Paying for private school can be painful.

Losing the right to ever practice law again has to be worse.

And yet, Bruce Paul Golden apparently weighed the two and opted for the latter. The former securities lawyer, who graduated from Harvard Law School in 1969, was recently disbarred by the Supreme Court of Illinois for lying about his income in order to get financial aid for his child’s private school education. The former partner at McDermott Will & Emery LLP misrepresented his income by as much as 90% to qualify for financial aid. How much aid? Less than $25,000 over a number of years.

You read that right. He sacrificed his career and his reputation for between $6,000 and $8,000 per year. And even though he’s been away from McDermott for a while, to give you a little perspective, profits per partner at the Chicago-based firm last year were reportedly $1.5 million.

To accomplish his deceit, Golden didn’t just rub a number out or change a zero. He went to great lengths, even preparing and submitting false tax returns to the school, Francis W. Parker School in Chicago, over a four year period in order to substantiate his lies.

False tax returns. I know what you’re thinking.

For the record, the federal statute of limitations for auditing tax returns is three years – with a few exceptions. One of those exceptions is this:

In the case of a false or fraudulent return with the intent to evade tax, the tax may be assessed, or a proceeding in court for collection of such tax may be begun without assessment, at any time.

Just saying. Though to be clear, there’s no indication that Golden submitted any of those fake tax returns to anyone other than the financial aid department at Francis W. Parker – including IRS. It appears that he merely altered existing copies.

But this issue is one that I receive emails about on a disturbingly regular basis though usually, the target is financial aid for college and not private elementary school as is the case here. As the cost of education skyrockets, parents feel trapped to pay for school – and some of them consider lying in order to get financial aid. And yes, financial aid forms require that you submit supporting documentation, usually pay stubs or federal income tax returns. Here’s where folks get into trouble: they lie on their tax returns in order to skew the numbers for financial aid. Sometimes it’s overstating deductions (bad) or omitting income (really bad). Other times, it’s lying about dependents, exemptions, and in some instances, marital status (really, really bad). In almost every instance, one lie leads to another because it’s hard to keep up. Just like with Golden.

Again, it appears from the disciplinary proceedings that Golden “merely” lied to the school year after year and not to the IRS. But look what happened to him.

(H/T: ABA Journal)

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Kelly Phillips Erb is a tax attorney, tax writer, and podcaster.

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