Thursday, June 17, 2021

TIGTA Report on Criminal Restitution Assessment Procedures (6/17/21)

TIGTA has issued a report titled Criminal Restitution Assessment Procedures Need Improvement (TIGTA Report No. 2021-30-033 6/7/21), here.  For those interested in criminal restitution for taxes, this is excellent reading, discussing both the law related to the restitution procedures for taxes and the IRS’s procedural implementation.

The Report Highlights are:

Why TIGTA Did This Audit 

The Firearms Excise Tax Improvement Act of 2010 authorized the IRS to assess criminal restitution ordered after August 16, 2010, so that the IRS could collect the amount as if it were a tax. Prior to this change in the law, the IRS accepted payments of restitution but could not assess the amount of restitution ordered or use its administrative collection tools to collect the restitution. Only the Department of Justice could collect the amount of restitution.

This audit was initiated to determine if defendants convicted of tax-related crimes are held responsible for the payments of the associated taxes. 

Impact on Taxpayers 

The ultimate goal of every criminal prosecution is not merely to obtain a conviction but also to obtain a sentence sufficient to discourage similar criminal violations by other taxpayers. It is important that the IRS have effective procedures to ensure that the defendants are held responsible for their crimes and the maximum amount of criminal restitution is collected. 

What TIGTA Found

IRM PDT and CAU Designations for Problem Taxpayers (6/17/21)

In Hogan  v. Commissioner (T.C. Dkt Docket No. 11229-15 Bench Opinion dated 6/9/21), here, the Tax Court (Judge Buch) rejected the taxpayer’s request for interest abatement on tax liabilities.  Hogan had previously pled guilty to tax evasion.  All of the commotion about tax liability and interest arose from that event.  There was nothing particularly interesting or of precedential value (hence the bench opinion).  But I noted that Hogan complained about being designated a “Potentially Dangerous Taxpayer.”  The relevant portions of the transcript (pp. 13 & 15-16):

Mr. Hogan was displeased with having been labeled as a potentially dangerous taxpayer or PDT. The Commissioner uses the designation of PTD to "identify taxpayers who represent a potential danger to employees." Internal Revenue Manual, 25.4.1.1.1 (Oct. 31, 2018). Mr. Hogan learned of this designation through a request under the Freedom of Information Act. He argues that this designation resulted in unfavorable treatment during the appeal process. He did not direct us to any error or delay resulting from his designation as a potentially dangerous taxpayer.

* * * *

Regarding his designation as a potentially dangerous taxpayer, Mr. Hogan failed to meet his burden at every level. He did not establish that there was an error in designating him as a PDT. Even if that were erroneous, he did not establish that the designation caused any error, delay, or additional interest. And given his repeated efforts to avoid payment, he clearly did not establish that he would have paid his tax earlier.

Having not recalled paying any attention to the PDT designation, I did a Google scholar search and found nothing of interest.  I recommend that readers of this blog interested in the PDT designation, read the IRM here discussing the PDT Program and the related Caution Upon Contact ("CAU") designation.  Key excerpts are:

25.4.1.1.1 (10-31-2018)
Background

In 1984, the IRS Commissioner assigned IRS Inspection the responsibility of developing a program to improve the Service's ability to identify taxpayers who represent a potential danger to employees. Inspection developed the Potentially Dangerous Taxpayer (PDT) program, which included the PDT System database. Inspection was then given responsibility for administering the program.

Inspection became the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) in 1999. Most of Inspection’s previous duties, including the administration of the PDT program, were transferred to TIGTA. Due to TIGTA’s statutory role and responsibilities, however, it was agreed that the administration and maintenance of the PDT program be transferred back to the IRS. IRS established the Office of Employee Protection (OEP) in February 2000 to administer and maintain the PDT program and fulfill other employee safety recommendations. TIGTA, however, retains its investigatory role in the PDT program.

* * * *

Thursday, June 10, 2021

Tax Crimes Core Concept Questions from ProPublica's Publication of Tax Return Information (6/10/21)

Two days ago, I posted on perhaps the top tax story at least on this news cycle:  ProPublica Publishes Series Based on IRS Data Trove Produced by Anonymous Source (Federal Tax Crimes Blog 6/8/21), here.  In the posting, I focused on the legality of the disclosure of the IRS information, known as return information, about the identified taxpayers.  Section 7213, here, makes it a felony crime for IRS personnel to disclosethe return information and for nongovernment persons receiving and disclosing (publishing) the information.  ProPublica seems within the scope of § 7213(a)(3).

As I noted in the blog, ProPublica stated that it was aware of the law and justified its disclosure as follows:

There is also a legal question here, and we want you to know we have taken it seriously. A federal law ostensibly makes it a criminal offense to disclose tax return information. But we do not believe that law would be constitutional if applied to bar or sanction publication of a story in the public interest when the news organization did not itself remove the information from the control of the IRS or solicit anyone else to do so — as we did not. And this is not our first experience with this law.

In 2012, someone at the IRS (we don’t know who or why; they used a plain brown IRS envelope) sent ProPublica copies of tax filings seeking exemption for a number of political committees, including Republican political guru Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS. The filings were not yet supposed to be public, and the IRS indicated that it would consider our publication of them to be criminal. We explained our view of the constitutionality of that statute as applied in such circumstances and published our story, which raised concerns about whether Rove’s group had been forthcoming with the agency. We never heard about the matter from the IRS again.

I offer today questions for Tax Crimes professionals and students to test a basic federal tax crimes concept.  Section 7213(a)(3), like the earlier provisions in § 7213(a) requires that the person “willfully” disclose the return information.  Indeed, most of the tax crimes in the IRC (Title 26) require the person act willfully.  Willfully requires "'a voluntary, intentional violation of a known legal duty.'" Cheek v. United States, 498 U.S. 192, 200 (1991), here.

Tuesday, June 8, 2021

ProPublica Publishes Series Based on IRS Data Trove Produced by Anonymous Source (6/8/21)

The investigative news organization, ProPublica, started a series based on IRS data about the very rich that somehow showed up on ProPublica’s whistleblower platform.  The first in the series is The Secret IRS Files: Trove of Never-Before-Seen Records Reveal How the Wealthiest Avoid Income Tax by Jesse Eisinger (6/8/21(, Jeff Ernsthausen and Paul Kiel.  The article is here.  The first offering provides an overview and focuses on specific well-known super-wealthy American “taxpayers.”  It shows that their true tax paid relative to their economic income is miniscule, sometimes well under 1%.  

It is not a revelation to persons interested in the tax system that the super-wealthy (and even less wealthy) “taxpayers” whose economic income is reflected in assets can do amazing things to make sure the income is not taxed, including shifting values to family and friends and even dying to achieve a step up in basis (true, there may be an estate tax but even that can be mitigated in ways to insure that they never bear their fair share of the cost of government).

The first installment is interesting, although I am not sure it adds much to what tax professionals would have intuited anyway.  Perhaps it will make those intuitions more accessible to the general public and therefore contribute to the discussion of how to allocate the costs of a civilized society among those who benefit from that civilized society.

More interesting for readers of this blog is how ProPublica got the IRS data trove and the legal consequences.  First, as to how ProPublica got the information, ProPublica explains at this web page:  Why We Are Publishing the Tax Secrets of the .001%, here.  Basically, investigative journalists sometimes have a whistleblower or informer site where information can be disclosed with anonymity.  ProPublica further explains:

We do not know the identity of our source. We did not solicit the information they sent us. The source says they were motivated by our previous coverage of issues surrounding the IRS and tax enforcement, but we do not know for certain that is true. We have considered the possibility that information we have received could have come from a state actor hostile to American interests. In particular, a number of government agencies were compromised last year by what the U.S. has said were Russian hackers who exploited vulnerabilities in software sold by SolarWinds, a Texas-based information technology company. We do note, however, that the Treasury Department’s inspector general for tax administration wrote in December that, “At this time, there is no evidence that any taxpayer information was exposed” in the SolarWinds hack.

Friday, June 4, 2021

FBAR Civil Willful Penalty Sustained Against Long Time Accountant and Tax Preparer Who Claimed He Did Not Have Time to Read the Schedule B Instructions (6/4/21)

In United States v. Kronowitz (S.D. Fla. No. 19-cv-62648 Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law dated 6/3/21), CL here, the Court sustained the Government’s assertion of the FBAR civil willful penalty.  The facts were bad for Kronowitz in trying to avoid the penalty.  He was an accountant and regular tax return preparer over many years.  He claimed inter alia (slip op. 11):

He admitted to seeing hundreds of Schedule Bs, and being familiar with the purpose of Schedule B and its requirements, but testified that he probably did not read the instructions because he was more concerned with providing for his family and taking care of his clients. Indeed, he testified that “my purpose in life at the time was to get clients, bill them, and collect the money, not spending the whole year reading[.]”

Well, he lost.

JAT Comments:

1. Another example of a taxpayer who certainly knew about the OVDP and for  some reason chose not to timely join the program.  (Of course, he did have some relationship to a UBS which could have meant that UBS turned his name over  to the IRS early and thus was disqualified.

2. The Court found the taxpayer was sufficiently reckless that he met the standard for willful for  the civil penalty.  The Court said that Kronowitz's defense was that he was not "willful or reckless."  As stated, Kronovitz's argument was that willful and reckless are alternative bases for the penalty.  That is not true.  The statute imposes the penalty only on willful conduct which, for FBAR civil penalty purposes, is interpreted to include reckless conduct.

Friday, May 28, 2021

More on Willful Blindness (5/28/21)

Today, I revisit one of my “rant” topics – willful blindness (aka deliberate ignorance, conscious avoidance, etc.).  My past rants have been about using the concept of willful blindness as a substitute for a specific knowledge requirement in criminal statutes, particularly the willfully element of most Title 26 tax crimes.  To remind, that willfully element, often referred to as the Cheek interpretation of the willfully element in tax crimes, is specific intent to violate a known legal duty.  Cheek v. United States, 498 U.S. 192, 201 (1991).  Such a specific intent requires that a defendant know the facts that create a legal duty and must know the law (sufficiently) to know that he is violating a legal duty.  I have urged that, if Congress legislated a knowledge element for a crime, courts and juries should not be treating something that is not knowledge as knowledge.  That is effectively creating a common law crime, supposedly a no, no in our legal system.

I periodically review willful blindness cases to see if there is more ranting I can do without duplicating my ranting too much.  I read a case today that offered something that I should have noticed and ranted on before.

The willful blindness concept requires that the defendant:  "(1) The defendant must subjectively believe that there is a high probability that a fact exists and (2) the defendant must take deliberate actions to avoid learning of that fact."  Global-Tech Appliances, Inc. v. SEB S.A., 563 U.S. 754, 766 (2011).  Global-Tech was a civil case, but the Supreme Court looked to criminal analogies where the concept was deployed, so courts often cite Global-Tech in criminal cases.  The Supreme Court in Global Tech also said that willful blindness applies when the defendant “can almost be said to have actually known the critical facts.”  (pp. 769-770, emphasis supplied by JAT.)  I suppose that if one took that sentence literally, a defendant in a criminal case can be convicted of a crime requiring specific knowledge even without that specific knowledge.  But, we all know from the trajectory of the willfully requirement for the civil and criminal FBAR penalties that willfully is not the same for criminal purposes as for civil FBAR purposes, with willfully for civil FBAR purposes permitting something like willful blindness / reckless behavior to meet the willfully element in a way that could not suffice for the crime.  The statement in Global-Tech thus may be technically dicta.

I have urged in my rants that, instead of a substitute for the statutory element of specific knowledge, the role of facts indicating willful blindness should instead be circumstantial evidence of actual knowledge that would permit the factfinder (jury in most criminal cases) to infer the required knowledge (the actual statutory element for the crime) beyond a reasonable doubt.  It is not and should not be a substitute for the statutory element requiring specific knowledge.

Thursday, May 27, 2021

Foreign Account Holder Claiming Ignorance of FBAR Obligation Loses on Willful Penalty Because of Reckless Disregard (5/17/21)

In United States v. Goldsmith,  (S.D. Cal. 3:20-cv-00087-BEN-KSC Order dated 5/25/21), CL here and TN here, the Court granted summary judgment to the Government in a FBAR civil willful penalty FBAR collection suit.  The Court held that on the facts presented on the motion for summary judgment, the Government was entitled to summary judgment on Goldsmith’s liability.  

It is a long opinion (73 pages).  The facts are ugly for Mr. Goldsmith and are recounted in detail on pp. 2-12 of the opinion.  On the facts presented and found for purposes of the motion, the Court held that 

1. Mr. Goldsmith Fails to Show a Genuine Issue of Fact Exists as to Whether He Concealed the Swiss Account from his Tax Preparer

2. Mr. Goldsmith Fails to Show a Genuine Issue of Fact Exists as to Whether He Informed Mr. Zipser [Tax Preparer] About the Italian Account

3. Mr. Goldsmith Fails to Show a Genuine Issue of Fact Exists as to Whether He Concealed Information from the Government

4. Mr. Goldsmith Fails to Show a Genuine Issue of Fact Exists as to Whether He Controlled the Account

5. Mr. Goldsmith Fails to Show a Genuine Issue of Fact Exists as to Whether He Chose to Divest U.S. Securities

The Court then found that, although there was a triable issue as to whether Goldsmith knew of the obligation to file the FBAR, there was no triable issue as to whether Goldsmith recklessly disregarded his FBAR obligations and that reckless disregard was enough for FBAR civil willful penalty liability.

Friday, May 21, 2021

New Book on Decision in Human Judgment, Including Sentencing (5/21/21)

Steven Brill offers this New York Times book review of Noise: A Flaw in Human Judgment by Daniel Kahneman, Olivier Sibony and Cass R. Sunstein (NYT 5/18/21), here.  The book discusses noises in human judgment defined as “unwanted variability in judgments.”  Essentially, it discusses how noise prevents consistency in judgments where consistency should have a high value.

Criminal sentencing draws the authors' attention.  Readers of this blog will recall that prior to the federal Sentencing Guidelines in the 1980’s, federal sentencing was much a crap shoot, with sentencing for similar crimes varying all over the lot.  Some described sentencing as the wild, wild west.  Then the Guidelines came along to bring more consistency by providing somewhat objective matrices could calibrate a sentencing range.  Then, United States v. Booker, 543 U.S. 220 (2005) was decided that returned sentencing to more discretion for the judge.  As some have said Booker brought the the wild, wild west back to sentencing, so long as the sentencing judge can come up with some minimum rationale for the usually downward variance than can pass a laugh test if the Government or the defendant appeals the out of Guidelines sentence.

Brill, here, a lawyer and author of books and commentary on the law and related subjects, starts the book review with the following:

A study of 1.5 million cases found that when judges are passing down sentences on days following a loss by the local city’s football team, they tend to be tougher than on days following a win. The study was consistent with a steady stream of anecdotal reports beginning in the 1970s that showed sentencing decisions for the same crime varied dramatically — indeed scandalously — for individual judges and also depending on which judge drew a particular case.

Brill notes that the authors claim that apparently unreconcilable inconsistences are about noise which they define as "unwanted variability in judgments."

Consistency equals fairness. If bias can be eliminated and sensible processes put in place, we should be able to arrive at the “right” result. Lack of consistency too often produces the wrong results because it’s often no better, the authors write, than the random judgments of “a dart-throwing chimpanzee.” And, of course, unexplained inconsistency undermines credibility and the systems in which those judgements are made.

As the authors explain in their introduction, a team of target shooters whose shots always fall to the right of the bull’s-eye is exhibiting a bias, as is a judge who always sentences Black people more harshly. That’s bad, but at least they are consistent, which means the biases can be identified and corrected. But another team whose shots are scattered in different directions away from the target is shooting noisily, and that’s harder to correct. A third team whose shots all go to the left of the bull’s-eye but are scattered high and low is both biased and noisy.

Wednesday, May 19, 2021

S.G. Files Brief in Opp to Petition for Certiorari in Flynn (5/19/21; 6/17/21)

I noted previously that a petition for certiorari was filed in United States v. Flynn, 969 F.3d 873 (8th Cir. 2020), cert. docketed, 20-1129 (Feb. 17, 2021) and that the Government was to file an answer on May 19, 2021.  See Fifth Circuit Holds that the Defraud/Klein Conspiracy Does Not Have Pending Proceeding Element; Update on Cert Petition in Related Case (Federal Tax Crimes 5/8/21), here.  The Solicitor General filed the answer today, a Brief in Opposition, here.

Just to review the bidding as of today, the following key documents are on file per the docket entries, here (where the various documents can be reviewed and downloaded).

  • The petition was filed 2/11/12.
  • An amicus brief in support of the petition was filed by the New York Council of Defense Lawyers on 5/2/21. 
  • The S.G. Brief in Opp was filed on 5/19/21.
  • Flynn's Reply Brief filed on 6/7/21.  (Added to Blog 6/17/21)

The Brief in Opp is 26 pages long (substantially longer than the Briefs in Opp I drafted while with DOJ Tax Appellate, but word inflation has crept into my writings since then).  The key issue that I think readers of this blog would be most interest is (p. (I), p. 2 of the pdf):

2. Whether a charge of conspiring to defraud the United States in violation of 18 U.S.C. 371 is void for vagueness absent a requirement that the government prove a nexus between a defendant’s conduct and a particular administrative proceeding.

This issue is basically the Marinello issue I mentioned in my earlier blog.

Flynn, in the petition for certiorari, stated the issue as follows (p. i, p. 2 of the pdf):

II. Whether the requirement for a nexus between a particular administrative proceeding and a taxpayer’s conduct is necessary to save the constitutionality of a conviction under an 18 U.S.C. § 371 conspiracy to defraud the Internal Revenue Service (Klein Conspiracy) after this Court’s decision in Marinello v. United States, 138 S. Ct. 1101 (2018).

The Government states it arguments on pp. 15-23 (pp. 22-30 of the pdf).  Basically, the arguments are:

Monday, May 17, 2021

FBAR Civil Willful Penalty Collection Suit for $17+ Million with Damning Allegations (5/17/21)

Some FBAR willful penalty collection suits are relatively bare bones, asserting only the essentials.  In United States v. Gaynor, (M.D. Fla. Dkt.  2:21-cv-00382 Dkt # 1 Complaint 5/14/21), CL here, the Government goes beyond the essentials with a detailed recounting of damning facts (see pars. 13-92).

The Complaint breaks down the damning facts in the following categories:

A. Decedent inherited her late husband's Swiss bank account

B. Decedent repeatedly met with Swiss bankers

C. Decedent moved her assets to other Swiss banks to avoid tax compliance

D. Decedent hid the offshore accounts from her CPA

E. Decedent failed to file timely FBARs

F. Decedent belatedly made a “quiet disclosure”

G. Decedent attempted to deceive the IRS during its audit

JAT Comments:

1. One allegation that I found interesting is:

90. In a June 2018 filing with the IRS, Decedent asserted through her attorney that she “knew nothing about Gery or its foreign bank accounts” until 2012. She contended, with emphasis in the original, that her “lack of knowledge” was both “obvious and easily provable.”

Since she made the allegation through her attorney, perhaps it was necessary to say it was through the attorney.  On the other hand, on the facts pled in the earlier paragraphs she certainly knew the allegation was false and, if she knew, why didn't the attorney know.  Of course, sometimes clients do not tell their attorneys the truth, with the result that the attorney can make false representations.  It is interesting in this regard that the complaint does allege that the decedent kept the truth about the foreign accounts from her CPA (see par. D, above).  No such allegation is made about the decedent keeping the truth from the attorney.  Perhaps that is because the IRS or DOJ Tax did not try to go beyond the attorney client privilege.

Supreme Court Opinion in CIC Services LLC On Risk of Criminal Penalty Aspects (5/17/21)

The Supreme Court this morning decided CIC Services, LLC v. IRS, 583 U.S. ___ (2021), here, holding that § 7421(a), the Anti-Injunction Act, did not preclude pre-enforcement review of an IRS Notice requiring “material advisors” in  micro-captive transactions to report information.  I have posted a blog on my Federal Tax Procedure Blog, Supreme Court Holds in CIC Services that IRS Micro-Captive Notice May Be Contested Pre-Enforcement (5/17/21), here.  The Supreme Court holding implicates tax procedure issues, but one excerpt may be interesting to tax crimes enthusiasts (slip Op. 11-12).

Third, violation of the Notice is punishable not only by a tax, but by separate  criminal penalties. As noted above, any “[w]illful failure” to comply with the Notice’s reporting rules can lead to as much as a year in prison. §7203; see supra, at 3–4. That fact clinches the case for treating a suit brought to set aside the Notice as different from one brought to restrain its back-up tax. For the existence of criminal penalties explains why an entity like CIC must bring an action in just  this form, framing its requested relief in just this way. Recall what the Government would [*12] have such a party do: disobey the Notice, pay a resulting tax penalty, and then bring a refund suit. See Brief for Respondents 16–17; supra, at 5. That approach—not the Anti-Injunction Act’s familiar pay-now-sue-later  procedure, but one with lawbreaking at the start—subjects the party to criminal punishment. n3 And that is not the kind of thing an ordinary person risks, even to contest the most burdensome regulation. So the criminal penalties here  practically necessitate a pre-enforcement, rather than a refund, suit—if there is to be a suit at all. And so too, those penalties necessitate a suit aimed at eliminating the Notice, rather than the statutory tax penalty. Only an injunction against the Notice gives the taxpayer or advisor what it wants: relief from the obligation to report transactions. An injunction against the tax penalty would not do so. Because such an injunction would leave both the reporting duty and the criminal penalty untouched, the taxpayer or advisor would still have to accede to the Notice’s demands on pain of prison time. Small wonder that CIC’s complaint asks  for an injunction against the Notice, not one against the tax penalty helping to enforce it. Contrary to the Government’s assertion, those injunctions are not two sides of one coin.

   n3 The Government suggests that criminal liability would not attach to a taxpayer or advisor who refuses to comply with the Notice out of a “good faith” objection to its validity. Brief for Respondents 46. It is easy to see why the Government  wishes that were true: In none of our Anti-Injunction Act cases has postponing a taxpayer’s suit until after payment exposed him to criminal penalties—because in no other case has that approach required a taxpayer to break a law in the first instance. But this Court’s precedent precludes the Government’s effort to erase the criminal penalties from this case. We have held in no uncertain terms that “a defendant’s views about the validity” of a tax provision—even if held “in good faith”—do not “negate[ ] willfulness or provide[ ] a defense to criminal  prosecution.” Cheek v. United States, 498 U. S. 192, 204, 206 (1991). So in failing to report transactions as the Notice requires, an advisor like CIC would risk criminal punishment.

JAT Comments:

Saturday, May 15, 2021

Defendant Sentenced to 2 Years for FBAR and Tax Evasion Conviction After Guilty Plea (5/15/21)

DOJ Tax issued this press release:  Florida Man Sentenced for Evading Taxes on Millions in Secret Offshore Bank Accounts (2/14/21), here.  Key excerpts are:

A resident of Palm Beach County, Florida, was sentenced to 24 months in prison for not reporting his foreign financial accounts from 2006 through 2015 and for willfully evading the assessment of millions in taxes from 2007 through 2014.

 According to court documents, from 2003 through 2009, Dusko Bruer owned and operated a company that bought U.S.-made agricultural machinery and parts and sold them throughout the world. Bruer’s company had numerous employees and reaped millions of dollars in annual gross receipts. Despite its success, Bruer’s company did not file employment or corporate tax returns, nor did the company pay employment or income taxes. Furthermore, from 2003 forward, the company never paid Bruer a salary. Instead, Bruer directed that millions of dollars from the company’s bank accounts be used to pay his personal expenses, to make foreign investments, and to transfer funds to his family members.

 To conceal his income from the IRS, from 2006 through at least 2015, Bruer owned and controlled bank accounts held at financial institutions in Croatia, Germany, Serbia, and Switzerland, which he did not report, in violation of the law. Between 2007 to 2011 alone, Bruer transferred $5.8 million from domestic accounts to these foreign financial accounts. In total, between 2007 and 2014, Bruer did not report receiving $7,726,213 in income, nor did he pay $2,789,538 in taxes. Bruer used his unreported offshore accounts to fund his lifestyle, including the purchase of foreign property, a $1,350,000 yacht, and a 3,200 square foot home in Lake Worth, Florida, with 100 feet of frontage on the Intracoastal Waterway for $1,650,000. 

In addition to the term of imprisonment, Senior U.S. District Court Judge Kenneth A. Marra ordered Bruer to serve two years of supervised release and to pay approximately $2,789,538 in restitution to the United States.

Friday, May 14, 2021

Swiss Insurance Company and DOJ Enter DPA Requiring $77 Million+ Payment and Cooperation (5/14/21)

DOJ Tax issued this press release:  Switzerland’s Largest Insurance Company and Three Subsidiaries Admit to Conspiring with U.S. Taxpayers to Hide Assets and Income in Offshore Accounts (5/13/21), here.  Relevant excerpts are:

Swiss Life Holding AG, Swiss Life (Liechtenstein) AG, Swiss Life (Singapore) Pte. Ltd., and Swiss Life (Luxembourg) S.A. Enter into Deferred Prosecution Agreement for Criminal Misconduct; Agree to Collectively Pay More than $77 Million

The Department of Justice today filed a criminal information charging Swiss Life Holding AG (Swiss Life Holding), Swiss Life (Liechtenstein) AG (Swiss Life Liechtenstein), Swiss Life (Singapore) Pte. Ltd. (Swiss Life Singapore), and Swiss Life (Luxembourg) S.A. (Swiss Life Luxembourg), collectively, the “Swiss Life Entities,” with conspiring with U.S. taxpayers and others to conceal from the IRS more than $1.452 billion in offshore insurance policies, including more than 1,600 insurance wrapper policies, and related policy investment accounts in banks around the world and the income generated in these accounts.

The Justice Department also announced a deferred prosecution agreement with the Swiss Life Entities (“the Agreement”) under which they agreed to accept responsibility for their criminal conduct by stipulating to the accuracy of the Statement of Facts attached to the Agreement. The Agreement requires the Swiss Life Entities to refrain from all future criminal conduct, enhance remedial measures, and continue to cooperate fully with further investigations into hidden insurance policies and related policy investment accounts. Further, as part of today’s resolution, the Swiss Life Entities agreed to pay approximately $77.3 million to the U.S. Treasury, which includes restitution, forfeiture of all gross fees, and a penalty component. If the Swiss Life Entities abide by all of the terms of the Agreement, the government will defer prosecution on the information for three years and then seek to dismiss the charge.

* * * *

According to documents filed today in Manhattan federal court:

Swiss Life Holding is the ultimate parent company of the Swiss Life group of companies (Swiss Life), a Switzerland-based provider of comprehensive life insurance and pension products for individuals and corporations, as well as asset management and financial planning services. From 2005 to 2014, Swiss Life through affiliated insurance carriers in Liechtenstein (Swiss Life Liechtenstein), Luxembourg (Swiss Life Luxembourg), and Singapore (Swiss Life Singapore), (collectively, the PPLI Carriers) maintained approximately 1,608 Private Placement Life Insurance (PPLI) policies. The PPLI Carriers’ issuance and administration of those policies (colloquially known as “insurance wrappers”) and the related investment accounts were often done in a manner to assist U.S. taxpayers in evading U.S. taxes and reporting requirements and concealing the ownership of offshore assets.

Moreover, beginning as early as the summer of 2008, the PPLI Carriers were aware that UBS and other Swiss banks were terminating or reevaluating their business relationships with U.S. clients in response to increasing offshore tax enforcement efforts by U.S. authorities. Certain management and sales personnel within the Swiss Life PPLI Business Unit viewed these developments as a business opportunity to expand the PPLI Business by onboarding U.S. clients who were fleeing UBS and other Swiss banks. Such clients with undeclared assets were typically referred within Swiss Life as “non-comprehensive advice seeking,” which was frequently abbreviated to “NCAS.” Because Swiss Life would be identified as the owner of the policy investment accounts, rather than the U.S. policyholder and/or ultimate beneficial owner of the assets, the insurance wrapper policies could be and were used by unscrupulous U.S. taxpayers to hide undeclared assets and income and to evade taxes. In turn, Swiss Life grew its PPLI business and earned fees on those policies. Members of management of the PPLI Business Unit knew about and authorized the onboarding of U.S. clients without regard to whether they were declared or undeclared.

Swiss Life engaged in other misconduct with respect to U.S.-related policies:

Interesting Complaint in FBAR Collection Suit (5/14/21)

In an original willful FBAR collection complaint filed in United States v.Beyder (D. N.J. Dkt. 3:21-cv-10864 5/6/21 ), here, the following interesting allegations are made:

17. Larisa Beyder has refused to provide bank statements for the BSI ‘999 account. 

18. Larisa Beyder’s father was indicted in 2010 and later pled guilty for a criminal offense related to a failure to file FBARs. Larisa Beyder was the Third-Party Custodian for her father while he awaited sentencing. Larisa Beyder had her BSI ‘999 account at this time. 

* * * *

30. Eduard Beyder has refused to provide bank statements for the BSI ‘453 account.

31. Eduard Beyder’s father-in-law was indicted in 2010 and later pled guilty for a criminal offense related to a failure to file FBARs. Eduard Beyder had the BSI ‘453 account at this time. 

* * * *

33. On May 9, 2019, a delegate of the Secretary of the Treasury assessed civil penalties against Larisa Beyder under 31 U.S.C. § 5321(a)(5) in the amounts of: $258,851 for 2006; $258,851 for 2007; $248,070 for 2008; $248,070 for 2009; $200,566 for 2010; and $152,344 for 2011, for a total assessed amount of $1,366,752. 

* * * *

37. As of April 12, 2021, Larisa Beyder is indebted to the United States with respect to the penalties described in Paragraph 33, above, in the amount of $1,549,185.31, plus statutory additions that continue to accrue thereafter as provided by law. 

38. On May 14, 2019, a delegate of the Secretary of the Treasury assessed civil penalties against Eduard Beyder under 31 U.S.C. § 5321(a)(5) in the amount of $100,000 per year for each of the 2007 through 2011 calendar years, for a total assessed amount of $500,000. 

* * * * 

42. As of April 12, 2021, Eduard Beyder is indebted to the United States with respect to the penalties described in Paragraph 38, above, in the amount of $566,835.62, plus statutory additions that continue to accrue thereafter as provided by law.

JAT Comments:

Thursday, May 13, 2021

Musings on Routine Petition to Quash Summons Denial (5/13/21)

In Sturman v. United States (N.D. Cal. Case No. 20-cv-07787-JSC Dkt. Entry 26 Order dated 5/12/21), CL here and TN pdf here, the Court sustained the summons.  This is fairly routine, so I will not pursue the details in this blog entry.

What caught my eye is that the Petitioner on the Petition to Quash Summons, CL here, is David A. Sturman.  That name rung a bell.  A prominent tax crimes case is United States v. Sturman, 951 F.2d 1466, 1476 (6th Cir. 1991), here, which I have discussed in several blogs (see here).  I could not quickly figure out whether it is the same David A. Sturman.  If anybody knows, please comment or email me at jack@tjtaxlaw.com.

Side note:  Tax Analysts / Tax Notes, under sponsorship of Deloitte, provides original tax documents including court opinions.  Deloitte and Tax Analysts Open Tax Analysts Library to Public Without Subscription ( Federal Tax Crimes Blog 1/11/21), here.  The court opinions are provided in OCR text format and in pdf format (Tax Court pdf with Tax Notes stamp).  For example, in this Sturman case, the OCR is here and the pdf is here.  The OCR seems to have everything except the case number which is on the first page of the pdf copy.  That's a bit weird.  Similarly, I have noted that, when TN offers a Tax Court case, the OCR does not have the citation (TC or TCM but the pdf does).  See, for example, the OCR here and the pdf here for a recent case, BRC Operating Co. LLC v. Commissioner, T.C. Memo. 2021-59.  For the actual citation, you have to link to the TN pdf which has the TCM citation as the first item on the Court's TCM Slip Op. (with TN stamp)  That too is weird.  I am not sure what Tax Notes' and Deloitte's respective strategies are for excluding that key information from the OCR copy, for it seems to be a deliberate omission that a robot OCR routine would not leave out.

Other note:  I check the links when I post and they work OK, but I have noticed that some of the TN links for the pdf will not work after a time.  I am not sure why that is the case.  For future posts, I will stick to Court or CourtListener links.  

Racehorse Haynes and Criminal Trial Stories (5/13/21)

I was sharing a Racehorse Haynes anecdote with a friend and thought it might be worth posting as a light note on the Federal Tax Crimes Blog.  Racehorse Haynes was a legendary Texas criminal defense lawyer.  He has his own Wikipedia page, here. The anecdote I shared with a friend is from an ABA article on him in 2009.  Mark Curriden, Richard 'Racehorse' Haynes (ABAJournal 3/2/09), here.  The article has some good stories about Racehorse.

The anecdote I shared with my friend is this pungent advice to new criminal lawyers (wrapping up the article of anecdotes):

Haynes loves discussing his cases to teach young lawyers about trial practice. In 1978, he told attendees at an ABA meeting in New York City that attorneys too often limit their strategic defense options in court. When evidence inevitably surfaces that contradicts the defense’s position, lawyers need to have a backup plan.

“Say you sue me because you say my dog bit you,” he told the audience. “Well, now this is my defense: My dog doesn’t bite. And second, in the alternative, my dog was tied up that night. And third, I don’t believe you really got bit.”

His final defense, he said, would be: “I don’t have a dog.”

Another one that my friend like was:

Haynes has lived by the advice of his mentor, legendary Texas trial lawyer Percy Foreman: “If you can prove the victim abused a dog or a horse, you can convince the jury that the guy deserved to be killed.”

“For some reason,” Haynes continues, “cats don’t apply.”

I am not sure how you fit those anecdotes into a criminal tax practice.  Perhaps it might go something like this in a tax evasion case centering on a filed tax return with intentional omissions of taxable income:

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

CA9 Holds that Suspension of Limitations Act (“WSLA”) Applies to Fraud and Property Offense Crimes Without Nexus to War or Authorized Use of Armed Forces (5/13/21)

In United States v. Nishiie,  2021 U.S. App. LEXIS 14017 (9th Cir. 5/12/21), here, in a nontax criminal case, the Court held that the Wartime Suspension of Limitations Act (“WSLA”), 18 U.S.C. § 3287, here, applies to suspend the criminal statute of limitations for fraud and property offense crimes “whether or not a nexus exists between these offenses and either war or ‘authorized use of the Armed Forces.’“ (Quote is from the Ninth Circuit’s Summary.)

 After reaching that conclusion, the Court said (Slip Op. 29-32, emphasis supplied):

            We recognize the WSLA “creates an exception to a longstanding congressional ‘policy of repose’ that is fundamental to our society and our criminal law.” Bridges, 346 U.S. at 215–16. The WSLA suspends already-running statutes of limitation when its conditions are met. As we detail, the WSLA unambiguously tolls the statute of limitations during any period of war or authorization of the use of the Armed Forces. We are acutely aware—and somewhat concerned—that this interpretation, while legally correct, may effectively toll the statute of limitations for offenses under the WSLA for 20, 30, even 40 plus years. In large part that results from the expansion of war powers far beyond what they were when the WSLA was codified in 1948. Any policy concern for subjecting defendants to [*30] decades-long liability is subordinated to the WSLA’s unambiguous language.

            “We sit as judges, not as legislators . . .” California v. Ramos, 463 U.S. 992, 1014 (1983). “It is hardly this Court’s place to pick and choose among competing policy arguments . . . selecting whatever outcome seems to us most congenial, efficient, or fair. Our license to interpret statutes does not include the power to engage in . . . judicial policymaking.” Pereida v. Wilkinson, 141 S. Ct. 754, 766–67 (2021). Inducing perpetual limbo for potential criminal defendants under the WSLA is presumably not what Congress had contemplated. Nor did the 1940s era Congress likely anticipate the transformation of warfare. Our interpretation may seem like a gratuitous reading in light of modern criminal justice reform. “But our public policy is fixed by Congress, not the courts.” Bridges, 346 U.S. at 231 (Reed, J., dissenting). Readily apparent from the WSLA’s amendment history is that Congress is fully capable of changing course and cabining the reach of any statute of limitations if it decides public policy warrants such a change. See Ramos v. Wolf, 975 F.3d 872, 900 (9th Cir. 2020) (R. Nelson, J., concurring) (“Our sole responsibility as Article III judges is narrow—‘to say what the law is.’”) (quoting Marbury v. Madison, 5 U.S. (1 Cranch) 137, 177, 2 L.Ed. 60 (1803)); id. (“By constitutional design, the branch that is qualified to establish . . . policy and check any excesses in the implementation of that policy is Congress.”) (citing City & Cnty. of San Francisco v. U.S. Citizenship & Immigr. Servs., 944 F.3d 773, 809 (9th Cir. 2019) (Bybee, J., concurring)).

Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Mens Rea in Tax Crimes and Acceptance of Responsibility (5/11/21)

In United States v. Roskovski, 2021 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 84379 (W.D. Pa. May 3, 2021), here, the Court denied (again) Roskovski’s attempt to withdraw his guilty plea for violations of 18 U.S.C. § 1014 (False Statements in a Loan Application) and 26 U.S.C. § 7206(1) (Filing a False Tax Return).  The Counts involved in the plea were Courts 36 and 42; apparently, a lot of counts were dropped in return for the guilty plea to the two counts.  Roskovski claimed that he did not understand the plea as it relates the required mens rea that the Government must prove at trial for the two counts.  Roskovski claimed innocence because “he lacked the necessary intent.”  Among his claims were:

As to the charge of filing a false income tax return, Mr. Roskovski was under the mistaken impression that the mere underreporting of income was sufficient to establish his guilt at trial. [ ] Mr. Roskovski misunderstood from his discussions with prior counsel that preponderance of evidence was not the standard on the intent element to be applied if he were to go to trial. [ ]

As to the charge of making a false statement in connection with a loan application, Mr. Roskovski mistakenly believed that falsity, without the required element of intent proved beyond a reasonable doubt, was also sufficient to establish his guilt at trial. [ ] Mr. Roskovski misunderstood from his discussions with prior counsel the correct burden to be applied at trial, and, as a result, he believed that the mere inclination that he should have known of the falsity was sufficient to prove his guilt at trial. [ ] Mr. Roskovski had a genuine misunderstanding as to the standard for intent for both charges for which he pleaded guilty.

With regard to each, Roskovski alleged "the complex interplay between the burdens of proof required at the conviction versus the sentencing phases in federal fraud cases is a difficult field even for experienced federal legal practitioners, much less laymen."

The Court did not accept the claims and denied the Motion to Withdraw.  The Court thought that Roskovski could just not accept the potential sentencing in the case, particularly after  the Presentence Investigation Report was filed where the potential sentence was forced on his consciousness.

I don’t think there is anything particularly noteworthy about the case except that it raises the mens rea required, particularly for tax crimes with the Cheek definition of willfulness – intentional violation of a known legal duty.  The prosecution must prove that level of mens rea beyond a reasonable doubt.  Roskovski claimed, in effect, that he had not been adequately counseled about the proof required for the mens rea element of the crimes to which he pled and therefore that his plea should not stand because he could not admit the crime with the mens rea element properly understood.