Looking Over Your Shoulder At Income Tax Time

It's For Your Own Good, Says Investigations Chief

March 31, 1991|By Ellie Baublitz | Ellie Baublitz,Staff writer

BALTIMORE -- Jerry W. Rowe likes for his work to get publicity.

He believes what he does helps people in the long run, even though many would disagree -- especially as April 15 approaches.

Rowe is chief of the Maryland-Washington Criminal Investigation Division for the Internal Revenue Service. He oversees about 80 employees, about 50 of them special agents, or criminal investigators, in six offices.

"Our whole objective is to create voluntary complianceof the tax laws through proper and efficient function of the laws," Rowe said. "It's not that we're trying to ruin somebody's reputation,but it's just trying to get the public to realize the seriousness ofthe tax evasion laws."

The 43-year-old Gamber resident has made tax law compliance his career, beginning more than 20 years ago as a CID special agent in the Norfolk-Richmond, Va., area.

As a special agent, Rowe conducted criminal investigations of individuals and businesses suspected of violating the tax laws, as well as enforcing money lending laws.

Six years later he accepted a transfer to the Washington headquarters of the IRS, where he spent 15 months on the CID staff.

"I enjoyed the field work (in Virginia). Then doing staff work wasn't particularly fulfilling," he noted. "I prepared instructional manuals, trained agents, did a lot of paper work, worked in the operations branch, interacting between the IRS and Justice Department."

When a manager's job opened back in Richmond, Rowe took it, becoming supervisor of a dozen agents investigating money laundering.

He moved up to assistant chief in late 1987, supervising five managerswho covered all of Virginia.

Then, in 1989, the top-level position in Baltimore opened up, and Rowe decided to go for it.

"They askyou your career aspirations, and they evaluate you to see if you're ready to move to the next level," he said. "I was eligible to apply (for division chief), which I did, and went through a competitive process and was selected."

The new job meant moving his family -- wife, Pam, and daughters, Stacey, 21, and Lindy, 16 -- to Maryland. Afterchecking out the Baltimore area, the Rowes settled on a home in Gamber.

"Carroll County reminded me a lot of where we lived in Richmond," Rowe said. "We (Pam and I) both grew up in small areas, and we liked the rural setting."

Originally from Waynesboro, Va., in the heart of the Shenandoah Valley, Rowe has a bachelor of science degree in business management from Virginia Commonwealth University.

From a seventh-floor office of the Fallon Federal Building in Hopkins Plaza, the CID chief makes final decisions on investigations and overseesday-to-day operations of the district offices.

"I determine if there is sufficient evidence for doing an investigation, and later for prosecuting that person," Rowe said. "Then I forward a report to the U.S. attorney."

He keeps up with ongoing investigations through daily reports from his agents, who are authorized to conduct searches and seizures and make arrests.

"We get the warrants from a judge, then we actually carry out the warrant," Rowe explained.

Frequently, CID works with other agencies on a case, whether another federal department, or local or state law enforcement unit. Rowe acts as liaison.

CID also works internally with the IRS collection, examination and compliance units, which can refer fraud matters to CID, he said.

Besides the cases that bring in millions of dollars in tax revenues and sometimes take down a well-known figure, ("Al Capone was put injail by the IRS, not Elliott Ness," Rowe pointed out), CID also getsinvolved in smaller-scale tax-evasion cases.

"There are some crimes that tend to crop up during the filing season, where people send in fictitious tax returns, for instance," the chief said. "We look at willfulness, that it was done with the specific intent of not paying the taxes.

"We don't want people to think they'll go to jail because they owe money; that's not the case," Rowe stressed.

So if you've made an honest mistake on your tax return, don't panic. The IRS will let you know you've erred, but in most instances, the worst that will happen is you may have to pay a penalty if you owe Uncle Sam.

But a warning: If the IRS catches you in deliberate tax fraud, it canseize your paychecks, bank accounts and other assets, until the debtis paid.

So, what does CID look for in its determination of fraud?

"We look for information relative to the person's standard of living, if they're living above their income," Rowe said. "We look at drastic business income or personal income. If someone's interest income goes way up, you know they had to put a large amount of money in the bank to generate that interest."

Then there are those who pay their taxes on their income, but don't want anyone to know where the money came from, so they put it in the miscellaneous category.

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