A certified public accountant who formerly practiced in Washington has been indicted in federal court here on charges of failing to file federal income tax returns on almost $400,000 in gross income from 1976 through 1979.

Joseph A. Becker, 53, of Ellicott City, Md., was charged earlier this month in a four-count indictment.

The indictment said he received a total of $382,789 during the four-year period--$79,921 in 1976, $84,564 in 1977, $120,402 in 1978, and $97,902 in 1979--but declared none of it.

Becker, who, according to the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, has been a CPA for more than 20 years, was arraigned on June 15 and pleaded not guilty to all charges.

Trial was set tentatively for July 18 before U.S. District Court Judge Herbert F. Murray.

Becker's attorney, Austin J. Doyle Jr., said that despite blanket claims by the government that Becker filed no returns at all, "he did file" and will produce copies of his filings if the case comes to trial.

Asked how he and the prosecutors could have such differing views on the issue, Doyle said, "I wish I knew."

Doyle described Becker as a certified public accountant who formerly practiced in Washington and works as "an auditor and not a tax preparer."

He would not say where Becker is currently working.

Each count of failing to file a federal income tax return carries a possible maximum penalty of one year in prison and a $10,000 fine.