IRS Crackdown on Green Tax Break Targets Atlanta Accountant

An Atlanta-area accountant was indicted on charges that he conspired to promote fraudulent tax breaks through land conservation deals that are the focus of a growing Internal Revenue Service crackdown.

Herbert E. Lewis was charged Wednesday with conspiracy, wire fraud, and aiding in the filing of false tax returns in what prosecutors said was a “wide-ranging abusive tax shelter scheme.” Lewis helped to generate “hundreds of millions of dollars” in fraudulent tax deductions, prosecutors said. Overall, the IRS says such schemes cost the Treasury billions of dollars in taxes.

Lewis was the first person indicted in the crackdown, which intensified in December when two Atlanta-area accountants, Stein and Corey Agee, pleaded guilty. They said they helped promote deals that cheated the IRS out of more than $250 million in taxes. The Agees, who are cooperating with prosecutors, admitted backdating checks and documents to make it appear investments were made in a particular tax year.

Between 2014 and 2019, Lewis promoted syndicated conservation easement deals, which allow wealthy investors to generate large tax deductions by donating easements that promise to leave land undeveloped, prosecutors said. They allege that he also backdated checks and documents.

Lewis, a certified public accountant, received more than $1 million in commissions for selling the shelters, and is also charged with filing false tax returns that failed to report a “substantial portion” of that income.

Lewis didn’t immediately return a voicemail seeking comment left at his office in Roswell, Georgia.

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