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August 4, 08


Cosmetologist Allegedly Obtained $3.5 Million in Fraudulent Tax Refunds For Customers

WASHINGTON � A federal court in Jackson, Miss., has permanently barred a woman from preparing federal tax returns for others, the Justice Department announced today. The court also ordered the New Hebron, Miss., woman, Hazel M. Harris, to provide her customer lists to the government and to mail copies of the court order to her customers. Harris consented to the court order.

According to the governmentís complaint, Harris (who is also known as Hazel Buckley), works as a cosmetologist and has no tax training. She allegedly targeted elderly customers who receive Social Security benefits. To generate improper refunds for her customers, she allegedly reported Social Security benefits as taxable income on customersí returns and falsely reported taxes withheld, when in fact none had been withheld; this, in turn, generated a fraudulent refund for the taxpayers.

According to the complaint, Harris claimed more than $3.5 million dollars in fraudulent refunds for her customers and prepared more than 8,000 returns since 2001. Though obligated by law to sign the returns she prepared, Harris, according to the governmentís complaint, signed none of them and also failed to provide her tax preparer identification number on the returns she prepared for her customers.

The complaint states that Harris prepared three fraudulent tax returns for an undercover Internal Revenue Service (IRS) agent posing as a customer. The undercover agent gave Harris a statement showing Social Security disability income, with no tax withheld. Harris prepared returns for the agent with fabricated withholdings to generate fraudulent refunds.

ďSince 2001, the Tax Division has obtained injunctions against more than 345 fraudulent tax return promoters and preparers,Ē said Nathan J. Hochman, Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Departmentís Tax Division. ďThe injunction programís goal is straightforward and simple � putting fraudulent tax return preparers out of business so they perpetrate no further harm on the nationís tax system.Ē

Information about these cases is available on the Justice Department Web site, as is information about the Justice Departmentís Tax Division. Information about tax scams and tax return preparer fraud can be found on the IRS Web site.



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