Accounting Firm Partners Indicted in Tax Fraud Case Over Tax Shelters Promoted by Ernst & Young

IRS whistleblowers and whistleblower attorneys take note: accounting firms participating in selling tax shelters were jolted by today’s announcement of the indictment of four Ernst & Young partners for tax fraud conspiracy and other federal criminal charges relating to tax shelters.

The four accountants were alleged to have marketed tax shelter transactions based on fraudulent factual scenarios, through which wealthy taxpayers could eliminate or reduce the taxes paid to the IRS, according to the government’s announcement. All four persons charged had worked in E&Y’s group that developed tax shelters, initially named VIPER (“Value Ideas Produce Extraordinary Results”), and later SISG (“Strategic Income Solutions Group”), according to the government.

The indictment announced by the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York named present or former E&Y tax partners in Texas, New York, and Louisiana. Three of the four reportedly were also lawyers. The indictments allege a scheme to defraud the IRS through fraudulent tax shelters from 1998 through 2004.

One defendant–a lawyer–was alleged to have instructed the accounting firm’s employees to destroy documents when he knew of a pending IRS audit of the transaction, according to the announcement by the government. The government also alleged that eleven of the firm’s used the tax shelter scheme to eliminate $3.7 million of their own tax liability.

“Where were the lawyers” was the refrain of a judge after the S&L collapse. Although defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty, it appears the same question may be asked here.

We applaud the IRS Criminal Investigation Division for pursuing those who do not pay their fair share of taxes, leaving you and me to pay more.