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DOJ Asks Federal Court to Bar Tax Preparer
Legal Career News | 2006/12/28 22:27

WASHINGTON - The Justice Department announced today that it has sued a federal income tax preparer in U.S. District Court in Miami seeking to bar her from preparing tax returns for others. According to the government’s civil injunction complaint, Tashanna McFarland of Miramar, Fla., prepared federal tax returns claiming fraudulent fuel tax credits, a scam that the complaint explains is a serious enforcement problem for the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). The suit alleges that McFarland operates her tax preparation business out of a booth at a flea market in Miami.

Federal law imposes a fuel tax on gasoline and diesel fuel sold in the United States. The tax is included in the purchase price at the pump. Businesses can claim a fuel tax credit in certain rare circumstances, but most businesses and consumers who use cars or trucks on roads and highways are not eligible for the credit. According to the government’s complaint, McFarland claimed the fuel credit on her customers’ returns so they could claim tax refunds to which they were not entitled.

The complaint says that on a return for one customer—a babysitter—McFarland claimed that the customer purchased 16,451 gallons of gasoline for business-related purposes. The suit notes that for such a claim to be accurate, the babysitter (whose total income for the year was $9,316) would have had to spend approximately $36,192 for gasoline that year—nearly four times her total income—and would had to have driven approximately 246,765 miles during the year, an average of 676 miles each day, seven days a week.

The government complaint alleges that McFarland has prepared at least 970 returns since 2003 and the IRS has identified over $1.5 million dollars in fraudulent fuel tax credits on McFarland-prepared returns. “People who have their returns prepared by others should review them carefully to make sure they are truthful,” said Eileen J. O’Connor, Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department’s Tax Division. “The preparer who seems to be saving you taxes now is setting you up for trouble later, when the IRS realizes that you filed a false return and obtained a larger refund, or paid less in taxes, than you should have.”

“This problem is primarily being caused by unscrupulous tax return preparers located across the country," said Kathy Petronchak, Commissioner of the IRS Small Business / Self Employed Division. "The IRS is working closely with the Department of Justice to stop this behavior."

Since 2001, the Justice Department’s Tax Division has obtained more than 215 injunctions to stop the promotion of tax fraud schemes and the preparation of fraudulent returns.



New EPA Smog Rules Infringe Clean Air Act
Court Feed News | 2006/12/27 18:04

The US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia rejected the new federal rules for smog reduction on Friday, stating that the Environmental Protection Agency "has failed to heed the restrictions on its discretion set forth in the Act." The smog standards were introduced in 2004 and required roughly 470 counties designated as "non-attainment" areas to reduce the level of smog within a three to seventeen year period. The court said the time period did not align with the federal Clean Air Act and held that EPA enforcement was not strict enough in states where smog levels have increased.

The EPA has not yet determined if it will seek an en banc rehearing of the case, according to EPA spokeswoman Jennifer Wood, stating that the "EPA is committed to ensuring our nation's ozone air quality standards are implemented to protect public health and the environment."



Groups sue Dallas suburb over immigration law
Court Feed News | 2006/12/27 17:52

Two civil rights groups filed suit in federal court Tuesday to block enforcement of a town ordinance passed in November by the Dallas suburb of Farmer's Branch requiring apartment renters to show proof of US residency and penalizing landlords who rent to illegal immigrants. The ACLU of Texas, in conjunction with the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF), sued to bar the city from implementing the act beginning January 12, alleging that federal immigration law preempts state and local ordinances aimed at regulating immigration, and that the law as drafted is impermissibly vague.

Some local landlords have also spoken against the ordinance, saying they are not trained to determine whether immigration papers produced by potential renters are forgeries. Two other recent lawsuits have challenged the ordinance, one filed last Friday on behalf of three apartment complexes, and one filed earlier in December alleging that the Mayor of Farmer's Branch broke the Texas Open Meetings Act during deliberations concerning the ordinance. AP has more.

Last November a federal judge granted a temporary restraining order against the town of Hazleton, Pennsylvania, preventing the town from promulgating a similar landlord-tenant ordinance designed to discourage illegal immigration.



Court tells EPA they can't Relax Smog rules
Court Feed News | 2006/12/26 23:30

The US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia rejected the new federal rules for smog reduction on Friday, stating that the Environmental Protection Agency "has failed to heed the restrictions on its discretion set forth in the Act."

The smog standards were introduced in 2004 and required roughly 470 counties designated as "non-attainment" areas to reduce the level of smog within a three to seventeen year period. The court said the time period did not align with the federal Clean Air Act and held that EPA enforcement was not strict enough in states where smog levels have increased.

According to EPA spokeswoman Jennifer Wood, the EPA has not yet determined if it will seek an en banc rehearing of the case, stating that the "EPA is committed to ensuring our nation's ozone air quality standards are implemented to protect public health and the environment." 



Appeals Court Tosses Out Bush Smog Rules
Court Feed News | 2006/12/26 18:19

The US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia rejected the new federal rules for smog reduction on Friday, stating that the Environmental Protection Agency "has failed to heed the restrictions on its discretion set forth in the Clean Air Act."

The smog standards were introduced in 2004 and required roughly 470 counties designated as "non-attainment" areas to reduce the level of smog within a three to seventeen year period. The court said the time period did not align with the federal Clean Air Act and held that EPA enforcement was not strict enough in states where smog levels have increased.

According to EPA spokeswoman Jennifer Wood, the EPA has not yet determined if it will seek an en banc rehearing of the case, stating that the "EPA is committed to ensuring our nation's ozone air quality standards are implemented to protect public health and the environment."



Appeals court suspends order for FEMA
Court Feed News | 2006/12/25 03:55

A federal appeals court Friday suspended a November order by US District Judge Richard Leon requiring the Federal Emergency Management Agency to reinstate certain housing payments  to Hurricane Katrina victims. The US DC Circuit Court of Appeals suspended the order in response to FEMA's request to allow the agency to delay action on the shelter program at least until March when the appeals court will hear arguments in the case.

The Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) filed the lawsuit on behalf of displaced hurricane evacuees alleging violations of their due process rights. Leon granted the plaintiff's motion for a preliminary injunction against the payments stoppage, maintaining that FEMA had failed to provide evacuees with adequate explanations for their denials of housing assistance and their means of appeal under the Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act. Leon's order also required FEMA to explain to evacuees in plain English why they are no longer eligible for funding.



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