Tom Van Hoose has owned Highwood Creed Outfitters in Great Falls, Montana for 13 years. As he pulled into work Wednesday morning, twenty heavily armed Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation Division agents swarmed his store. He tells TTAG that the IRS agents, in full battle rattle, had been mustered from as far away as Denver and Idaho to serve a warrant for his financial records.
He told us the IRS claims that he has under-reported and failed to report millions of dollars of income. Mr. Van Hoose denied that categorically and told us that anyone who knows anything about the gun business knows there’s not a lot of extra revenue in running a retail gun store and range.
Highwood Creek Outfitters was closed down Wednesday while the agents rifled through his records. The IRS CID troops took ten hours to copy the information on his computers and download his point of sale software information. But what Van Hoose says really concerns him is the fact that in addition to his accounting and sales records, the agents confiscated 13 years of 4473 forms and copied his firearm acquisition and disposition book.
Anyone who’s ever completed a 4473 form knows there’s no revenue or financial data there. That form is a record of a firearm purchase transaction used to facilitate a NICS background check and potentially trace a gun’s ownership down the road if it’s used in a crime. Gun dealers are required to keep those forms for at least 20 years.
The question then is, why would the IRS want customer transaction information? Van Hoose tells us the 4473 forms were not included on the list of financial records specifically listed on the warrant the IRS agents served him during the raid. Yet they took them anyway.
Concerned about handing over his firearm transaction records, Van Hoose told me he called Kirk Nelson, the ATF Area Supervisor in Helena, Montana with whom he said he’s always had a good working relationship. Nelson initially told him he didn’t have to turn over the 4473 forms as they don’t contain financial information and weren’t listed on the warrant. But after some further discussion with the IRS agents on the scene, Nelson changed his tune and told Van Hoose to hand them over.