Got a tip on tax fraud? The Internal Revenue Service here in Philadelphia takes walk-ins.
No, seriously: If you suspect tax evasion on the part of a business or individual, you can walk into the Philadelphia IRS offices at 600 Arch St., 6th floor, (after the full-body metal detector and security clearance) and meet with officials to dump all your secrets. And yes, you can remain anonymous.
Guy Ficco took over in April as Special Agent in Charge of IRS Criminal Investigation's Philadelphia field office.
"We have a walk-in room for informants, and you'd be surprised how many cases we get this way," Ficco said in an interview. "It's very common, especially if you're a victim of tax fraud."
Recently, for example, the Philly IRS office handled the indictment against business owner Jeffrey Minner of Wilmington.
Minner, 55, was sentenced this summer to 18 months in prison after pleading guilty to withholding taxes from his employees — and failing to pay the money to the IRS.
Minner owned Advanced Enterprises, a commercial cleaning company with over 140 employees. Between 2011 and 2016, he collected more than $1.2 million in employee Medicare, Social Security, and income taxes that he did not pay to the IRS. Instead, Minner funded a luxury lifestyle and paid off debts. Minner was ordered to pay $1.2 million in restitution.
"For his employees, it's a total mess," Ficco said.
Ficco took over from the previous office head, Gregory Floyd, who was arrested last year for assault. Floyd has been charged with misdemeanor sexual abuse for allegedly groping a coworker at an event in St. Louis. A police report says Floyd became "increasingly sexually aggressive" toward the female agent.
"We're really aiming for more complex, traditional crimes," Ficco said, including international and employment tax evasion, public corruption cases, and fraudulent return preparers. "Getting back to white-collar cases is a priority of mine," he added.
Last week, two former employees of Juniata Community Mental Health Clinic in Philadelphia were sentenced in the conspiracy led by Renee Tartaglione, former head of the mental health nonprofit, for stealing millions of dollars. Sandy Acosta, 72, a former administrator, and Amalia Rodriguez, 48, a billing clerk, were sentenced to 18 months and six months in federal prison, respectively, and collectively on the hook for $793,000 in restitution.
And in July, the founder and former CEO of the Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School was sentenced in federal court in Pittsburgh to 20 months in prison. Nicholas Trombetta, 63, stole $8 million and diverted the funds to other companies he covertly controlled, including a portion that went to a company in his sister's name.
Trombetta's scheme to "enrich himself and evade income taxes is unfair to every taxpayer who obeys the law and pays their fair share," said Ficco.
PricewaterhouseCoopers, Fidelity, Aetna, Staples, and New York Life are among the companies that have adopted increasingly popular student loan repayment benefits. And now, an IRS private-letter ruling might make these student loan repayments an easier benefit to offer young workers.
The IRS said an unnamed employer can make a 401(k) contribution of any amount on a worker's behalf, as long as that worker was making a student loan payment of at least 2 percent of his or her salary for a pay period, according to Bloomberg Law. That clears the way for other companies to set up similar benefits.
Finally, the IRS and the Inquirer have warned taxpayers and tax professionals to check an online withholding calculator to make sure they have the proper amount withheld from their paychecks so they can avoid a nasty surprise next tax season. We're going to test it out next week and see how "easy" the IRS says it is for the average American.