A federal court has permanently barred Howard Musin, his wife Jill Schwartz-Musin, who formerly worked as an IRS special agent, and their three companies from preparing federal tax returns for others.
The three businesses named in the court's civil injunction order on Tuesday are SSC Services Inc., M-S Services Inc. and Schwartz's Systems Corporation. Trial evidence showed that the Musins reside in Clive, Iowa.
Following an eight-day trial, U.S. District Court Judge John A. Jarvey found that the defendants engaged in a wide variety of misconduct in preparing tax returns for their customers, many of which were distributors for Shaklee Corporation, a large multi-level marketing firm. According to court documents, the couple improperly claimed business expense deductions on customers' returns for costs of personal items. Court documents also state that the Musins attempted to hide their improper deductions, including disguising nearly $70,000 in personal cattery expenses for a customer who bred cats as a hobby by listing them as business expenses of the customer's computer consulting business.
According to evidence presented at trial, Schwartz-Musin worked for the Internal Revenue Service from 1972 to 1978, and for part of that time she was a criminal investigator. The complaint alleges that Schwartz-Musin became a tax return preparer in 1982 and, in 2000, pleaded guilty to one criminal count of obstructing the administration of the tax laws. The court found that, the earlier criminal conviction notwithstanding, the defendants created and submitted a backdated, false form to the IRS during a customer audit in 2006 in a fraudulent attempt to justify an improper deduction.
In a sternly worded opinion, U.S. District Court Judge John Jarvey wrote, “To the Musins, the ownership of a small business has been treated as a license to convert almost any of one’s personal expenses into business deductions. According to them, if you believe that looking successful helps make you successful, your clothes, hair care, and manicures are deductible. If your dog barks while you are away from your home based business, it’s deductible. If your child’s nanny ever answered the business phone, the nanny is deductible. If you visit a business associate while on vacation, it is deductible. If you pay rent to yourself, or even if you don’t, it’s deductible. If you have a six year old child, payments to the child are deductible employee expenses. If you have used your living room television in a business meeting, it’s deductible. And your hobbies, like scuba diving, pet cats and flying, easily deductible. It is not any one client or any particular deduction that is at issue here. It is a wholesale pattern of taking deductions without justification that entitles the government to injunctive relief.”
After leaving her job as a special agent in the IRS’s Criminal Division, Schwartz-Musin began preparing tax returns for clients in 1982. In 1987, she was barred from representing taxpayers in disputes with the IRS for falsely holding herself out to clients as a CPA. She unsuccessfully appealed the IRS District Director’s decision by claiming that CPA stood for “current power of attorney.”
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