By JK Harris
Wesley Snipes began serving a three-year prison term for tax evasion in December 2010. On March 3, 2011, one of Snipes’ former tax advisors, Kenneth I. Starr, was sentenced to more than seven years in prison after pleading guilty to wire fraud, money laundering, and fraud by an investment advisor.
Snipes has claimed that his failure to pay income tax was because he followed the advice of advisors such as Starr who turned out to be scammers. He claims to be an innocent victim.
My point in writing about this doesn’t have anything to do with whether Snipes was actually duped or thought he could get away without paying his taxes. My point is this that there are a lot of scammers out there who are taking advantage of genuinely innocent people and giving them really bad advice about their tax strategies. It’s good to see justice for at least one of them.
The average taxpayer who takes a bogus deduction or credit isn’t likely to end up in prison. What will probably happen is that the deduction will be disallowed, interest and penalties will be tacked on to the debt, and the taxpayer will end up paying many times more than what he thought he was going to save.
If you file your tax return yourself, be sure you thoroughly understand and follow the rules for the deductions and credits you take. If you use the services of a professional tax preparer, be sure to check that person out to make sure he or she really knows the tax code and is going to give you appropriate and legal guidance. Should you take advantage of every tax break available to you? Absolutely. But don’t let yourself fall victim to bad advice or even a scam that will cost you much more in the future than you might save today.