Take Cover Against Tax Season Violence

The threat of violence against professional tax return preparers is real. According to an item in the Minneapolis StarTribune on February 28, a man accompanying a female client to a meeting at Tax City Tax Service, a tax preparation business in Detroit, allegedly shot and wounded four employees. The woman had become agitated when she found out her tax refund wasn’t ready and engaged in a scuffle with a security guard. During the ensuing tussle, the man pulled out a gun and started firing away.

Be Careful Out There!

How dangerous is it at offices for tax return preparers? Consider these three incidents reported around the country in February.

  • In Illinois, a Liberty Tax Service preparer brandished a gun on a client’s boyfriend after he allegedly threatened to “beat him up” over a dispute over fees. The boyfriend has been charged with assault. 
  • A man in Missouri who was distressed over his tax situation was accused of choking an H&R Block employee. The client was charged with a misdemeanor assault.
  • As a tax return preparer sat in her Florida office, a bullet from outside whizzed right past her ear. At least in this case the police have confirmed that the tax professional wasn’t the intended target of the sniper.

The security guard was among the four injured. Although one victim was initially listed in critical condition, there were no fatalities. Both of the alleged perpetrators escaped from the office, but the man was apprehended less than a block away when a passer-by pointed out the suspect to a police officer. The woman turned herself in to a local police station later that evening.

This isn’t the only recent event involving violence at tax preparation sites, as described in Accounting Today. Back in 2012, a woman and her son robbed and threatened to shoot the preparer handling their return at a Liberty Tax Service office in Toledo, Ohio. The weapon of choice? A curling iron wrapped in a towel. What’s more, there were at least three other nationally reported incidents last month, in addition to the shooting in Detroit (see sidebar). And emotions may only heighten as we draw closer to the April 15 tax return due date.

IRS officials may also feel the wrath of the taxpaying public. In particular, the IRS commissioner is often inundated with vitriolic letters from irate taxpayers. During the unfolding of the “Tea Party scandal” relating to extra scrutiny of conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status, Acting Commissioner Steven Miller purportedly received several death threats before he was forced to step down from office.

This is a good time to beef up security measures around your office. For example, you might install surveillance devices, if you haven’t already, and even use metal detectors. Don’t take anything for granted or think that you’re immune to the dangers. Remember that you are not the only one potentially at risk – so is anyone who works for you or comes to your office for services.

Related articles:

Violence in the Workplace: Are You Next?
Prevention Key to Disarming Threat of Workplace Violence


You may like these other stories...

While reputational risk is the No. 1 nonfinancial concern among corporate directors, cybersecurity/IT risk is gaining steam. In fact, both private companies and organizations with more than $1 billion in revenue felt they...
We've all been there. Trying to make our work-lives more efficient, transfer knowledge to newer team members, and leverage our practices. Sometimes it works, and sometimes, well, the result is embarrassing at best.Here...
From May 20-23, the Association for Accounting Marketing (AAM) held its annual conference. Frequent contributor Sally Glick picked up some ideas that she will be sharing with us in the coming days, as she has done in...

Upcoming CPE Webinars

Aug 5
This webcast will focus on accounting and disclosure policies for various types of consolidations and business combinations.
Aug 20
In this session we'll review best practices for how to generate interest in your firm’s services.
Aug 21
Meet budgets and client expectations using project management skills geared toward the unique challenges faced by CPAs. Kristen Rampe will share how knowing the keys to structuring and executing a successful project can make the difference between success and repeated failures.
Aug 28
Excel spreadsheets are often akin to the American Wild West, where users can input anything they want into any worksheet cell. Excel's Data Validation feature allows you to restrict user inputs to selected choices, but there are many nuances to the feature that often trip users up.