A Florida tax preparer has been barred by a federal judge after he falsely told clients he was a former IRS employee and that the IRS had “pre-audited” their tax returns.

U.S. District Court Judge James D. Whittemore of the Middle District of Florida in Tampa entered a permanent injunction order against preparer Gerald Mirabella, of Spring Hill, Fla., who consented to the order.

According to prosecutors, Mirabella prepared federal income tax returns claiming false deductions for medical expenses, charitable contributions, non-existent businesses and other items. The tax loss from Mirabella’s conduct was alleged to be as high as $1.7 million.

The IRS and the Justice Department have been cracking down on tax preparers who claim false deductions. In the past decade the Justice Department has obtained injunctions against more than 420 tax preparers and tax fraud promoters. In another recent case, a Maryland tax preparer, Lawrence Sperling, was sentenced Wednesday to 33 months in prison after he pleaded guilty in April to one count of aiding and assisting in the preparation and presentation of a false tax return. He was accused of falsifying claims for medial expenses, charitable contributions, miscellaneous employment-related expenses, and childcare credits, causing a tax loss of over $800,000 to the IRS.

The IRS has been considering the regulation of unlicensed tax preparers and creating a uniform code of ethics for all preparers. It has been holding a series of forums to discuss proposals with industry, government and consumer groups. At one such forum Wednesday in Washington, D.C., a representative from the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration talked about some of the cases of dubious tax preparation services encountered by investigators.

During the 2008 filing season, TIGTA found that a majority of tax returns prepared by a sample of unenrolled, unlicensed preparers contained substantial errors, according to TIGTA assistant inspector general for audit Michael McKenney. TIGTA auditors posed as taxpayers and paid to have 28 tax returns prepared at 12 commercial chains and 16 small, independently owned tax prep offices.

“TIGTA found that these preparers made substantial errors when completing tax returns and correctly prepared only 39 percent of the returns,” he said. “Of the 61 percent of the returns that were prepared incorrectly, 65 percent contained mistakes and omissions that were considered to have been caused by human error or misinterpretation of the tax laws. The remaining 35 percent contained misstatements and omissions that were considered to have been caused by willful or reckless conduct.”

He added that none of the preparers in the sample exercised due diligence in determining whether the undercover investigators were eligible to receive the Earned Income Tax Credit. TIGTA is calling for a unique identifying number for each preparer to keep better track of errant tax preparers.

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