Defendant has moved the court to amend its previous Order and Memorandum Opinion with regard to three sections. First, Defendant objects to the use of the terms "tax evasion" and "failing to pay" in the first sentence of the second paragraph of the Memorandum Opinion (Doc. #49 at 1). (Doc. #55 at 1). * * *
1. Use of the Terms "Tax Evasion" and "Failing to Pay"
The relevant sentence in the court's previous Memorandum Opinion which Defendant questions states, in full, that:
Defendant has been charged with three counts of misdemeanor tax evasion under 26 U.S.C. § 7203 for failing to pay his personal income taxes in 2006, 2007, and 2008.
(Doc. #49 at 1) (filed under seal). Defendant objects to the use of the terms "tax evasion" and "failing to pay," both on the ground that they misrepresent the Information. The arguments related to each of these terms are slightly different, so the court will address each term separately.
First, Defendant argues that use of the term "tax evasion" is inappropriate because Defendant was not charged with felony "tax evasion" under § 7201, but with a misdemeanor violation of § 7203. (Doc. #55 at 1-2). This is a strawman argument. The court did not say that Defendant is charged with felony tax evasion under § 7201, but that he is "charged with three counts of misdemeanor tax evasion under 26 U.S.C. § 7203." (Doc. #49 at 1). The court is well aware that a § 7201 violation is a felony and a § 7203 violation is a misdemeanor. Courts have long distinguished the two by referring to the former as "felony tax evasion" and the latter as "misdemeanor tax evasion." n1 The term "misdemeanor tax evasion" is, of course, a shorthand for "willful failure to file return, supply information, or pay tax in violation of 26 U.S.C. § 7203." To help ensure that a reader might not accidentally read "misdemeanor tax evasion" to mean "felony tax evasion," the court specifically indicated that Defendant was charged with three violations of 26 U.S.C. § 7203. (Doc. #49 at 1).
n1 See e.g. United States v. Winfield, 960 F.2d 970, 972 (11th Cir. 1992); United States v. Brown, 548 F.2d 1194, 1199 (5th Cir. 1977); United States v. Schafer, 580 F.2d 774, 781 (5th Cir. 1978); United States v. Thompson, 518 F.3d 832, 866 n.18 (10th Cir. 2008).
Defendant next argues that the Memorandum Opinion incorrectly asserts that he is being prosecuted for wilfully failing to "pay" his taxes when, in fact, the Information charges that he willfully failed to "file" his tax return. n2 (Doc. #55 at 2) (filed under seal). Indeed, Defendant further asserts, he had actually filed and paid his 2005, 2006, and 2007 tax returns on October 13, 2010. (Id.). Defendant's argument does not hold water.
n2 Whether a person can pay his taxes without filing a tax return is a question the court will leave for philosophers to resolve.
The Information clearly and explicitly charges Defendant with three violations of 26 U.S.C. § 7203. (Doc. #1 at 1-3). The relevant provisions of the statute state that:
Any person required under this title to pay any estimated tax or tax, or required by this title or by regulations made under authority thereof to make a return, keep any records, or supply any information, who willfully fails to pay such estimated tax or tax, make such return, keep such records, or supply such information, at the time or times required by law or regulations, shall, in addition to other penalties provided by law, be guilty of a misdemeanor...
26 U.S.C. § 7203 (emphasis added). As the statute makes clear, Defendant is charged with willfully failing to pay his taxes. Furthermore, whether Defendant, in October 2010, paid taxes that were years overdue is irrelevant; he is required by statute to have paid them at the time or times required by law or regulations.I avoid the use of the term "misdemeanor tax evasion," because I think it is confusing. Here is the short discussion I just added as a footnote in my Federal Tax Crimes book:
In this regard, some courts described the § 7203 failure to pay crime as “misdemeanor tax evasion.” E.g., United States v. Thompson, 518 F.3d 832, 865-866 (10th Cir. 2008). So long as the misdemeanor description accompanies “tax evasion” when referring to § 7203, I suppose that description is harmless. I think most practitioners and courts refer to the § 7203 crime as failure to pay (or file, as appropriate) rather an as “misdemeanor tax evasion,” and refer to the crime in §7201 as tax evasion. In other words, when they say tax evasion, they mean the felony crime of tax evasion and adding felony would be redundant in the common understanding. So, I think it breeds confusion to speak of the § 7203 offense of failure to pay as “misdemeanor tax evasion.” In any event, so long as it is clear that § 7203 is being referenced, referring to the crime as “misdemeanor tax evasion” is harmless. See United States v. Lyerly, 2013 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 67588 (ND AL 2013).