Taxman’s Facebook Miranda Warning? Anything You Put on Your Wall Will Be Used Against You

By now, as taxpayers, if we’ve ever had a scrape with the IRS or a state’s taxing agency, especially if we happen to be owing some, we are accustomed to getting letters, maybe getting phone calls, maybe even having some live person from the IRS show up at our door.

And we are familiar with the forms, and the questions: things like:

  • Where do you work?
  • Where do you bank?
  • Do you rent or own your house or apartment?
  • What is the rent?
  • What is the mortgage?
  • What is the maintenance or common charges?
  • Do you own stocks or bonds?
  • What are they worth?

All these questions, and more.

And, if you happen to get audited, the Revenue Agent (the IRS’s name for the person who does the audit) might send you a few pages of forms which ask you to provide specific information and documents to help answer these sorts of questions. The IRS calls them IDRs, which stands for “Information Document Request.”

If you don’t respond, and things get ugly, the IRS can drag you into court and have you explain to a judge why didn’t provide the information the IRS requested. You might have a good reason; you might not.

It’s all pretty low tech: letters, paper, phone calls, knocking on doors.

But according to an article in the Wall Street Journal, the Taxman is leaping quickly into the 21st Century and gathering information about taxpayers from Facebook walls, MySpace posts, chat rooms, and Google.

In “Is ‘Friending’ in Your Future? Better Pay Your Taxes First,” The Wall Street Journal’s Laura Saunders reports that state taxing authorities in Minnesota, Nebraska, and California have been catching long-time tax debtors and tax evaders who announce their professional and travel plans on social media sites. Other states are doing so as well, or at least thinking about it.

For example, one tenacious and inquiring tax collector found a delinquent taxpayer who was a “rigger of sails” by searching for his name and the phrase (“rigger…”). This search led him to a discussion board of local riggers, and in it, a discussion thread telling where this rigger went after his store closed.

With this morsel of information, the taxman located the missing “rigger of sails” and collected the unpaid tax debt.

While states are jumping into mine social media sites and more generally the internet, the IRS is playing its hand very close to the vest. It refused to comment on whether or how it might be using social networking sites.

Jobs Agency Owner Gets Temp Assignment (Some Call it a ‘Sentence’) to Federal Prison for Unpaid Employment Tax

A San Antonio, Texas, woman was sentenced to 41 months in federal prison and ordered to pay $1.5 million in restitution to the IRS for her role in a fraudulent tax scheme.

In addition to the prison term, United States District Judge Fred Biery ordered that Terrell Diamond be placed under supervised release for a period of three years after completing her prison term.

According to court records, Diamond, along with her now-ex-husband and co-defendant, William Diamond, conspired to defraud the IRS in the assessment and collection of more than $1.5 million in employment taxes due and owing from November 1996 to June 2003.

The employment taxes owed pertained to temporary employment agencies owned and operated by the Diamonds, including Ameriforce and Primo Labor.

Both Diamonds pleaded guilty to the same charge: one count of conspiracy to defraud the IRS.

IRS Auditor Caught Faking Own Tax Return

A revenue agent with the Internal Revenue Service has agreed to plead guilty to a federal tax fraud charge for filing a personal income tax return that claimed he suffered a loss in a real estate transaction when in fact he realized a substantial profit. (“Revenue agent” is the official title for the people at the IRS who audit tax returns.)

In a plea agreement, Jim H. Liu, 43, of Diamond Bar, Calif., agreed to plead guilty to subscribing to a false tax return — a charge that carries a penalty of up to three years in federal prison.

‘My Gain is Your Loss’ Shenanigan Uncovered and Confessed

Liu admitted he filed a false tax return for the 2002 tax year that improperly claimed a loss on his sale of a property in Pomona. Liu sold the property for a profit of more than $48,000, but he instead claimed a loss of more than $4,200.

The tax loss to the government, as a result of Liu’s filing, was approximately $14,642.88.

Not Just for Bernie Madoff or King Tut, Business Owners Build Devastating Pyramids of Withholding Tax Debt Deducted From Paychecks But Not Sent to IRS

What do they call it when a business owner withholds payroll taxes from his or her employees’ paychecks, spends that money on other expenses, doesn’t send the withholding tax payment to the IRS, then, does the same thing again, and then again, and then again?

The “again and again” part is called “pyramiding”: the employer is pyramiding its failure to pay one payment period after another, growing the company’s debt to the government astronomically.

Another way to describe it is digging the hole deeper, and deeper. (Recall Bill Clinton’s sensible advice: If you’re in a hole, first thing: stop digging.)

The act of failing to pay to the IRS (actually the U.S. Treasury) is a way to live especially dangerously for business owners, managers, and decision makers at the company. James Bond thinks he’s living dangerously? Feh!

The reason it is so dangerous is: The IRS has the power to hold the owners, managers, and decision-makers at the company personally responsible for the unpaid withholding tax with little more than the stroke of a pen. (This is called the “Trust Fund Recovery Penalty.”)

With this extraordinary power, the IRS can “pierce the corporate veil” with an ease unknown to ordinary creditors. Once it does, this liability is NOT deductible and it is NOT dischargable in bankruptcy. So there is a triple-whammy which can be devastating, and “pyramiding” the debt multiplies the problem.

This triple-whammy is then magnified further by the state tax dept, if the business is in a state which has an income tax; States have similarly huge, extraordinary powers and often the state is even tougher than the IRS.

Can the IRS file a lien without going to court?

A taxpayer searching around the internet asked this question. It is a very good question because it asks about the reach — and the limits — of the IRS’s power to reach into our lives whether we like it or not.

Liens 101: What is a Lien, Anyway?

For those unfamiliar with the term, a “lien” is essentially a claim — someone claims you owe them money.

In certain situations, the person (or business, or government agency) making the claim can file a document announcing this claim with the County Clerk or other public records authority.

By filing a lien with the County Clerk, the claimant announces to the world (and especially to credit reporting agencies) that the claimant says you owe it money.

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Church Sound Man To Face Taxman’s Music

Nashville, TN — A Tennessee man who operates a business installing complex sound systems in church auditoriums nationwide, pled guilty to two counts of failure to pay federal income tax. As part of his plea, he admitted that he owes the federal government more than $300,000.

After admitting guilt in August, 2008, the sentencing hearing took place in January 2009. The court sentenced Charles Grecco, 44, of Franklin, Tenn, to serve 6 months in prison, followed by one year of supervised release, and to pay restitution of $300,141.82 to the Internal Revenue Service.

According to the government, Grecco failed to pay more than $67,000 in federal income taxes for years 2001 and 2002 which was only two of the six tax years involved.

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