Do you remember Mabel from the book Gospel Justice? A wonderful 80-year-old woman who was the victim of identity theft. The IRS was garnishing her social security for wages she allegedly earned in Arizona. Mabel lived in Illinois and had not worked in years but we had to cut through three different government agencies to correct the wrong. How could Mabel do that without help? This past Sunday I was approached by a woman at church who received a call from someone claiming to be from the IRS, letting her know she owed thousands in fines and penalties for failing to file taxes. Fortunately she knew the IRS never made phone calls but she was still scared and wanted to make sure.
This week news was released from the Department of Justice on fraudulent tax preparers. Sometimes it is hard to imagine the amount of fraud and abuse that takes place in America. 55,000 victims and tens of millions of dollars were involved in this most recent fraud. In Tampa, Florida a man was picked up at a bus stop by a “tax return preparer” and the taxes filled out claiming all sorts of items the man did not want including mileage driven by a car. The man took the bus and had not owned a car. The “preparer” then had the bogus refund deposited to the preparer’s account to pay for the “services”. Another Jacksonville, Florida man was scammed when the preparer claimed he owned a business and earned income from it, which he did not. Again the refund was seized as payment while the man had no idea what was put on the forms. He was disabled and in the process of trying to receive Social Security Disability but when the tax return showed income from a job he never worked, he was deemed ineligible for Social Security Disability.
We should certainly applaud the efforts of the Department of Justice in shutting down these fraudulent preparers, but what happens to the victims? Where can they go for good advice, counsel and to be restored? Imagine the great hopelessness felt by an 80-year-old woman or a disabled man. Every day hundreds of people fall prey to schemes to defraud. We need attorney generals and justice departments to shut them down and prosecute the perpetrators, but we also need legal-aid to step in and educate to prevent the problems and to restore hope and provide practical help to victims. These are our neighbors and they need our help.
This is not only a role for lawyers. We need tax professionals to stand up against this fraud. We need many others to demonstrate love and concern in numerous practical ways. If you’ve not yet become a member of GJI then I encourage you to do so. You can play a critical role as I share in this video:
Over the next three blogs, guest blogger, Brad Thompson is going to share accounts of people living out the gospel through compassion and justice. So stay tuned. The stories will demonstrate how powerful it is when God’s people hear His voice and dare to
Go and Do Likewise!