Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Lies, Dams Lies and Statistics - DOJ's Promo Stats (4/9/13)

DOJ has just released DOJ Tax's promo PR as it Raison d'être, here.  This is a promo piece for DOJ -- and DOJ Tax, specifically.  And the piece has statistics, a play on Moneyball.  As I note in my Tax Procedure Book, Benjamin Disreali (or someone else) once mused that “there are lies, damned lies, and statistics.” I have discuss and expressed skepticism before about the DOJ Tax's statistics as they are presented in promo pieces.  The question is whether the statistics are even valid, but more importantly whether, as presented, they convey truth.  (Truth is not the same as literal accuracy.)   [Here are the contents of my footnote for the Disreali quote:  "This quote is commonly attributed to Benjamin Disreali, but sometimes it is attributed to Mark Twain. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lies%2C_damned_lies%2C_and_statistics.  Even the attribution to Disreali has its doubters.  See http://www.york.ac.uk/depts/maths/histstat/lies.htm.]  I have tried unsuccessfully to have DOJ explain its claims / statistics before, without success; I will try once again to see what is behind the claims; in the meantime, I can present here only the claims; I do offer, however, to DOJ Tax personnel reading this blog entry to publish a guest blog going beneath the statistics claimed; I hope DOJ Tax will take my invitation.]  Here are the some excerpts (bold facing added by JAT):
The Tax Division’s primary purpose is to enforce the nation’s tax laws fully, fairly, and consistently, through both criminal and civil litigation. Some of the division’s accomplishments from the past fiscal year (FY 2012) include  
· Favorable outcomes were achieved in over 95 percent of all civil and criminal cases litigated by the Tax Division. 
· The division authorized 938 grand jury investigations and 1,751 prosecutions of individual defendants. 
· Division prosecutors obtained 127 indictments and 137 convictions. Those figures do not include additional criminal tax prosecutions handled exclusively by U.S. Attorney’s Offices nationwide. 
· The division collected over $290 million through affirmative civil litigation and retained over $1.1 billion through defensive tax refund and other litigation. 
· Taking into account the tax dollars collected and refunds not paid as a result of our successful litigation efforts, over the past five fiscal years (FY 2008-2012), the division’s attorneys have returned to the Federal Treasury an average of $14 for each dollar invested. 
* * * *
Prosecuting Tax Offenses 
The Tax Division has supervisory authority over all criminal conduct involving federal tax laws. The Division has always maintained as a central focus the investigation and prosecution of tax crimes, including tax evasion, failure to file returns, submission of false tax returns, and other conduct designed to violate federal tax laws. Tax Division attorneys are also particularly adept at prosecuting tax defiers—those individuals who purposefully refuse to comply with the tax laws and use frivolous arguments to support their positions. 
Some of the Tax Division’s criminal tax prosecution highlights from the past year include:
· April 2013 - Jeffrey Charles of Grimstead, Va., was sentenced to 46 months in prison and ordered to pay $300,000 in restitution for conspiracy, aiding and assisting in the preparation of false tax returns, and filing a false tax return.

· March 2013 - Tyrone Thompson, a Georgia tax return preparer, was sentenced to 137 months in prison and ordered to pay $516,363 in restitution for conspiracy and filing fraudulent tax returns in order to receive tax refunds to which he was not entitled. 
 · March 2013 - Timothy Turner, the self-proclaimed “president” of the so-called sovereign citizen group “Republic for the United States of America” (RuSA), was found guilty of conspiracy to defraud the United States, attempting to pay taxes with fictitious financial instruments, attempting to obstruct and impede the IRS, failing to file a 2009 federal income tax return, and falsely testifying under oath. 
· January 2013 - Michael Wayne Davis, II, of Raleigh, N.C., formerly of Eagle, Idaho, was sentenced to 51 months in prison and ordered to pay nearly $1 million in restitution for wire fraud and filing a false tax return. Davis formerly owned Xpress Flex Inc., a Boise-based company that administered employee-benefit plans, and Payroll America, a Boise payroll services company. 
 · October 2012 - James Norman Turek, former president of a Lexington, Ky., based company, was sentenced to 18 years in prison for securities fraud and tax fraud. The evidence showed that Turek, through his company, Plasticon International Inc., defrauded thousands of investors nationwide out of more than $18 million, and that he filed false tax returns by failing to report approximately $12 million. 
 · June 2012 - Richard Stewart of Mitchellville, Md., was sentenced to 24 months in prison and ordered to pay $5,414,647 in restitution for failing to pay over employment taxes in connection with his ownership of Montgomery Mechanical Services. 
Halting the Spread of Tax Shelters 
The Tax Division plays a critical role in the government's efforts to combat abusive tax shelters.These cases involve more than a billion dollars in tax revenue, and affect billions more owed by other taxpayers.In recent years, the division’s civil litigators at both the trial and appellate levels have won important victories in cases involving tax shelters with names such as Son of BOSS, BLIPS, CARDS, DAD and SILO/LILO. 
 Some of the division’s successes this year include:
· February 2013 - the division prevailed in a tax shelter case involving $1 billion in phony tax deductions claimed by a major U.S. corporation as a result of two abusive tax shelter transactions. In United States v. Chemtech Royalty Associates, L.P., the federal district court in Baton Rouge, La., following a lengthy trial, determined that the shelter transactions lacked economic substance and that the partnership at issue should be disregarded because it had no purpose other than to create tax benefits. In addition to rejecting the purported tax benefits from these transactions, the court also imposed penalties. 
 · February 2013 - the division’s appellate section successfully defended a favorable Tax Court ruling in Crispin v. Commissioner, a case involving the CARDS tax shelter. The Third Circuit Court of Appeals upheld both the denial of the claimed tax benefits and the imposition of a 40 percent gross-valuation-misstatement penalty. 
· January 2013 - the division’s appellate section secured a reversal of the lone trial court decision that had upheld the purported tax benefits generated by the “lease-in/lease-out” (LILO) tax shelter, in Consolidated Edison Co. v. United States, a case decided by the Federal Circuit. 
 Investigating Offshore Evasion 
The Tax Division continues to play a leading role in investigations and prosecutions involving the use of foreign tax havens. According to a 2008 Senate report, the use of secret offshore accounts to evade U.S. taxes costs the Treasury at least $100 billion annually. The Division is committed to investigating offshore tax evasion around the globe. The division’s current offshore program began in 2008, with the investigation of UBS, which resulted in the 2009 UBS deferred prosecution agreement . Since 2008, the division has charged a total of 30 banking professionals and 62 account holders, which charges have so far resulted in three convictions after trial and 55 guilty pleas, including 16 guilty pleas this year alone. 
In January, 2013, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Southern District of New York secured the guilty plea of Wegelin Bank, the oldest private bank in Switzerland, and the first foreign bank to plead guilty to felony tax charges. Appearing on behalf of the bank, managing partner Otto Bruderer admitted that the bank had conspired to defraud the United States by helping U.S. account holders hide assets from the IRS in undeclared accounts. In the same month, the federal district court in New York entered an order authorizing the IRS to issue a “John Doe” summons seeking records of Wegelin’s United States correspondent account at UBS, which will allow the United States to determine the identity of U.S. taxpayers who may hold accounts at Wegelin and other banks based in Switzerland to evade federal income taxes. In the past year, the Division has charged 8 banking professionals and 11 account holders in connection with investigations into offshore banks located in India, Israel, and Switzerland. 
 Some highlights from the division and the U.S. Attorney’s Offices includes: 
 · March 2013 - Zvi Sperling, of Los Angeles, pleaded guilty to conspiring to defraud the United States in connection with loans secured by funds in undeclared bank accounts in Israel. As part of the plea, Sperling admitted to failing to report over $380,000 in income and agreed to pay a civil penalty of 50 percent on his share of the high balance in the Israeli accounts, which at one point was $4 million. 
 · January 2013 - Mary Estelle Curran of Palm Beach, Fla., pleaded guilty to filing a false tax return for 2006 and 2007 and admitted that she had maintained an undeclared account at UBS. The plea agreement included a penalty of over $21.6 million for failing to file Reports of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts (FBARs). 
 · August 2012 - Arvind Ahuja, a Wisconsin neurosurgeon who maintained an undeclared account at HSBC India, was convicted following a jury trial of filing a false 2009 income tax return and failing to file an FBAR.
The press release is timed to coincide with the tax filing season. Nothing surprising there.

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