana Department of Revenue announced Tuesday.

Chandris Ferguson (Booking Photo), of 12457 Lockhaven Avenue in Baton Rouge, is accused of filing falsified state income tax returns that resulted in her clients receiving larger tax refunds than they would have received otherwise. The amount of fraudulent refunds in this case is $63,686.

Investigators say Ferguson, owner of The Best Tax Services in Baton Rouge, filed returns claiming fabricated business losses for clients who had sustained no losses, and in many cases were not business owners. And she is accused of instructing her clients to ignore official notices from the Department of Revenue seeking to verify the business information on their tax returns.

Ferguson was arrested in 2013 on similar fraud charges related to her work at The Best Tax Services. Fabricating business losses is a technique used frequently by unscrupulous tax preparers to guarantee their clients larger refunds than they would receive otherwise.

In the current case, Ferguson faces ten counts of computer fraud, ten counts of filing or maintaining false public records, and five counts of obstruction of justice. She was arrested on Monday, August 10 and booked into the East Baton Rouge Parish Prison. It is the 46th arrest under a joint anti-fraud initiative of the Department of Revenue and the state Attorney General’s office.

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Most retail purchases exempt from state sales tax August 7 & 8

BATON ROUGE – Families getting ready to send their kids back to school can save money during the 2015 Louisiana Annual Sales Tax Holiday Friday, August 7 and Saturday, August 8. During these two days, most retail purchases are exempt from the four percent state sales tax.

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 four percent state sales tax. Local sales taxes apply to purchases 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 events

Visit www.revenue.louisiana.gov/taxholiday for a full explanation of conditions of the 2015 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 2015 Louisiana Individual Income Tax Returns due May 15, 2016. 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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New Orleans woman arrested for tax fraud scheme involving prison inmates

 

Darylynn Carter

Darylynn Carter

BATON ROUGE – A New Orleans woman faces multiple felonies for a tax fraud scheme that involved filing phony tax returns in the names of other taxpayers, including two prison inmates.

Darylynn Carter (Booking Photo) is accused of filing fraudulent tax returns and directing the refunds to her own bank account. The phony tax filings included falsified W2 income tax withholding documents.

Investigators determined that in all five cases, the taxpayers whose names appeared on the tax returns had earned no income during the tax year in question. In two cases, they had earned no income because they were incarcerated at the time.

Carter is the 45th person arrested under a joint anti-fraud initiative of the Louisiana Department of Revenue and the state Attorney General’s office. She was booked into the East Baton Rouge Parish Prison on Tuesday on five counts of computer fraud, five counts of injuring public records, and one count of theft in the amount of $1,755.

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LDR reminds vendors about sales tax collections at special events, including 4th of July

BATON ROUGE – As the state enters its festive summer period, agents of the Louisiana Department of Revenue are reminding vendors that they conduct on-site enforcement of the state’s sales tax laws with vendors at special events such as fairs, festivals, craft shows and trade shows, the department announced Tuesday.

“Louisiana law requires all businesses and individuals making retails sales in the state to collect and remit sales taxes,” Secretary of Revenue Tim Barfield said. “This enforcement action helps to ensure that vendors at special events don’t enjoy an unfair competitive advantage over other local businesses.”

Louisiana hosts more than 400 festivals each year.  A “vendor” is defined as any person or entity selling merchandise or providing a taxable service. This includes sellers, promoters, exhibitors and booth owners.

Taxable products and services include, but are not limited to:

  • Prepared food
  • Clothing
  • Arts & crafts
  • Event admissions

All special event retailers must have a Louisiana sales tax account. They must collect sales taxes from their customers, and must remit those taxes to state and local taxing authorities. Violators are subject to fines, penalties, interest, and possible civil litigation or criminal prosecution.

Vendors needing to register for a sales tax account should visit www.revenue.louisiana.gov/specialevents.

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