Firefighters, paramedics targeted in fraudulent tax-refund scheme
Over 7,000 of the tax preparer’s clients face paying back millions they received in tax returns
FULTON COUNTY, Ga. — Firefighters and paramedics are among the thousands of clients tied up in one of the state’s largest tax fraud investigations.
Ruth Barr, who runs a tax preparing business, is under investigation for tax fraud of up to $7.6 million on a state level, reported WSB-TV.
“I wouldn’t be able to live with myself knowing I was doing that to people,” said retired East Point firefighter Jason Montgomery, who won a suit against Barr.
Montgomery is among over 7,000 clients of Barr who are entangled in the investigation.
Barr was recommended by fellow firefighters to Montgomery, who “heard that she was really good” and was known to get healthy refunds for clients.
Barr’s business has operated under the names of B&B Accounting and Tax Services, and more recently, Accounting and Tax Services of Hapeville.
Although many believed Barr was an accountant, she is not. “They’ve all said pretty much the same thing, that she put herself out as an expert,” chief investigator for the state’s Department of Revenue Josh Waites.
Waites and a team of investigators are working through over 11,000 tax returns from Barr’s business over the last three years. So far, more than 7,700 taxpayers will receive letters in the mail demanding they prove the deductions claimed in the last three years, or pay the money back.
“Once we started asking them about specific information on their return, we kind of realized most of the stuff is made up,” said Waites.
Upon review, investigators found that countless returns contained thousands of dollars in deductions for meals while on the job with no documentation.
“That’s just outrageous! I have no idea what that is for. I don’t own a business,” Montgomery said.
Montgomery said Barr stole his $10,000 tax refund in 2012, and although he won a lawsuit against her, she never paid him back. “She never even showed up to court. I mean, that’s like a slap in the face. That’s like saying, ‘I don’t care.’ She took my money away from my family, away from my three children.”
Barr’s attorney released the following statement: “Ms. Barr's position is that she denies any wrongdoing. She denies that it is even possible for 80 percent of her returns filed to be suspicious as a result of invalid deductions because she doesn't itemize that many tax returns and therefore they wouldn't even have deductions. With regard to the public safety employees — she doesn't victimize them, she specializes in them. She simply knows and utilizes a lot more valid deductions for them than most accountants, based on simple criteria such as whether they work overtime.”
Investigators encourage anyone who has used Barr or her employee’s services in the past three years to contact officials.