Friday, December 21, 2012

Update on Tiger Zerjav

We recently discussed Tiger Zerjav, who with his father practiced tax in St. Louis, Missouri. Tiger and his dad had attracted IRS attention, and Tiger himself was being pursed for tax fraud. Courthouse News Service (a news service for attorneys and focusing primarily on civil litigation) reported the following this morning:

ST. LOUIS (CN) - A much-sued tax adviser pleaded guilty Thursday to federal tax evasion.  Frank L. "Tiger" Zerjav Jr., 39, of Wildwood, Mo., pleaded guilty to four counts of tax evasion from 2001 to 2004, prosecutors said.

 Zerjav admitted that he funneled his income into several S-corporations and failed to include that income on his tax returns.  

Zerjav admitted that many of the expenses claimed on the S-corporations tax returns were personal and should not have been deducted. Some of the payments were for a condominium at the Lake of the Ozarks, a boat, two Sea-Doo watercrafts and a home entertainment system.

Prosecutors said Zerjav evaded $183,000 in taxes over the four years, though he and the government did not agree on the exact amount of unpaid taxes.

Zerjav faces up to 5 years in prison and a $250,000 fine for each charge. His sentencing is scheduled for March 26, 2013. Twenty-one people, companies or government entities have filed lawsuits against the Zerjavs since 2008, according to the Courthouse News database.

My Take: There is a difference between tax minimization and tax evasion. If you claim accelerated depreciation, or make a stock donation to a charity, or gift part of a business to the children using a family limited partnership, or make a like-kind exchange of real estate, you are still working within the system – albeit working to reduce your taxes. When the conversation includes “omitting income,” one may have crossed the line into fraud. 

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