The owner of a Moncks Corner tax service said she is being persecuted by the state for problems found in just a handful of the 12,000 returns she has prepared over the last decade.
Tammy Brinson, owner of Tammy's Tax Service, said she believes her arrest on fraud charges last week is an attempt by the cash-strapped state to intimidate and discourage tax preparers from seeking deductions for their clients.
"They want us to discourage people from itemizing so that people pay the maximum in taxes," she said. "I believe they are on a witch hunt, but I am not going to be bullied."
State Department of Revenue investigators arrested Brinson on Wednesday and accused her of filing bogus tax returns to obtain fraudulent refunds for her clients. She is charged with nine counts of willfully assisting in the preparation of false or fraudulent tax returns, filed for tax years 2007 and 2008, authorities said.
Brinson insisted Monday that she has done nothing wrong. Revenue investigators audited as many as 300 of her clients and found just six who could not provide full documentation to support their deductions. Those six apparently blamed her for discrepancies on their returns, even though each reviewed and signed off on those returns before they were filed, she said.
"I don't know if these people lied to me, gave me false documents or just panicked because they lost their documentation," she said.
State revenue officials could not be reached for comment Monday due to the Presidents Day holiday. But last week, agency spokeswoman Samantha Cheek said investigators had not determined a motive for Brinson's alleged crimes.
In some cases, unscrupulous tax preparers try to drum up business by falsely promising that they can get the filer a larger refund than their competitors, Cheek has said. Others try to inflate the refund because their fee is based on the amount of money their clients get back, she said.
Brinson said she had nothing to gain by filing bogus returns. She charges a flat $164 fee and already has more business than she can handle, she said. Her four-person office handles 1,500 to 2,000 returns yearly, she said.
"I charge everyone the same thing, and I am dirt cheap," Brinson said. "I don't even advertise because I can't do any more than I already have during peak season."
State officials have refused to say how much money was involved in the bogus refunds they said Brinson's clients received, but Brinson said the total amount was "far less than $10,000." One client whose refund was questioned got $269 back, she said.
Cheek said last week that none of Brinson's clients was aware that she had submitted incorrect information on his or her behalf.
Brinson said none of the six was charged with a crime, leaving her to hold the bag for the mistakes. That sends a message to people that they can lie on returns with impunity by letting their tax preparer take the fall, she said.
"They are saying, 'Hey, if you get caught, just blame your tax preparer, and you won't get in any trouble,' " she said. "That leaves a lot of tax preparers in the position of being a sitting duck."
If convicted, Brinson could face up to 45 years in prison and/or $4,500 in fines, Cheek has said.
Reach Glenn Smith at 937-5556.