December 4, 2021

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Federal Court Permanently Shuts Down Mississippi Tax Preparer

7 min read
<div>A federal court in the Northern District of Mississippi has permanently enjoined a Senatobia, Mississippi, tax return preparer from preparing returns for others and from owning, operating, or franchising any tax return preparation business in the future.</div>
A federal court in the Northern District of Mississippi has permanently enjoined a Senatobia, Mississippi, tax return preparer from preparing returns for others and from owning, operating, or franchising any tax return preparation business in the future.

More from: May 14, 2021

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  • June 23, 2021, letter commenting on AICPA’s Professional Ethics Executive Committee’s Proposed Interpretations and Definition of the AICPA Code of Professional Conduct, Responding to Non-Compliance with Laws and Regulations
    In U.S GAO News
    This letter provides GAO's comments on the proposed interpretation and definition entitled Responding to Non-Compliance with Laws and Regulations, which the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) prepared. GAO provides standards for performing high-quality audits of government organizations, programs, activities, and functions and of government assistance received by contractors, nonprofit organizations, and other nongovernment organizations with competence, integrity, objectivity, and independence.1 These standards, often referred to as generally accepted government auditing standards (GAGAS), are to be followed by auditors and audit organizations when required by law, regulation, agreement, contract, or policy. For financial audits, GAGAS incorporates by reference the AICPA's Statements on Auditing Standards. For attestation engagements, GAGAS incorporates by reference the AICPA's Statements on Standards for Attestation Engagements.
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  • Man Sentenced for his Role in Directing COVID-19 Relief Fraud Scheme
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    A Wisconsin man was sentenced today to 57 months in prison for fraudulently obtaining over $1 million in Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans guaranteed by the Small Business Administration (SBA) under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.
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  • Global War on Terrorism: Reported Obligations for the Department of Defense
    In U.S GAO News
    Since 2001, Congress has provided the Department of Defense (DOD) with hundreds of billions of dollars in supplemental and annual appropriations for military operations in support of the Global War on Terrorism (GWOT). DOD's reported annual obligations for GWOT have shown a steady increase from about $0.2 billion in fiscal year 2001 to about $139.8 billion in fiscal year 2007. To continue GWOT operations, the President requested $189.3 billion in appropriations for DOD in fiscal year 2008. As of May 2008, Congress has provided DOD with about $86.8 billion of this request, including $16.8 billion for Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles. Congress has not finalized action on the remaining $102.5 billion. In addition, the President also requested about $66 billion in appropriations for DOD in fiscal year 2009 for GWOT, which was submitted along with DOD's annual budget request. The United States' commitments to GWOT will likely involve the continued investment of significant resources, requiring decision makers to consider difficult trade-offs as the nation faces an increasing long-range fiscal challenge. The magnitude of future costs will depend on several direct and indirect cost variables and, in some cases, decisions that have not yet been made. DOD's future costs will likely be affected by the pace and duration of operations, the types of facilities needed to support troops overseas, redeployment plans, and the amount of equipment to be repaired or replaced. DOD compiles and reports monthly and cumulative incremental obligations incurred to support GWOT in a monthly Supplemental and Cost of War Execution Report. DOD leadership uses this report, along with other information, to advise Congress on the costs of the war and to formulate future GWOT budget requests. DOD reports these obligations by appropriation, contingency operation, and military service or defense agency. The monthly cost reports are typically compiled within the 45 days after the end of the reporting month in which the obligations are incurred. DOD has prepared monthly reports on the obligations incurred for its involvement in GWOT since fiscal year 2001. Section 1221 of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2006 requires us to submit quarterly updates to Congress on the costs of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom based on DOD's monthly Supplemental and Cost of War Execution Reports. This report, which responds to this requirement, contains our analysis of DOD's reported obligations for military operations in support of GWOT through March 2008. Specifically, we assessed (1) DOD's cumulative appropriations and reported obligations for military operations in support of GWOT and (2) DOD's fiscal year 2008 reported obligations through March 2008, the latest data available for GWOT by military service and appropriation account.From fiscal year 2001 through fiscal year 2007, and for the first quarter of fiscal year 2008 through December 2007, Congress has provided DOD with a total of about $635.9 billion for its efforts in support of GWOT. DOD has reported obligations of about $562 billion for military operations in support of the war from fiscal year 2001 through fiscal year 2007 and for the second quarter of fiscal year 2008 through March 2008. The $73.9 billion difference between DOD's GWOT appropriations and reported obligations can generally be attributed to certain fiscal year 2008 appropriations and multiyear funding for procurement; military construction; and research, development, test, and evaluation from previous GWOT-related appropriations that have yet to be obligated and obligations for classified and other activities, which are not reported in DOD's cost-of-war reports. As part of our ongoing work, we are reviewing DOD's rationale for reporting its GWOT related obligations. Of DOD's total cumulative reported obligations for GWOT through March 2008 (about $562 billion), about $435.1 billion is for operations in and around Iraq as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom, and about $98.9 billion is for operations in Afghanistan, the Horn of Africa, the Philippines, and elsewhere as part of Operation Enduring Freedom. The remaining about $28 billion is for operations in defense of the homeland as part of Operation Noble Eagle. In fiscal year 2008, through March 2008, DOD's total reported obligations of about $69.8 billion are about half of the total amount of obligations it reported for all of fiscal year 2007. Reported obligations for Operation Iraqi Freedom continue to account for the largest portion of total reported GWOT obligations by operation--about $57 billion. In contrast, reported obligations associated with Operation Enduring Freedom total about $12.7 billion, and reported obligations associated with Operation Noble Eagle total about $89.3 million.
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  • Missile Defense: Recent Acquisition Policy Changes Balance Risk and Flexibility, but Actions Needed to Refine Requirements Process
    In U.S GAO News
    What GAO Found In 2002, the Department of Defense (DOD) provided the Missile Defense Agency (MDA) with flexibilities to diverge from traditional requirements-setting and acquisition processes and instead implement a unique approach to managing its acquisitions. After completing studies in 2019, DOD revised those flexibilities in 2020 by making significant changes to MDA's requirements-setting and acquisition processes (see figure). Most notably, the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment, rather than the MDA Director, now determines whether major MDA programs may progress through the development phases. 2020 Department of Defense Changes to Missile Defense Acquisition Process Most of the changes are consistent with GAO's identified acquisition best practices and align with changes GAO previously recommended. For example, MDA must now obtain independent cost estimates and Under Secretary of Defense approval of its acquisition strategies. The warfighter (military planners and weapon system operators) also now has greater requirements-setting responsibility. GAO previously recommended these actions to improve the likelihood of MDA delivering effective capabilities to the warfighter as promised. However, DOD did not establish processes and products that would fully align missile defense capabilities in early development with operational-level warfighter requirements. Instead, DOD continues to rely on MDA to identify its own operational-level requirements, which could result in MDA later having to make costly, time-consuming design changes to meet warfighter needs. GAO also found that DOD generally met the statutory requirements Congress established for changing missile defense non-standard acquisition processes and responsibilities by: (a) consulting with required DOD officials; (b) certifying this consultation occurred; (c) reporting the changes to Congress; and (d) generally waiting the required 120 days before implementing the changes. U.S. Strategic Command determined that it did not need to take these same actions on changes it made to requirements-setting processes. GAO also found that DOD generally met a statutory requirement to obtain an independent study on MDA's acquisition process and organizational placement within DOD. As required, DOD updated congressional defense committees on the scope of the study report and provided the report to congressional committees. However, DOD exceeded the statutorily mandated reporting deadline by 13 days. Why GAO Did This Study Since MDA was established in 2002, DOD has invested over $174 billion developing and fielding missile defense capabilities. MDA has used its acquisition flexibilities to quickly develop and field capabilities, but has also had setbacks. In 2020, DOD determined that modifications to MDA's acquisition flexibilities were needed to better balance risk. Congress recently prohibited DOD from changing certain missile defense acquisition processes and responsibilities unless certain requirements were met. Congress also required DOD to enter into a contract for an independent study of MDA's acquisition process and organizational placement within DOD. The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2021 included a provision for GAO to assess whether DOD complied with these requirements. This report assesses the effects of recent changes DOD made to missile defense non-standard acquisition processes and responsibilities and whether, in doing so, it met the statutory requirements. GAO reviewed DOD documents and policies issued in 2020 and interviewed DOD officials.
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  • U.S. Postal Service: Volume, Performance, and Financial Changes since the Onset of the COVID-19 Pandemic
    In U.S GAO News
    What GAO Found In 2020, the majority of which was affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) experienced a 9 percent drop in total mail volume when compared to 2019. The overall drop was primarily due to a 4 percent dip in First-Class Mail and a 14 percent decline in Marketing Mail (such as advertisements). Despite a drop in total volume, 2020 package volume rose by 32 percent. A surge of election-related mail caused a temporary spike in total mail volume in September and October 2020, before falling again by year end. Overall, USPS's nationwide on-time performance fell in 2020. Average monthly on-time performance for First-Class Mail decreased from 92 percent in 2019 to 87 percent in 2020. However, decreases were more significant in certain USPS districts at different times, and nationally in December 2020. On-time performance was 48 percent in New York in April and 61 percent in Baltimore in September—both of which were nearly 90 percent prior to the pandemic (see figure). Further, national on-time performance dipped to 69 percent in December. In February 2021, the Postmaster General stated that on-time performance was affected by employees' decreased availability in COVID-19 hot spots and a surge in holiday package volume. 2020 Average Monthly On-Time Performance for First-Class Mail in Baltimore, Detroit, and New York Postal Districts USPS's revenue increased in 2020 but not enough to avoid a net loss of $8.1 billion. Rapid growth and price increases for packages, resulted in a net revenue increase of $4.3 billion. However, USPS's expenses grew by $4.4 billion, including COVID-19 related expenses, such as personal protective equipment. USPS took some cost-reduction actions in 2020 and released a new strategic plan in March 2021 that also has cost-reduction actions. In May 2020, GAO concluded that absent congressional action to transform USPS, USPS's financial problems would worsen, putting its mission and financial solvency in greater peril. The further deterioration of USPS's financial position since the start of the pandemic makes the need for congressional action even more urgent. Why GAO Did This Study USPS plays a critical role in the nation's communications and commerce. However, USPS's financial viability is not on a sustainable path and has been on GAO's High Risk List since 2009. The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the role of USPS in the nation's economy as well as USPS's financial difficulties. Responding to these concerns, the CARES Act, as amended in late 2020, provided USPS up to $10 billion in additional funding. The CARES Act included a provision for GAO to report on its monitoring and oversight efforts related to the COVID-19 pandemic. This report examines changes in USPS's (1) mail volume, (2) on-time performance, and (3) revenue and expenses from January through December 2020. GAO analyzed USPS mail volume, on-time performance, revenue, and expense data by month for 2020, and compared these data to similar data for 2019. GAO also reviewed its prior work, including its May 2020 report. That report had three matters for congressional consideration on: (1) determining the level of postal services, (2) the extent to which those services should be financially self-sustaining, and (3) the appropriate institutional structure of USPS. GAO also reviewed reports by USPS and the USPS Inspector General. Finally, GAO interviewed USPS officials, two package delivery companies that compete with USPS, and representatives from four mailing associations whose members send the types of mail with the highest volumes in 2020. For more information, contact Jill Naamane at (202) 512-2834 or naamanej@gao.gov.
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  • Army and Marine Corps Training: Better Performance and Cost Data Needed to More Fully Assess Simulation-Based Efforts
    In U.S GAO News
    What GAO FoundOver the past several decades, the Army and Marine Corps have increased their use of simulation-based training--simulators and computer-based simulations. Historically, the aviation communities in both services have used simulators to train servicemembers in tasks such as takeoffs, and emergency procedures that could not be taught safely live. In contrast, the services' ground communities used limited simulations prior to 2000. However, advances in technology, and emerging conditions in Iraq and Afghanistan have led to increased use of simulation-based training in the ground forces. For example, in response to increases in vehicle rollovers, both services began using simulators to train servicemembers to safely evacuate vehicles. The services are also collaborating in the development of some simulation-based training devices. For instance, according to Marine Corps officials, the service reused 87 percent of the Army's Homestation Instrumentation Training System's components in its own training system, achieving about $11 million in cost avoidance and saving an estimated 7 years in fielding time. The services are also taking steps to better integrate live and simulation-based training, developing technical capabilities to connect previously incompatible simulation-based training devices. The Army's capability is now being fielded, and the Marine Corps' is in the initial development phase.The Army and Marine Corps consider various factors in determining whether to use live or simulation-based training, but lack key performance and cost information that would enhance their ability to determine the optimal mix of training and prioritize related investments. As the services identify which requirements can be met with either live or simulation-based training or both, they consider factors such as safety and training mission. Also, they have cited numerous benefits of simulation-based training, such as improving servicemember performance in live training events, and reducing operating costs. Both services rely on subject matter experts, who develop their training programs, and after action reports from deployments and training exercises for information on how servicemembers may have benefited from simulation-based training. However, neither service has established outcome metrics to assist them in more precisely measuring the impact of using simulation-based devices to improve performance or proficiency. Leading management practices recognize that performance metrics can help agencies determine the contributions that training makes to improve results. Army and Marine Corps officials also generally consider simulation-based training to be less costly than live training and analyze some data, such as life cycle costs, when considering options to acquire a particular simulation-based training device. However, once simulation-based training devices are fielded, the services neither reevaluate cost information as they determine the mix of training nor have a methodology for determining the costs associated with simulation-based training. Federal internal control standards state that decision makers need visibility over a program's financial data to determine whether the program is meeting the agencies' goals and effectively using resources. Without better performance and cost data, the services lack the information they need to make more fully informed decisions in the future regarding the optimal mix of training and how best to target investments for simulation-based training capabilities.Why GAO Did This StudyThe Army and Marine Corps use live and simulation-based training to meet training goals and objectives. Service officials have noted benefits from the use of simulation-based training--both in terms of training effectiveness and in cost savings or cost avoidance. A House report accompanying the bill for the National Defense Authorization Act for 2012 mandated GAO to review the status of the military services' training programs. This report follows GAO's reports on the Navy and Air Force, and assesses (1) changes in the Army's and Marine Corps' use of simulation-based training, including efforts to integrate live and simulation-based training capabilities; and (2) the factors the Army and Marine Corps consider in determining whether to use live or simulation-based training, including the extent to which they consider performance and cost information. GAO focused on a broad cross-section of occupations (e.g., aviation, armor, artillery), and analyzed service training strategies and other documents; and conducted six site visits and interviewed service officials involved with training and training development for the selected occupations.
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  • COVID-19: Selected Agencies Overcame Technology Challenges to Support Telework but Need to Fully Assess Security Controls
    In U.S GAO News
    What GAO Found Each of the 12 agencies GAO selected for review had information technology (IT) in place to support remote access for telework during the COVID-19 pandemic. Although the agencies initially experienced IT challenges in supporting remote access for maximum telework, they generally overcame them. For example, seven agencies were challenged in providing sufficient bandwidth to provide remote access for teleworkers, but they increased bandwidth as needed to ensure networks could handle additional remote connections. In addition, while the increased number of remote connections brings additional cybersecurity risks, all of the selected agencies reported that they continued activities intended to help ensure the security of their information and systems. While the selected agencies had documented elements of a telework security policy, such as permitted telework devices and forms of remote access, not all agencies had fully addressed other relevant federal guidance for securing their systems that support remote access for telework (see figure). Specifically, two agencies had not fully documented relevant IT security controls to protect those systems. In addition, assessments for systems that five agencies relied upon for remote access did not address all relevant controls to ensure the controls were operating effectively. Further, four selected agencies had not fully documented remedial actions to mitigate weaknesses they had previously identified. Extent to Which 12 Selected Agencies Followed Federal Information Security Guidance in Implementing Their IT Systems That Support Remote Access for Telework Although one of the selected agencies subsequently resolved its shortcomings, others had not. For the agencies that did not fully follow federal information security guidance, agency IT security officials stated that these conditions existed for various reasons, such as out-of-date documentation, among others. If agencies do not sufficiently document relevant security controls, assess the controls, and fully document remedial actions for weaknesses identified in security controls, they are at increased risk that vulnerabilities in their systems that provide remote access could be exploited. Why GAO Did This Study In response to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, in March 2020 the Office of Management and Budget directed federal agencies to maximize their use of telework to enable the workforce to remain safe while ensuring that government operations continue. Telework is essential to continuity of operations but also brings added cybersecurity risks. The CARES Act contains a provision for GAO to monitor the federal response to the pandemic. GAO was also asked to examine federal agencies' preparedness to support expanded telework. GAO's objectives were to determine (1) selected agencies' initial experiences in providing the IT needed to support remote access for maximum telework and (2) the extent to which selected agencies followed federal information security guidance for their IT systems that provide remote access. GAO selected 12 agencies for review that varied in their percentages of reported employee telework use and sent a questionnaire to solicit these agencies' perspectives on the use of IT in transitioning to maximum telework. GAO also reviewed the selected agencies' information security documentation and interviewed relevant officials.
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    In a consent decree entered on Nov. 2 by the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Iowa, Daniel Gingerich, an Iowa dog breeder, has agreed to revocation of his Animal Welfare Act (AWA) dealer license, a permanent prohibition on engaging in any activity that requires an AWA license, and the surrender of more than 500 dogs and puppies to the Animal Rescue League of Iowa.
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  • Embassy Construction: State Department Has Implemented Management Reforms, but Challenges Remain
    In U.S GAO News
    Since the 1998 bombings of two U.S. embassies in Africa, the State Department has done much to improve physical security at overseas posts. However, most overseas diplomatic office facilities still do not meet the security standards State developed to protect these sites from terrorist attacks and other dangers. To correct this problem, State in 1999 embarked on an estimated $21 billion embassy construction program. The program's key objective is to provide secure, safe, and functional compounds for employees overseas--in most cases by building replacement facilities. In 2001, State's Bureau of Overseas Buildings Operations (OBO)--which manages the program--began instituting reforms in its structure and operations to meet the challenges of the embassy construction program. This report discusses (1) OBO's mechanisms for more effectively managing the embassy construction program and (2) the status of and challenges facing the program. We received comments from State, which said that the report is a fair and accurate representation overall of the Department's overseas construction process.OBO in 2001 began instituting organizational and management reforms designed to cut costs, put in place standard designs and review processes, and reduce the construction period for new embassies and consulates. OBO now has mechanisms to more effectively manage the embassy construction program, including (1) an annual Long-Range Overseas Buildings Plan to guide the planning and execution of the program over a 6-year period; (2) monthly project reviews at headquarters; (3) an Industry Advisory Panel for input on current best practices in the construction industry; (4) expanded outreach to contractors in an effort to increase the number of bidders; (5) ongoing work to standardize and streamline the planning, design, and construction processes, including initiation of design-build contract delivery and a standard embassy design for most projects; (6) additional training for OBO headquarters and field staff; and (7) advance identification and acquisition of sites. State's program to replace about 185 vulnerable embassies and consulates is in its early stages, but the pace of initiating and completing new construction projects has increased significantly over the past two fiscal years. As of September 30, 2003, State had started construction of 22 projects to replace facilities at risk of terrorist or other attacks. Overall, 16 projects have encountered challenges that have led or, if not overcome, could ultimately lead to extensions in the completion date or cost increases in the construction contract. According to OBO, project delays have occurred because of such factors as changes in project design and security requirements; difficulties hiring appropriate American and local labor with the necessary clearances and skills; differing site conditions; and unforeseen events such as civil unrest. In addition, the U.S. government has had problems coordinating funding for projects that include buildings for the U.S. Agency for International Development. None of the projects started since OBO instituted its reforms has been completed; thus GAO believes it is too early to assess the effectiveness of the reforms in ensuring that new embassy and consulate compounds are built within the approved project budget and on time.
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