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September 15, 2023

Internal Revenue Service Case Advocate Sentenced to One Year Probation for Unauthorized Inspection of Returns or Return Information

On August 28, 2023, in the Western District of New York, Lisa Hughes, case advocate within the Internal Revenue Service's (IRS) Taxpayer Advocate Service, in Buffalo, New York, pled guilty to one count of unauthorized inspection of returns or return information and was sentenced to one year of probation.

According to the court documents, between on or about April 25, 2014, and on or about August 16, 2019, while she worked as a case advocate within the IRS, Hughes accessed return information for a local tax preparation firm on more than 120 occasions. Two individuals who worked for the tax preparation firm would inquire about returns filed for their clients. Hughes would then access the returns or other return information in the IRS's Integrated Data Retrieval System. The calls received from the two individuals were not part of Hughes’ job responsibilities.  Hughes knew that she was not authorized to access the return information in response to these calls, but she nevertheless intentionally accessed the requested return information.

Additionally, between 2016 and 2019, Hughes prepared over 100 tax returns for the tax preparation firm, for which she was compensated. For the 2016 to 2018 tax years, she also prepared approximately 250 returns for friends and family, for which she was sometimes compensated. The defendant knew that IRS regulations prohibited her from preparing tax returns for others in return for compensation, gifts, or favor.

Source:  The facts in this case narrative come from the following publicly available documents: W.D.N.Y., Judgement, filed Aug., 28, 2023; and W.D.N.Y., Plea Agreement, filed Aug., 28, 2023.