Data Network Affiliates Asks Members If They Know About Their ‘DNA Tax Benefits’; Pitch Highlights Mileage Deduction; Firm Quotes IRS In First Paragraph Of Email

An email DataNetworkAffiliates’ (DNA) members received today led with a pitch that participating in DNA could result in large tax deductions for mileage.

DNA purports to be in the business of paying members to record license-plate numbers for entry in a database that would be potentially useful to law enforcement and the AMBER Alert program for abducted children. The company also purports to be in the cell-phone business and other businesses such as juices and magnetic sleep systems.

Today’s email to affiliates suggested that people who racked up mileage while recording plate numbers for DNA could qualify for large, business-related tax write-offs.

“Did you know about your DNA Tax Benefits . . .” the DNA pitch began. “Imagine driving 10,000 miles for your DNA Business = up to a $5,000 Tax Deduction… “IRS Announces 2010 Standard Mileage Rates” IR-2009-111, Dec. 3, 2009… and this is just one of many…”

DNA did not explain what “one of many” meant. The line that trailed off with the ellipses, however, was in the context of tax deductions. The headline on the email was titled, “DNA = FREE = A Great Opportunity with Great Tax Benefits.”

DNA then published snippets from an IRS news release with a Washington dateline. Because DNA’s email included only snippets of the IRS release — and because DNA added commentary to the email and appears not to have distinguished its words from the words of the IRS — members could become confused about whether the IRS was talking or whether DNA was talking.

DNA’s email instructed members to “[c]heck with your accountant to find out what you DNA Business will allow you to legally write off . . .”

Here is the full IRS news release from Dec. 3 (italics added):

IR-2009-111, Dec. 3, 2009

WASHINGTON — The Internal Revenue Service today issued the 2010 optional standard mileage rates used to calculate the deductible costs of operating an automobile for business, charitable, medical or moving purposes.

Beginning on Jan. 1, 2010, the standard mileage rates for the use of a car (also vans, pickups or panel trucks) will be:

* 50 cents per mile for business miles driven
* 16.5 cents per mile driven for medical or moving purposes
* 14 cents per mile driven in service of charitable organizations

The new rates for business, medical and moving purposes are slightly lower than last year’s. The mileage rates for 2010 reflect generally lower transportation costs compared to a year ago.

The standard mileage rate for business is based on an annual study of the fixed and variable costs of operating an automobile. The rate for medical and moving purposes is based on the variable costs as determined by the same study. Independent contractor Runzheimer International conducted the study.

A taxpayer may not use the business standard mileage rate for a vehicle after using any depreciation method under the Modified Accelerated Cost Recovery System (MACRS) or after claiming a Section 179 deduction for that vehicle. In addition, the business standard mileage rate cannot be used for any vehicle used for hire or for more than four vehicles used simultaneously.

Taxpayers always have the option of calculating the actual costs of using their vehicle rather than using the standard mileage rates.

Revenue Procedure 2009-54 contains additional details regarding the standard mileage rates.

Here is the portion of the email concerning tax write-offs DNA sent today (italics added):

WASHINGTON — The Internal Revenue Service today issued the 2010 optional standard mileage rates used to calculate the deductible costs of operating an automobile for business, charitable, medical or moving purposes.

Beginning on Jan. 1, 2010, the standard mileage rates for the use of a car (also vans, pickups or panel trucks) will be:

* 50 cents per mile for business miles driven
* 16.5 cents per mile driven for medical or moving purposes
* 14 cents per mile driven in service of charitable organizations

Taxpayers always have the option of calculating the actual costs of using their vehicle rather than using the standard mileage rates.

Check with your accountant to find out what you DNA Business will allow you to legally write off…

DNA spent the balance of the email on topics such as a “Travel Agent Package,” a “Back Relief System,” a “Foot Insole System,” cell phones, juices and other offerings.

“CHECK OUT YOUR BACK OFFICE YOU CAN BUY $59.95 DNA MAGNETIC PRODUCTS FOR $19.95 AND THEY ARE CHEAPER BY THE DNA DOZEN . . .” DNA said. “BUY THE BACK RELIEF SYSTEM TODAY IT IS A GREAT DNA PRODUCT TO DEMONSTRATE . . .

“I”N FACT YOU SHOULD BUY A DOZEN . . . GIVE THEM TO TEN FRIENDS OR 5 COUPLES TO TRY . . . THEY WILL MOST LIKELY BUY THEM AND . . . SIGN UP FOR FREE & START SELLING THEM . . .”

DNA did not explain how it had arrived at the conclusion that people shown the products “most likely” will buy them.

DNA, which uses a domain registered in the Cayman Islands and conducts customer service with a free gmail address, also did not say why it chose to highlight the tax advantages of repping for the company over the advantages of any actual product offered by the firm.

The DNA program — and also a similar program operated by a company known as Narc That Car and Crowd Sourcing International — potentially could lead to tax challenges by the United States because of claims made by promoters and the nature of the business itself.

Both DNA and Narc purport to pay members to record license-plate numbers. Both firms are multilevel-marketing (MLM) programs and have encouraged participants to write down plate numbers or record them on cell-phone cameras at retail outlets such as Walmart, Target, Giant Eagle and others.

Promoters also have been encouraged to record plate numbers at places such as churches and doctors’ offices.

The approach has led to questions about whether members would engage in tax abuses such as claiming trips to the grocery store and places of worship as deductible business miles because they recorded plate numbers while in parking lots. Because members have been encouraged to use cell phones and cameras to record plate numbers, a second tier of potential tax abuse could open up, with members trying to write off the costs in whole or in part of any item that had even a tenuous link to the purported business of recording plate numbers.

There also are questions about whether DNA and Narc members could engage in grandiose frauds such as attending a funeral thousands of miles away and seeking to deduct the trip as a business expense because plate numbers were recorded at the destination site.

Neither DNA nor Narc publish the names of purported clients of the database products. Affiliates have published purported “training” videos on YouTube that encouraged prospects to record plate numbers virtually anywhere. Some of the videos have suggested that members should behave inconspicuously while recording numbers — for example, driving to the parking lot of a retailer and remaining in the car while recording the plate numbers.

Details about the propriety, safety and legality of the DNA and Narc programs have been given short-shrift in the purported training videos. It is known that members of an alleged Ponzi scheme known as AdSurfDaily have promoted DNA and Narc, and ASD has been linked to people who participate in tax schemes.

Parts of DNA’s email today that did not deal with taxes appeared to have been copied from earlier emails and pasted into today’s email. DNA, for example, said today it was “CELEBRATING 69 DAYS IN BUSINESS . . .”

Earlier emails made the same claim about a celebration for 69 days in business. DNA also celebrated a “Two Month Anniversary.”

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