Hapeville Alderman Ruth Barr took the stand Feb. 28 in Fulton County Superior Court to defend herself, her daughter and her accounting firm against an injunction filed by the state district attorney’s office on behalf of the Georgia Department of Revenue.
The case alleges the defendants are responsible for unmerited state tax refunds sent their clients.
Barr testified before Judge Todd Markle in a hearing in the civil case the State vs. B&B Accounting and Tax Services Inc., Ruth Anne Barr and Anne Barr Cruz, Barr’s daughter.
At stake is whether Markle will impose a temporary restraining order against the defendants to stop them from filing state returns this tax season.
Under questioning from defense attorney Jefferson M. Allen of Cohen Cooper Estep and Allen, Barr said a restraining order will have a “devastating” impact on her livelihood.
“It could put me out of business because this is the three months I make my living,” she said about the period running up to the tax deadline of April 15.
Barr denied any wrongdoing.
“I have never filed a fraudulent return ever in all of the 44 years I’ve been in business,” she said.
Plaintiff counsel and Assistant District Attorney J. Scott Forbes said the impact on individuals is significant, since the recalculated returns in question resulted in penalties.
“There is a serious risk of widespread harm to the public and to the state should the defendants be allowed to continue their practice. Their unwitting clients face tax collection by the state. They will experience the cost and financial uncertainty of unexpected tax bills,” he said.
Forbes said Barr’s change in status quo under the restraining order must be considered against others’ status.
“We have a widespread harm here, right now, in this greatest time of danger to the public in the state, the tax season,” he said.
Forbes said “very large” numbers of state taxpayers will suffer as well, since the state was deprived of tax revenue.
“The maximum harm to the state is estimated at $8.7 million,” he said.
Allen said the state did not make its case.
“There has been no evidence submitted by the department of revenue that supports a finding that there has been any willful conduct on the part of the defendants related to the preparation of any of these tax returns,” he said. “In this case, what they are seeking is a change in the status quo that’s not authorized by law.”
Markle said he will render a judgment this week to the parties in writing.
If a temporary injunction is granted, the next step will be a trial to consider a permanent injunction.
The proceedings, while touching on criminal investigations, did not consider Barr’s perjury charge brought by the department, for which she appeared in court Jan. 26.
No further actions in that case are listed on the Fulton County Superior Court website.
Barr also faces fraud charges in Gwinnett County this week, according to that county’s website.