An opposing attorney
offered Ciraolo a big
kiss if she could make
a settlement offer that
appealed to his client.
This was the result.
out to his accountant instead of the U.S.
government—his first big mistake—and
the preparer simply cashed the checks
instead of paying the taxes. The preparer
also inflated the amount of the return
with bogus deductions and pocketed the
overage. When audited, Ciraolo’s client was
facing huge back taxes, interest charges and
“It’s one of the biggest misconceptions
taxpayers have,” says Ciraolo. “This belief
that once they give their tax records to
an accountant they pass along their
responsibility as well. They sign their return
without fully reading it and think their job is
done. But, really, they have a responsibility
to review their tax returns for accuracy and
to sign under penalties of perjury. We all
do. We can’t just blame the preparer when
there’s a problem.”
After Ciraolo assesses her client’s
situation, she calls over to the Fallon
Federal Building, which houses the IRS. It
also happens to be just across the street
from her office in downtown Baltimore.
“That’s where we have our administrative
meetings with revenue agents, revenue
officers and revenue council,” she says.
When she runs into a brick wall at the
Federal Building, the person she turns to
is James Leith, the taxpayer advocate for
Maryland. The Taxpayer Advocate Service
is an independent organization within the
IRS designed to help taxpayers resolve
problems and to recommend changes that
will prevent more problems.
CIRAOLO HAS ALWAYS LOVED THE
precision of numbers. Her parents,
Midwesterners, moved to South Carolina,
then to Ewing Township, N.J., when
Caroline was 4 years old. Even at that age,
she was inclined toward numbers.
“I’m a big fan of math,” she says, “a big
fan of logic problems, a big fan of starting
here and knowing that to solve a problem
you have to go through the various aspects
very methodically to get there.”
To get where she wanted to go—college—
she knew she had to work. At 14, she took
food service and waitressing jobs in town.
She waitressed through high school and
through her undergraduate years at the