October 18, 2021

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Justice Department Seeks to Shut Down Texas Return Preparer

9 min read
<div>The United States has filed a complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas seeking to bar a Beaumont, Texas, tax return preparer from owning or operating a tax return preparation business and preparing federal income tax returns for others.</div>
The United States has filed a complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas seeking to bar a Beaumont, Texas, tax return preparer from owning or operating a tax return preparation business and preparing federal income tax returns for others.

More from: September 20, 2021

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  • Justice Department Settles with Georgia-Based Staffing Company to Resolve Immigration-Related Discrimination Claims
    In Crime News
    The Department of Justice announced today that it reached a settlement with Pyramid Consulting, Inc., an IT staffing company based in Georgia.
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  • Federal Research Grants: OMB Should Take Steps to Establish the Research Policy Board
    In U.S GAO News
    As of January 2021, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) had not established the Research Policy Board as required by the 21st Century Cures Act. The act requires OMB to establish the Board within 1 year of the December 13, 2016 enactment of the act. The Board is to provide information on the effects of regulations related to federal research requirements. OMB stated that it had not established the Board because of issues with the Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) and other federal agencies’ full participation in the Board’s potential activities to develop or implement a modified approach to indirect cost policies. According to OMB, “the Board would necessarily delve into issues related to compliance burden and indirect cost reimbursement to entities that receive federal funding for research.” Specifically, OMB pointed to a statutory provision appearing in annual appropriations bills that it believes prohibits HHS and other agencies from taking action on issues that could implicate certain indirect cost provisions. According to OMB, this provision could, if continued in future bills, “complicate or even possibly prohibit HHS from participating in major elements of the Board’s process.” OMB stated that, without representation of a major research agency such as the National Institutes of Health (NIH), which is part of HHS, “OMB would not be equipped to meet the statutory goals of the Board.” However, HHS stated in October 2020 that the indirect cost provision would not prohibit NIH’s participation on the Board and that the department was not aware of any other appropriations law provision that would prohibit such participation. GAO has no basis to disagree with HHS’s position. The 21st Century Cures Act does not specifically direct the Board to examine issues related to indirect costs, and we identified other issues that may fall within the scope of the Board’s activities. For example, the act specifies five activities that the Board may conduct, including creating a forum for the discussion of research policy or regulatory gaps, and identifying regulatory process improvements and policy changes. The Board could consider examining these or other issues related to streamlining and harmonizing regulations and reducing administrative burden in federally funded research in accordance with the 21st Century Cures Act. By not having established the Board, OMB is missing opportunities for the Board to provide information on the effects of regulations related to requirements for federally funded research, and to make recommendations to harmonize and streamline such requirements. Further, OMB has limited time to establish the Board and the Board may have insufficient time to complete its work before the Board is set to terminate on September 30, 2021. The 21st Century Cures Act requires OMB to establish an advisory committee, to be known as the Research Policy Board, that is responsible for making recommendations on modifying and harmonizing regulation of federally funded research to reduce administrative burden. The Board is to consist of both federal and non-federal members and include not more than 10 members from federal agencies, including officials from OMB, the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), HHS, the National Science Foundation, and other departments and agencies that support or regulate scientific research, as determined by the OMB Director. The 21st Century Cures Act includes a provision for GAO to conduct an independent evaluation of the Board’s activities. This report examines the steps OMB has taken to establish the Board as required by the 21st Century Cures Act. GAO reviewed written responses and other information from OMB, HHS, and OSTP; the 21st Century Cures Act and other laws related to the Board and its establishment; relevant reports on issues related to administrative burden; and related documents such as memoranda and agency guidance. GAO submitted a draft report containing the results of its evaluation to Congress on December 10, 2020. Congress should consider extending the period of authorization for the Research Policy Board, giving OMB additional time to establish the Research Policy Board and complete its statutory mission under the 21st Century Cures Act. GAO recommends that OMB establish the Research Policy Board as mandated by the 21st Century Cures Act and report to Congress on the Board’s activities. OMB did not agree or disagree with this recommendation. We maintain that the evidence in this report shows the need for our recommendation. For more information, contact John Neumann at (202) 512-6888 or neumannj@gao.gov.
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    In Crime News
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  • Special Operations Forces: Management Actions Are Needed to Effectively Integrate Marine Corps Forces into the U.S. Special Operations Command
    In U.S GAO News
    The Department of Defense (DOD) has relied on special operations forces to conduct military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq and to perform other tasks such as training foreign military forces. To meet the demand for these forces, DOD established a Marine Corps service component under the U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) to integrate Marine Corps forces. Under the authority of the Comptroller General, GAO assessed the extent to which (1) the Marine Corps special operations command has identified its force structure requirements, (2) the Marine Corps has developed a strategic human capital approach to manage personnel in its special operations command, and (3) USSOCOM has determined whether Marine Corps training programs are preparing its forces for assigned missions. GAO performed its work with the Marine Corps and USSOCOM and analyzed DOD plans for this new command.While the Marine Corps has made progress in establishing its special operations command (Command), the Command has not yet fully identified the force structure needed to perform its assigned missions. DOD developed initial force structure plans to establish the Command; however, it did not use critical practices of strategic planning, such as the alignment of activities and resources and the involvement of stakeholders in decision-making processes when developing these plans. As a result of limitations in the strategic planning process, the Command has identified several force structure challenges that will likely affect the Command's ability to perform its full range of responsibilities, and is working to revise its force structure. Although preliminary steps have been taken, the Marine Corps has not developed a strategic human capital approach to manage the critical skills and competencies required of personnel in its special operations command. While the Command has identified some skills needed to perform special operations missions, it has not conducted a comprehensive analysis to determine all of the critical skills and incremental training required of personnel in its special operations forces units. These analyses are critical to the Marine Corps' efforts to develop a strategic human capital approach for the management of personnel in its special operations forces units. Without the benefit of these analyses, the Marine Corps has developed an interim policy to assign some personnel to special operations forces units for extended tour lengths to account for the additional training and skills; however, the policy is inconsistent with the Command's goal for the permanent assignment of some personnel within the special operations community. Until the Command completes an analysis to identify and document the critical skills and competencies needed by its future workforce to perform its full range of special operations missions, the Marine Corps will not have a sound basis for developing or evaluating alternative strategic human capital approaches for managing personnel assigned to its special operations forces units. USSOCOM does not have a sound basis for determining whether the Command's training programs are preparing units for their missions because it has not established common training standards for many special operations skills and it has not formally evaluated whether these programs prepare units to be fully interoperable with other special operations forces. The Command is providing training to its forces that is based on training programs for conventional units that were assigned some special operations missions prior to the Command's activation and incorporates the training that USSOCOM's other service components provide to their forces. However, USSOCOM has not validated that the training for Marine Corps forces prepares them to be fully interoperable with DOD's other special operations forces. Without an evaluation, USSOCOM cannot demonstrate the needed assurances that Marine Corps forces are fully interoperable with its other forces, which may jeopardize the success of future joint missions.
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  • Provincial Reconstruction Teams in Afghanistan and Iraq
    In U.S GAO News
    U.S.-led Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRT) are designed to help improve stability in Afghanistan and Iraq by increasing the host nation's capacity to govern; enhancing economic viability; and strengthening local governments' ability to deliver public services, such as security and health care. PRTs are a means of coordinating interagency diplomatic, economic, reconstruction, and counterinsurgency efforts among various U.S. agencies in Afghanistan and Iraq. PRTs are intended to be interim structures; after a PRT has achieved its goal of improving stability, it may be dismantled to allow traditional development efforts to occur. In Afghanistan, the first PRTs were created in 2002 with the mission of facilitating security and reconstruction by helping the central government extend its authority to the provinces. Since then, PRTs have expanded their purpose to include strengthening local governance and community development. In Iraq, PRTs were initiated in 2005 with the mission to increase the capacity of provincial and local governments to govern effectively and, for newer embedded PRTs (ePRT), to support moderates and assist in the military's counterinsurgency efforts. To accomplish their missions, PRTs engage in and fund a variety of activities, such as developing the capacity of local governments through engagement with local stakeholders; promoting budget execution, business development, agriculture, public health initiatives, and governance; and supporting the delivery of basic social services. This report describes (1) the organization, staffing, and funding for PRTs in Afghanistan and (2) the organization, staffing, and funding for PRTs in Iraq. It excludes information marked "Sensitive but Unclassified" in our September 26, 2008, report on PRTs. Due to broad congressional interest in issues related to Iraq and Afghanistan, we completed this report under the Comptroller General's authority to conduct evaluations on his own initiative.Afghanistan, as of May 2008, the United States was leading 12 of 26 PRTs and 13 other coalition countries were leading the remaining 14 PRTs. All PRTs in Afghanistan are under ISAF's operational command, but individual nations, including the United States, lead PRTs and determine their size and structure. U.S.-led PRTs in Afghanistan are led by DOD and are composed primarily of U.S. military personnel. As of April 2008, 10 of the 12 U.S.-led PRTs included 88 or more military personnel--the majority of whom provide security and other support for the PRTs--and 3 civilian personnel from State, USAID, and USDA. The total number of U.S. government personnel assigned to U.S. PRTs in Afghanistan increased slightly from 1,023 personnel in 2007 to 1,055 personnel in 2008--which includes 1,021 military personnel from DOD and 34 civilian personnel from State, USAID, and USDA. DOD is responsible for paying nearly all of the costs associated with operating PRTs, such as providing their security and life support. However, DOD officials reported that DOD does not track PRT operating costs separately from other operational costs for Afghanistan. State, USAID, and USDA do not reimburse DOD for its support to civilian PRT officials in Afghanistan. PRTs have one source of programmatic funding available for projects in Afghanistan. PRT commanders can approve the use of funds for projects under DOD's Commander's Emergency Response Program (CERP) up to $25,000 per project. PRTs in Afghanistan may also coordinate with other U.S.-funded programs, including other commanders' CERP projects and USAID programs, such as the Local Governance and Community Development project. In Iraq, as of August 2008, the United States was leading 28 of 31 PRTs and other coalition countries were leading 3 PRTs. As of August 2008, three types of U.S.-led PRTs were operating in Iraq: 11 PRTs at the provincial level of government; 13 ePRTs embedded with U.S. brigade combat teams and operating in local governments in Baghdad, Anbar, Babil, and Diyala provinces; and 4 Provincial Support Teams (PST), which are smaller PRTs that cannot be based in the intended province due to security concerns. According to State and DOD officials, the number of personnel assigned to PRTs and ePRTs in Iraq increased from an estimated 100 to 125 personnel in early 2007 to about 450 in July 2008. This increase was the result of the Administration's decision in January 2007 to create ePRTs and to increase the size of PRTs in support of The New Way Forward. DOD and civilian agencies have staffed the PRTs with a mix of U.S. government employees--permanent and temporary--and contractors. State reimburses DOD for some operating costs of ePRTs and most PRTs, based on a quarterly estimate for each PRT member. State's reimbursements do not cover the costs of PRT security and transportation provided by the U.S. military. According to DOD, as of April 2008, State had reimbursed $11 million to DOD for operating costs--$5.9 million for fiscal year 2007 and $5.1 million for the first quarter of fiscal year 2008. State had also obligated $125 million for PRT movement security from September 2005 through May 2008 for PRTs in Iraq that are not embedded with U.S. military units or do not have access to military movement assets.
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  • Child Care: Subsidy Eligibility and Receipt, and Wait Lists
    In U.S GAO News
    An estimated 1.9 million children received child care subsidies in fiscal year 2017, representing approximately 14 percent of all children estimated to be eligible under federal rules – and 22 percent of all children estimated to be eligible under state rules -- in an average month. These figures are from the Department of Health and Human Services' (HHS) analysis of fiscal year 2017 data, the most recent year for which such analysis is available. Generally, fewer families qualify for subsidies under state eligibility rules than under federal eligibility rules since most states use flexibility provided by HHS to set their income eligibility limits below the federal maximum. Health and Human Services’ Estimated Number of Children Eligible Under Federal and State Rules, and Estimated Number Receiving Child Care Subsidies, Fiscal Year 2017 GAO found that the extent to which children who meet federal child care eligibility requirements also meet state eligibility requirements varies by state as does the share of eligible children who receive Child Care and Development Fund (CCDF) subsidies. Under state requirements, the CCDF subsidy receipt rate ranged from 5 percent to 32 percent of eligible children. Under federal requirements, the CCDF subsidy receipt rate ranged from 4 percent to 18 percent of federally eligible children. According to HHS estimates, among families who met federal child care eligibility criteria, children from lower-income families were more likely to receive child care subsidies compared to children from higher-income families. These estimates also showed that preschool-age children were more likely to receive subsidies compared to older, school-age children and that Black children were more likely to receive subsidies compared to children of other races / ethnicities. As reported in previous GAO work, states have varied strategies for managing their wait lists. Some states have a single statewide list while others have sub-state lists that allow sub-state areas to have their own policies. Some states conduct full or partial eligibility determinations prior to placing families on wait lists, and many states require periodic reviews of their wait lists. According to state administrators GAO interviewed, the strategies that states use to manage their wait lists pose certain challenges. For example, state administrators told GAO that sub-state lists can contain duplication, making state-wide estimates of families in need difficult. And administrators told GAO that maintaining up-to-date contact information is challenging, in part due to insufficient technology. The Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has impacted child care in several ways, including cost, eligibility and subsidy receipt, according to some members of the National Association of State Child Care Administrators (NASCCA). These members told GAO that despite initial declines in the number of families receiving subsidies, some states are seeing their child care costs increase due to, for example, more school-age children using full-day care; increased expenses for additional health and safety measures; paying for more absences and for parent co-pays; and families applying for subsidies for relative care. NASCCA members noted that some states have made changes to policies to help families and providers. To help families access child care, some states have increased income eligibility for subsidies to 85 percent of the state median income; temporarily waived work requirements to receive subsidies; and covered family fees for parents when a family must quarantine due to a COVID-19 exposure. Changes to some state policies aimed at helping providers include providing funds to providers to help with increased costs, such as personal protective equipment (PPE) and additional cleaning supplies; paying providers based on their pre-COVID-19 level authorized enrollments; and raising the state's provider reimbursement rate to help providers cover overhead costs. The federal child care subsidy program known as CCDF is one of the primary sources of federal funding dedicated to assisting low-income families with child care who are working or participating in education and training. Funding for CCDF, which is administered by HHS at the federal level, comes from two funding streams: discretionary funding in the form of block grants authorized by the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG Act) of 1990, as amended, and mandatory and matching funding authorized under section 418 of the Social Security Act. CCDF was appropriated more than $8 billion in federal funds in 2019. For more information, contact Kathryn Larin at (202) 512-7215 or larink@gao.gov.
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  • DOD Critical Technologies: Plans for Communicating, Assessing, and Overseeing Protection Efforts Should Be Completed
    In U.S GAO News
    Critical technologies—such as elements of artificial intelligence and biotechnology—are those necessary to maintain U.S. technological superiority. As such, they are frequently the target of theft, espionage, and illegal export by adversaries. The Department of Defense (DOD) has outlined a revised process (see figure) to better identify and protect its critical technologies including those associated with acquisition programs throughout their lifecycle or those early in development. Prior DOD efforts to identify these technologies were considered by some military officials to be too broad to adequately guide protection. The revised process is expected to address this by offering more specificity about what elements of an acquisition program or technology need to be protected and the protection measures DOD is expected to implement. It is also expected to support DOD's annual input to the National Strategy for Critical and Emerging Technologies, which was first published in October 2020. Overview of DOD's Revised Process to Identify and Protect Critical Acquisition Programs and Technologies DOD began implementing this process in February 2020, and officials expect to complete all steps for the first time by September 2021. DOD has focused on identifying critical acquisition programs and technologies that need to be protected and how they should be protected. It has not yet determined how it will communicate the list internally and to other agencies, which metrics it will use to assess protection measures, and which organization will oversee future protection efforts. By determining the approach for completing these tasks, DOD can better ensure its revised process will support the protection of critical acquisition programs and technologies consistently across the department. Once completed, the revised process should also inform DOD and other federal agencies' protection efforts. Military officials stated they could use the list of critical acquisition programs and technologies to better direct resources. Officials from the Departments of State, Commerce, and the Treasury stated that they could use the list, if it is effectively communicated, to better understand what is important to DOD to help ensure protection through their respective programs. The federal government spends billions annually to develop and acquire advanced technologies. It permits the sale and transfer of some of these technologies to allies to promote U.S. national security, foreign policy, and economic interests. However, the technologies can be targets for adversaries. The John S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2019 requires the Secretary of Defense to develop and maintain a list of acquisition programs, technologies, manufacturing capabilities, and research areas that are critical for preserving U.S. national security advantages. Ensuring effective protection of critical technologies has been included on GAO's high-risk list since 2007. This report examines (1) DOD's efforts to identify and protect its critical technologies, and (2) opportunities for these efforts to inform government protection activities. GAO analyzed DOD critical acquisition program and technologies documentation, and held interviews with senior officials at DOD and other federal agencies responsible for protecting critical technologies. GAO is recommending that DOD specify how it will communicate its critical programs and technologies list, develop metrics to assess protection measures, and select the DOD organization that will oversee protection efforts beyond 2020. DOD concurred with the first recommendation and partially concurred with the second and third. GAO maintains the importance of all recommendations in this report. For more information, contact William Russell at (202) 512-4841 or russellw@gao.gov.
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  • Chemical Security: Overlapping Programs Could Better Collaborate to Share Information and Identify Potential Security Gaps
    In U.S GAO News
    Eight federal programs addressing chemical safety or security from four departments or agencies that GAO reviewed contain requirements or guidance that generally align with at least half of the Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) 18 Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards (CFATS) program standards. At least 550 of 3,300 (16 percent) facilities subject to the CFATS program are also subject to other federal programs. Analyses of CFATS and these eight programs indicate that some overlap, duplication, and fragmentation exists, depending on the program or programs to which a facility is subject. For example, six federal programs' requirements or guidance indicate some duplication with CFATS. CFATS program officials acknowledge similarities among these programs' requirements or guidance, some of which are duplicative, and said that the CFATS program allows facilities to meet CFATS program standards by providing information they prepared for other programs. more than 1,600 public water systems or wastewater treatment facilities are excluded under the CFATS statute, leading to fragmentation. While such facilities are subject to other programs, those programs collectively do not contain requirements or guidance that align with four CFATS standards. According to DHS, public water systems and wastewater treatment facilities are frequently subject to safety regulations that may have some security value, but in most cases, these facilities are not required to implement security measures commensurate to their level of security risk, which may lead to potential security gaps. The departments and agencies responsible for all nine of these chemical safety and security programs—four of which are managed by DHS, three by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and one each managed by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) and the Department of Transportation (DOT)—have previously worked together to enhance information collection and sharing in response to Executive Order 13650, issued in 2013. This Executive Order directed these programs to take actions related to improving federal agency coordination and information sharing. However, these programs have not identified which facilities are subject to multiple programs, such that facilities may be unnecessarily developing duplicative information to comply with multiple programs. Although CFATS allows facilities to use information they prepared for other programs, CFATS program guidance does not specify what information facilities can reuse. Finally, DHS and EPA leaders acknowledged that there are differences between CFATS requirements and the security requirements for public water systems and wastewater treatment facilities, but they have not assessed the extent to which potential security gaps may exist. By leveraging collaboration established through the existing Executive Order working group, the CFATS program and chemical safety and security partners would be better positioned to minimize unnecessary duplication between CFATS and other programs and better ensure the security of facilities currently subject to fragmented requirements. Facilities with hazardous chemicals could be targeted by terrorists to inflict mass casualties or damage. Federal regulations applicable to chemical safety and security have evolved over time as authorizing statutes and regulations established programs for different purposes, such as safety versus security, and with different enforcement authorities. GAO has reported that such programs may be able to achieve greater efficiency where overlap exists by reducing duplication and better managing fragmentation. GAO was asked to review issues related to the effects that overlap, duplication, and fragmentation among the multiple federal programs may have on the security of the chemical sector. This report addresses the extent to which (1) such issues may exist between CFATS and other federal programs, and (2) the CFATS program collaborates with other federal programs. GAO analyzed the most recent available data on facilities subject to nine programs from DHS, EPA, ATF, and DOT; reviewed and analyzed statutes, regulations, and program guidance; and interviewed agency officials. GAO is making seven recommendations, including that DHS, EPA, ATF, and DOT identify facilities subject to multiple programs; DHS clarify guidance; and DHS and EPA assess security gaps. Agencies generally agreed with six; EPA did not agree with the recommendation on gaps. GAO continues to believe it is valid, as discussed in the report. For more information, contact Nathan Anderson at (206) 287-4804 or AndersonN@gao.gov.
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  • [Request for Reconsideration of Protest of Army Contract Award for Flight Training Services]
    In U.S GAO News
    A firm requested reconsideration of its denied protest of an Army contract award for rotary wing (helicopter) flight training services. GAO had held that the awardee's proposal offered the best value under the stated evaluation criteria. In its request for reconsideration, the protester contended that since the solicitation did not provide for consideration of anything other than past performance, it was improper for the Army to consider the protester's evaluated inadequate staffing in the determination of performance risk. GAO held that the protester's request for reconsideration was untimely, since information concerning the proposal evaluations was available at least 2 months earlier. Accordingly, the request for reconsideration was denied.
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    In U.S GAO News
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