Using a gun and handcuffs, Robert Nordlander chased tax evaders and money launderers around the world for the Internal Revenue Service. So considering that it’s tax time now, he’s our guest on the Lean to the Left podcast, where we talk about taxes, audits, avoiding trouble with the IRS, and a lot more.
As an IRS-Criminal Investigation special agent, Nordlander was a highly trained federal agent who spent over 20 years chasing tax evaders and money launderers across the globe. His investigations ranged from simple embezzlement to cryptocurrency to using foreign trusts to hide income. He has traveled to various countries on behalf of the United States training other countries' federal investigators.
Nordlander’s specialty is following the money, whether in a divorce, partnership dispute, stealing inheritances, or in criminal court. He also helps defense attorneys in criminal tax investigations, and is an expert in how to deal with the IRS with unpaid taxes.
He is an Amazon best-selling author, having written two books, "Criminal Tax Secrets: What Every Defense Attorney Should Know" and "Unpaid Payroll Taxes: A Time Bomb You Can Defuse."
Nordlander is a licensed CPA and a Certified Fraud Examiner. He also hosts two podcasts -- Fraud Fighter Podcast (which is about the forensic accounting and anti-fraud/anti-money laundering industry) and Criminal Tax Files (which is about criminal tax investigations).
"We have a system where individuals or corporations self-assess their tax liability and then, report that information to the IRS," he points out. "The best way to get outta stay out of civil trouble is just by filing whatever's truth and honest and file it on time and accurately."
A key to how the IRS handles suspected tax cheats is "willfulness," Nordlander says.
"That's hard to prove, willfulness, but if someone's always not reporting the income, putting the money in someone else's name that type of thing that becomes more willful as well as over a year, over years. The IRS criminal investigations don't do typically one year tax cases.They'll do a four year, five year tax case. And the reason being is because at the end of the day, your audience is 10 people or 12 people in a jury box who may or may not have college educations that have to sit there and say, guilty or not guilty. And they're gonna look at the, facts as a whole and think whether or not this person should go to prison for the tax evasion.
"They're not gonna put someone in tax prison because they made a mistake. Nobody wants to be in that situation. So when the IRS criminal side looks at tax cases, they're looking through the view, the lens of a normal citizen who is out there in the streets, who's sitting in a jury box, needs to understand that this defendant did it year one, year two, year three, year four, year five.
"And when they got caught, they hid the money here. And they put the money here. They did this here, and it wasn't $10, it was $10,000, $10 million, whatever else it is. The jury's gonna look at that and going, yes, I'm pissed off at that person. I'm gonna find them guilty. And that's the type of cases they're looking for. They're not looking for the honest mistakes or even the low dollar value amounts."
Tax law, he says, does not differentiate between $1 of evading a taxes or a billion dollars. "There's no dollar amount in the statute. It just says if you evade taxes, you are guilty and you can be sentenced up to five years in prison," Nordlander explains.
Defunding the IRS
Early in the episode, Nordlander says that while the plan proposed by some Republicans to defund the IRS is misguided, he likes the idea of a flat tax, or a national sales tax, to replace the progressive income tax.
"My version of fair is everybody pays a certain percentage and that's it," he says, suggesting that since most states already collect sales taxes, they also could collect a sales tax for the feds and forward the money on to the government, keeping a small percentage for their trouble.
"You could literally have 50 IRS employees, one IRS employee responsible for each state for collecting the taxes," he says, compared to the more than 93,000 workers currently employed by the agency.
Questions we asked Nordlander
Mark -- OK, let’s get into the nitty gritty of taxes in our current system. Most of us are preparing our tax returns now. How can we avoid getting into trouble with the IRS and avoid being chased by IRS agents like yourself?
Bob-- If we are audited, how does that become a criminal tax investigation?
Mark--What can happen to small business owners who find themselves in a financial bind and don’t pay their payroll taxes?
Bob--. Can CPAs and other tax preparers go to prison for filing filing false tax returns?
Mark--. Can you negotiate with the IRS if you have a big tax bill you can’t pay?
Bob -- Are there enough IRS agents now to handle the workload? Biden wants to add thousands more, and the Republicans want to stop him. Your thoughts.
Mark -- How does the IRS decide who gets chosen for criminal tax investigations?
Bob -- What’s the difference between tax avoidance and tax evasion?
Mark -- Can you share some stories about investigations in which you’ve been involved?
Bob -- Tell us about your book, “Criminal Tax Secrets”. What’s it cover? Is it meant for the average taxpayer, or only defense attorneys?
Bob -- Where can people find it?
Mark -- You run a forensic accounting and tax resolution firm. What do you do? Who are your clients?
Bob -- Tell us about your two podcasts.
Listen to the podcast:
Watch the interview: https://youtu.be/ptzFnnoM9OQ