The Justice Department has asked a federal court to bar Ella Mae Peterson, a St. Louis preparer for H&R Block, from preparing income tax returns for others. Peterson worked for 20 years at the St. Louis office. For tax years 2000 through 2003, she prepared 1,751 returns for Block customers. Internal Revenue Service audits of 31 of those returns revealed improper deductions on each return. The deductions included fictitious or inflated charitable contributions, business and medical expenses, and state and local taxes paid. The complaint estimates that returns Peterson prepared for the tax years from 2000 to 2003 have cost the Federal Treasury more than $6.5 million. "People who prepare false or fraudulent tax returns cheat their customers and unfairly shift the tax burden to honest American taxpayers," said Eileen J. O'Connor, assistant attorney general for the Justice Department's Tax Division. "If you have your tax return prepared, review it carefully, and make sure that what you file with the Internal Revenue Service is accurate." Block spokesperson Nancy Wagoner stated: "Our training, monitoring and supervision of tax professionals is unquestionably the best in the industry. Should an incident such as this occur, we do our best to learn from the situation and communicate the appropriate messages to both our clients and our tax professionals." "H&R Block's policy is to cooperate fully with authorities on any investigation, and we have done so in this case," she continued. "We do not, however, comment on employee matters."
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