A mother-daughter tax return preparer team in St. Louis, Missouri, prepares false federal income tax returns for their customers, according to a new lawsuit filed by the Department of Justice today. The suit asks the court to permanently bar Cherlynn Harrington, Linda McClendon, and their business Goodlink, LLC d/b/a Goodlink Tax Services from preparing federal income tax returns for others.  The complaint alleges that defendants unlawfully understate their customers’ income tax liabilities and overstate their customers’ refunds.

The complaint alleges that Harrington and McClendon fabricate income and/or expenses in order to improperly claim the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), sometimes charging their customers more than $1,500 to prepare these false tax returns. In some cases, Harrington made unauthorized withdrawals from debit cards loaded with her customers’ false tax refunds according to the complaint.

The IRS has a list of steps on their website that you can take now in anticipation of filing your 2017 federal income tax return. Return preparer fraud was one of the IRS’s Dirty Dozen Tax Scams for 2018 and taxpayers seeking a return preparer should remain vigilant. The IRS has some tips on their website for choosing a return preparer and has launched a free directory of federal tax preparers.