IRS whistleblower awarded $16.8 million in tax evasion scheme
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IRS whistleblower awarded $16.8 million in tax evasion scheme

Rebecca Barnabi
irs taxes
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Attorneys Stephen M. Kohn and Dean Zerbe announced Thursday that a joint client received an IRS whistleblower award of $16.8 million.

The client, who would like to remain anonymous, according to a press release, received the award after providing the IRS with information that led to action against 86 high-wealth individuals who engaged in a sophisticated illegal tax evasion scheme.

“On behalf of our client and ourselves, we very much want to thank the new Director of the IRS Whistleblower Office, Mr. John Hinman, for this award for our client,” Kohn, founding partner of the whistleblower firm Kohn, Kohn and Colapinto, said in the press release. “A particular special thanks to Ms. Peggi Bockman of the Whistleblower Office for her hard and dedicated work on this award — and also thanks very much to Ms. Dawn Applebaum whose constant leadership and commitment to the IRS whistleblower program has been invaluable.”

Kohn also thanked IRS examiners and CI agents involved in the case.

“Dean and I are honored to represent the whistleblower, who showed great courage and conviction in coming forward and speaking out against this tax fraud,” Kohn said.

Zerbe, of the law firm of Zerbe, Miller, Fingeret, Frank & Jadav, said in the press release that the award “underscores the enormous importance of the IRS whistleblower program in assisting the IRS in successfully bringing action against very wealthy individuals who are seeking to evade taxes.” He encouraged the IRS to recognize and embrace the value of the award program as it considers significant new funds from Congress.

“The whistleblower program allows for the IRS to better target its examination resources on the worst actors,” Zerbe said. “The whistleblower award program is the best tool the IRS has to go after tax evasion by the very wealthiest — but it is too often forgotten or ignored. My hope is with the new leadership at the whistleblower office those days are in the past.”

The anonymous whistleblower thanked Kohn and Zerbe “for their unfailing efforts in obtaining this award. Their patience and good counsel were key for my obtaining this award.”

According to Kohn, Congress can build on the success of the program by passing the IRS Whistleblower Improvement Act of 2021, which contains important reforms including strengthening the rights of whistleblowers in Tax Court and encouraging the IRS to make timely awards.

Kohn and Zerber are both members of the Tax Whistleblower Attorney Group and have jointly represented tax whistleblowers, including Bradley Birkenfeld, the UBS whistleblower who received $104 million from the IRS in 2012.

“While Congress can take important legislative changes to improve the program, Treasury and the IRS can take their own steps to strengthen the whistleblower program. These include: bringing in whistleblowers to work hand-in-hand with the IRS exam team; improving communication with whistleblowers; expanding discretionary awards for whistleblowers; smarter review of whistleblower submissions through an enterprise case management system; and sending the word out that whistleblowers are welcome. But, it is issuing awards that will do more than anything to encourage other whistleblowers to come forward,” Zerbe said.

 

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca Barnabi

Rebecca J. Barnabi is the national editor of Augusta Free Press. A graduate of the University of Mary Washington, she began her journalism career at The Fredericksburg Free-Lance Star. In 2013, she was awarded first place for feature writing in the Maryland, Delaware, District of Columbia Awards Program, and was honored by the Virginia School Boards Association’s 2019 Media Honor Roll Program for her coverage of Waynesboro Schools. Her background in newspapers includes writing about features, local government, education and the arts.