Experts Encourage Caution When Choosing Tax Preparer
Convicted accountant provides warning example
ANCHORAGE - There’s a warning from authorities as you get ready to file your taxes: Know who you're entrusting with your financial information.
A 43-year-old Anchorage accountant was sentenced Monday to a little more than six years behind federal bars for defrauding her clients of close to a million dollars. “She prepared tax returns for her clients and presented [them] to them and said, ‘look you are going to owe the IRS $60,000 or $100,000,’” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Tom Bradley.
Anchorage accountant Frances Yvonne Rowland pled guilty last year to stealing more than $700,000 from more than nine of her clients. She told them to give her the money they owed the IRS so she could make the payment for them.
“Instead of filing the tax returns or paying the taxes she then used the money for her own purposes and filed a false extension with the IRS saying the tax returns weren't ready,” said Bradley. Rowland spent the money on personal trips, mortgage payments and restitution payments for a 1996 embezzlement conviction, when she stole $200,000 from her then employer, Carlile Transportation.
The experts have some tips on how you can protect yourself. “Make sure they are going to someone who is reputable, somebody who has been around a long time,” said Mark Schneiter who is a longtime certified public accountant. “Don't turn your funds over to somebody, we don't have any discretion over funds. I never ask somebody to pay me to write a check to me and tell them I will pay a bill for them.”
Schneiter also says its important to make copies of everything you hand over to your CPA, including bank statements and cancelled checks, and to see that your accountant has a license.
In the end it's your money on the line. You can check out a tax preparer with the Alaska Society of Certified Public Accountants or the Better Business Bureau. And if you do leave a check, experts advise that you make it payable to the IRS or the U.S. Treasury.