Woman teaches how to manipulate tax refunds: feds


A 44-year-old woman was charged with aiding and assisting in the preparation of fraudulent tax returns on Dec. 2, 2021. Traci Austin’s tax scam cost the federal government $697,000, prosecutors said.

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A California business owner has been charged in a tax scam after she led a “Tax School” to teach others how to manipulate returns and illegally altered dozens of tax returns, federal authorities said.

Traci Austin, 44, of Brentwood was charged with aiding and assisting in the preparation of fraudulent tax returns on Dec. 2, according to a news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Northern District of California.

Austin owns Emeryville Tax Services — a tax preparation business in Emeryville — where she is accused of filing 42 fraudulent tax returns, the news release says. The scam involved adding dependents, false or inflated expenses as well manipulating the income section, the release says.

The federal government was swindled $697,000 from these falsely adjusted tax returns, prosecutors said in the release.

Austin’s attorney did not immediately respond to McClatchy News’ request for comment.

Austin also led a “Tax School” through her business where she charged students a $200 fee to learn how to prepare taxes for her company, the release says.

At the school, she taught students how to manipulate fraudulent tax returns to get the highest tax refund, the release says. She would get a higher payment in return.

In one instance, she told her students she added a dog grooming business to a client’s Schedule C income section on their return and then reported its business expenses on the Schedule A section, the release says.

Austin also told this client to print out fake photos of the dogs, prosecutors said.

If convicted, Austin faces a maximum of three years in prison and a $100,000 fine.

Austin, who is not in custody, made her initial court appearance on Dec. 2 and her next court appearance is scheduled for Feb. 24.

Helena Wegner is a McClatchy National Real-Time Reporter covering the state of Washington and the western region. She’s a journalism graduate from Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication. She’s based in Phoenix.

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