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IRS, Harris County authorities investigating tax service for income tax fraud

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Investigators collected filing-cabinets full of tax documents from the business Investigators collected filing-cabinets full of tax documents from the business
CATAULA, Ga. - Investigators from the IRS and the Harris County Sheriff's Office are investigating a Cataula tax service for alleged income tax fraud. IRS agents and Harris County Sheriff's deputies raided the Priority Tax Service business Thursday afternoon.

Harris County Sheriff Mike Jolley tells News 3 the IRS asked them to help search the after the IRS received a tip that the company was filing false tax returns. Investigators collected filing-cabinets full of tax documents and sheriff deputies searched the business owner's home where they found marijuana, $11,000 dollars in cash and additional tax documents.

“I initiated my investigative team to go out to residence and sit on it to see if the business owner was at the home,” explained Sheriff Jolley. “After about 15 minutes the owner walked out of the residence…they asked if a consent search could be done by our office for her residence and she consented.”

After the search, Melissa Lowe, the Priority Tax Service owner, and Phenix City man Marcus Calhoun were charged with possession of marijuana. Calhoun told investigators he was staying at Lowe’s home, according to Sheriff Jolley.

Jolley says he didn't believe Calhoun was directly involved with the tax company, but suspected he laundered money for the business and expects the state to charge both individuals with identity theft.

The IRS was unable to comment on how many people may have been affected or how much money was involved since it's an ongoing investigation. They did offer tips when choosing a Return Preparer:

  • Avoid return preparers who claim they can obtain larger refunds than other preparers.
  • Avoid preparers who base their fee on a percentage of the amount of the refund.
  • Use a reputable tax professional that signs and enters a preparer tax identification number (PTIN) on your tax return and provides you with a copy for your records.
  • Consider whether the individual or firm will be around to answer questions about the preparation of your tax return, months, even years, after the return has been filed.
  • Never sign a blank tax form.
  • Ask questions. Do you know anyone who has used the tax professional? Were they satisfied with the service they received?

If you suspect tax fraud, the IRS asks you to visit their website.

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