FORT ATKINSON, Wis. (WMTV) A Fort Atkinson accountant was sentenced to two years in state prison after he filed dozens of false income tax returns and used the stolen refunds for a prostitute and drugs.
David Zehnder was sentenced on Thursday in Jefferson County Court to two years in prison, followed by three years of supervision by the Department of Corrections.
According to the criminal complaint, the 55-year-old accountant operated A-Z Productivity, Inc. He filed at least 83 false income tax returns by overstating the itemized deduction credits on his customers’ returns.
The complaint states he overstated the credits by $73,910 and also stole or attempted to steal $32,312 of customers’ refunds by diverting a portion of the tax returns into accounts he controlled without customers’ consent.
He pleaded guilty to all five counts of tax fraud and theft in Sept. 2019. The restitution is for repayment of tax losses, monies stolen, fees paid for tax preparation services, and other costs. Zehnder was ordered not to prepare other people's tax returns or work in a fiduciary role handling finances of others.
As tax season approaches, the Wisconsin Department of Revenue asks taxpayers to do the following:
- Check the Preparer’s Qualifications. Use the IRS Directory of Federal Tax Return Preparers to find a tax return preparer with specific qualifications.
- Check the Preparer’s History. Ask the Better Business Bureau about the preparer.
- Ask about Costs and Service Fees. Avoid preparers who base fees on a percentage of the refund or who boast bigger refunds than their competition.
- Ask to E-File. The quickest was to receive a refund is to electronically file and use direct deposit.
- Provide Records and Receipts. Preparers should ask to see a taxpayer’s records and receipts.
- Review Before Signing. Before signing a tax return, review it. Ask questions if something is not clear. Taxpayers should also make sure that their refund goes directly to them.
- Ensure the Preparer Signs and Includes Their PTIN. All paid tax preparers must have a Preparer Tax Identification Number. By law, paid preparers must sign returns and include their PTIN.