It is a crime to knowingly prepare a false tax return. Many return preparers are not aware of the severity of civil and criminal penalties for a false tax return. Not only can a CPA lose the ability to represent their client to the IRS, but the CPA can lose their CPA license and potentially go to prison. Every tax year, the IRS publishes various stories about how return preparers and their clients go to prison for willfully submitting false tax returns.

This course discusses the ways that the IRS investigates bad return preparers. You also understand the difference between simple mistakes versus a criminal act. The course helps return preparers know what to do if they are being investigated for a false tax return, including if their client is under criminal investigation.

Program Content: The major topics covered in this class include:

  • How the IRS catches bad return preparers
  • The difference between simple mistakes and criminal acts
  • What to do if your client is being investigated for tax crimes
  • How to protect yourself if you are accused of preparing false tax returns
Learning Objectives
  • Identify and understand the role of IRS in investigating false tax returns.
  • Discover and know the common statutes used for prosecuting false tax returns.
  • Identify and understand how preparers of false tax returns are discovered.
  • Identify and understand the common schemes by return preparers in preparing false tax returns.
  • Discover and know the common defenses used by return preparers in shifting blame.
  • Identify the steps an investigation takes from its inception to a trial.
  • Explore and know how a federal judge evaluates the criminal sentencing of a bad return preparer.
  • Identify and understand the best practices for return preparers if a false tax return is suspected.
  • Recognize and review case studies of return preparers that were sent to prison.
Last updated/reviewed: March 05, 2024
Course Complexity: Foundational
No advanced preparation or prerequisites are required for this course.
Education Provider Information
Company: Illumeo, Inc., 75 East Santa Clara St., Suite 1215, San Jose, CA 95113
Contact: For more information regarding this course, including complaint and cancellation policies, please contact our offices at (408) 400- 3993 or send an e-mail to .
Instructor for this course
Course Syllabus
  Introduction to False Tax Returns5:04
  The Role of IRS Criminal Investigation13:34
  IRS Evaluation for Bad Return Preparers20:38
  Statutes Used in Prosecuting False Tax Returns18:56
  Investigation Process and Common Schemes13:00
  When The CPA is a Witness9:10
  CPA Dilemmas and Jury and Court Room Process13:56
  Best Practices for Defense Attorneys5:36
  False Tax Returns: Why CPAs and Their Clients Go to Prison1:41:18
  Slides: False Tax Returns: Why CPAs and Their Clients Go to PrisonPDF
  False Tax Returns: Why CPAs and Their Clients Go to Prison Glossary/IndexPDF