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Manhattan lawyer faces 45 days jail for tax evasion
Lawyer News | 2007/01/09 04:35

A lawyer who avoided paying income taxes for almost 25 years will spend 45 days in jail and pay $1.5 million after pleading guilty to failing to file tax returns, prosecutors said Monday.

Francis K. Decker Jr., who specialized in defending tobacco companies, pleaded guilty Friday, admitting he failed to file personal state and city tax returns since 1998 on $4.5 million in gross income, prosecutors said.

Because Decker, 70, was a partner at a Manhattan law firm, no taxes were withheld from his pay, and he made no quarterly estimated income tax payments as required by law, prosecutors said. However, they said, he signed statements telling the firm he had filed returns and paid his taxes.

Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau said Decker, who has homes in Brooklyn and Quogue worth $2 million each, was caught when state officials did a routine review of license databases and found he was a licensed lawyer in New York but was not paying taxes.

A condition of Decker's plea deal is that he must settle with federal tax officials, if necessary, said Assistant District Attorney Daniel Castleman.

Morgenthau said Decker had not filed tax returns since 1982. He said it was ironic that a person who paid no income taxes for decades could avoid detection more easily than someone who occasionally paid but sometimes cheated.

The statute of limitations did not cover income tax offenses before 1999, but Decker agreed to pay going back to 1982.

Besides spending 45 days in jail, Decker will pay a $10,000 fine on each of two counts of failure to file, prosecutors said. He also must pay $779,757 in state and city personal income taxes, interest and penalties for 1999 through 2005 and $720,000 to settle any tax liability for 1982 though 1998. He will be sentenced Feb. 1.

Decker's lawyer, Jonathan Davidoff, said his client "has accepted responsibility for his actions and is very sorry for his past behavior."

"By accepting responsibility," Davidoff said, "Mr. Decker has not only agreed to pay New York state back for past taxes but also is paying society back by pleading guilty and serving the sentence recommended by the district attorney's office."

Many Happy Returns: Tax Filing Season Begins
Lawyer News | 2007/01/04 23:21

The Internal Revenue Service began its 2007 filing system with instructions on how to apply for newly enacted tax breaks and recommendations that more taxpayers give up paper and file electronically.

The agency said that it will send out 17 million tax packages this week to taxpayers who previously filed paper returns. The IRS expects to process about 136 million individual tax returns for 2006, with more than half filed electronically.

It pointed out that one major change this year will be the telephone excise tax refund. The government stopped collecting the federal excise tax on long-distance service last August and plans to provide refunds for these taxes billed after Feb. 28, 2003, and before Aug. 1, 2006.

The agency said taxpayers can avoid collecting 41 months of old phone bills by choosing standard amounts. Under standard amounts a person filing a return with one exemption can claim $30, with the amount rising to $40 for those with two exemptions, $50 for three exemptions and $60 for four or more exemptions.

Those desiring a refund based on actual amount of taxes paid should use Form 8913.

The agency also advised taxpayers on how to take advantage of tax breaks renewed by Congress in December, after the IRS had printed its forms for the 2007 filing season. The most significant of the breaks allow taxpayers to deduct state and local sales taxes instead of state income taxes and provide deductions for higher education tuition and fees and for personal expenses incurred by schoolteachers.

The IRS will mail Publication 600 to 6 million taxpayers who receive the Form 1040 package this month with instructions on claiming the sales tax deduction. The agency also advised that it will not be able to process tax returns claiming the belatedly renewed tax breaks until early February. It said that last year about 930,000 tax returns claiming the three tax breaks were filed by Feb. 1.

"As we always do, we encourage taxpayers who think they may claim these deductions to file electronically," said IRS Commissioner Mark W. Everson. "They will get their refunds faster through e-file. Even more importantly, e-file will greatly reduce the chances for making an error compared to claiming the deductions on the paper 1040."

Another change this year is that taxpayers can split refunds among up to three accounts held by U.S. financial institutions such as banks, mutual funds, brokerage firms or credit unions.

The tax agency also urged taxpayers who earn $52,000 or less to make use of Free File, a free electronic program that is a partnership between the IRS and private tax service providers. It noted that this year private sector partners have agreed to remove from their programs side offerings such Refund Anticipation Loans that offer taxpayers immediate payment of expected refunds but sometimes come with high interest rates and fees.

It noted that taxpayers, after filing returns, can track their refund through the online tool "Where's my refund?" on the IRS web site, "With all the changes taking place, this is a good year for paper filers to try e-file," Everson said. "We remind taxpayers that e-filing is fast, secure and reliable."

Installment Agreement Fee Increases for Taxpayers
Lawyer News | 2007/01/03 19:21

WASHINGTON – Beginning Jan. 1, 2007, the Internal Revenue Service will implement revised user fees for installment agreements. For eligible individuals with income at or below certain levels, the fee for entering new agreements will not increase but remain at the 2006 level.

The Office of Management and Budget has directed federal agencies to charge user fees reflecting the full cost of goods or services that convey special benefits to recipients beyond those accruing to the general public. The installment agreement user fees have not been increased since first implemented in 1995. Increases in labor and other costs of processing have increased the cost of processing installment agreements. 

User fees for entering into a non-direct debit installment agreement will increase from $43 to $105, and the fee for direct debit installment agreements will increase from $43 to $52.

Taxpayers with income at or below established levels, based on the Department of Health and Human Services poverty guidelines, can apply and be qualified to pay a reduced user fee of $43 for establishing new agreements including direct debit installments. Information about requesting the reduced user fee will be included in installment agreement acceptance letter sent to individuals.

The fee for restructured or reinstated agreements will increase from $24 to $45 regardless of income level.

Texas smokers hit with new excise tax
Lawyer News | 2007/01/01 21:07

Texas smokers will pay considerably more for cigarettes beginning today as a new excise tax takes effect.

The state Legislature approved the measure in May in an effort to pressure smokers to quit and to allow a break on property taxes. The tax will increase $1 from a moderate 41 cents to $1.41 a pack, placing Texas among the 15 states with the highest cigarette levies. New Jersey has the highest tax, at $2.58 a pack. The increase will push the price of a single pack of cigarettes in Texas to about $4.50.

The state comptroller's office has estimated the tax increase will generate $700 million a year, enabling a reduction in property taxes.

IRS warns of e-mail scams
Lawyer News | 2006/12/30 02:30

Iowans are being warned about stepped up scams in email that may look like they're from the Internal Revenue Service. IRS spokesman Christopher Miller says the schemes have been around for months but they've picked up again in recent weeks.

Miller says the fraudulent e-mails are designed to trick the recipients into disclosing personal and financial information, usually credit card numbers, PINS, Social Security numbers and account numbers, which could be used to steal their identity and financial assets. Identity theft is a growing crime that's costing tens of thousands of Americans millions of dollars.

Miller says the agency's investigators have identified about a hundred different e-mail scams involving the IRS, many with similarities. The language of the e-mails is typically the same, saying after the latest calculations, they've determined the person is due a tax refund of 63dollars and 80cents -- which Miller says is significant because many of the scams use that same total. Miller says the tax collection agency never makes it a practice to email Iowans to ask for this sort of information.

Miller says the IRS typically uses regular mail or sometimes phone calls but they make sure to verify the individual they're talking to by using information only they would know. He says they've seen a recent rise in complaints about these bogus emails and taxpayers in Iowa who want to make sure they're not ignoring the real thing -do- have an alternative.

Podiatrist to appeal tax conviction
Lawyer News | 2006/12/29 03:14

A podiatrist is appealing his federal-court conviction and two-year prison sentence for tax evasion, but a federal judge says the doctor must still report to prison on Jan. 5.

Dr. Clifford B. Marston of Gassville operated Sunshine Foot Clinics at Mountain Home and Harrison. The 57-year-old was convicted in May of tax evasion and filing false income tax returns.

Marston was sentenced to 26 months in prison and ordered to pay about $300,000 in restitution and fines.

U.S. District Judge Jimm Larry Hendren denied a request from Marston to remain free on bond while his appeal proceeds, and ordered him to report to prison on Jan. 5.

Marston filed a notice of appeal in federal court at Harrison on Dec. 22. He said last year that the IRS had misapplied regulations and he believed that most Americans do not have taxable income.

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