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.
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.