Friday, May 25, 2012

Has DOJ Tax Crossed the Line in its Press Releases? (5/25/12)

Press releases are an important component of the Government's war on tax crime.  The notion is that, for maximum general tax enforcement bang for the limited criminal enforcement buck, the public needs to hear that tax crimes are enforced and thereby encourage better tax behavior.  Hence, publicity of criminal tax charges, convictions and sentences, by the IRS and by DOJ Tax is standard, almost daily, fare.  For the IRS's publicity policy statement, see IRM  (Approved 05-23-1986), Policy Statement 1-183, here; for DOJ Tax's Policies, see AAG Memo of 9/8/2000, here; For DOJ Tax's 2012 press releases, see here.  U.S. Attorneys also issue press releases in selective tax cases.

DOJ Tax recently issued a press release that has drawn controversy.  The title of the press release is:  Georgia Tax Cheats Indicted for Conspiring to Defraud the United States (5/23/12), here,  The White Collar Crime Prof Blog questions the ethical propriety of the release.  See DOJ Press Release Treads on Presumption of Innocence (White Collar Crime Prof Blog 5/24/12), here.  Not only does the author of the blog call out DOJ Tax, but, via a comment to that blog (see the blog), so does Professor Monroe Freedman, a law professor and noted expert on ethics, see here.  The point is that by calling them tax cheats DOJ has pronounced their guilt in a way that impairs the presumption of innocence.  It would have been better to just say that the individuals were charged rather than calling the tax cheats or, alternatively, calling them alleged tax cheats.  But alleged tax cheats may not have the same punch as just tax cheats.

I would appreciate comment from this community on the issues raised as to press releases.

I am aware of no response yet from DOJ Tax.  I will post one if I hear of it.


  1. Refer the offender to the Ethics Committee. That's what I would do if I were the defendant's lawyer.


    U.S. taxpayers who make an honest mistake
    on their taxes will never get to the level of the press announcement of an unsealed
    indictment by the IRS or DOJ. That is reserved for tax cheats.


    Is this not the real problem?


    But, I know the word scholars in Arizona
    are working on the term "Illegal immigrant" to be made a "Hate"
    crime (not politically correct) you may want to ask them, they may have an idea
    or two for the word tax cheat…..   

  3. I agree with the commentators on this posting. I would add that I would certainly encourage the defendant's attorney to make appropriate evidential use of the press release at trial or other proceedings.

  4. Unfortunately this is not new.  I have seen press releases from regulatory agencies regarding cases with which I am very familiar.

  5. I questioned the ethics of this when I worked for DOJ Tax and was told to shut up. On the civil side, often the complaints barely pass the Rule 11 test and are filed with little evidence, but the attorney is required to write a press release at the same time as he or she writes the complaint. It's unethical, in my opinion, to require attorneys in your section to go to the press in order to file a complaint.

  6. Those complicated IRS and taxation issues are very important for any business and I am very glad every time I read interesting tax law blog post. Thank you for this post. I think that there are lots of attorneys among your friends. If I am right, many of them can submit contacts to Attorney Directory for free. Rubric of Georgia tax attorneys  is supposed to be the most appropriate one, but there are many others. By the way, I wish such good author as you to publish articles and blog posts on Attorney Online.


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