Leading Tax Crimes Cases

The purpose of this page is to provide links to what I consider to be major tax crimes cases.  The links are to a service called CaseText, a free services, that not only provides the case text but some analytical tools, often offered by practitioners (at least that is the goal of the relatively new service).

This will be a work in process.  I will populate it over time.  So bear with me.  Also, in any case, it is a subjective list.  Most practitioners of the art would likely agree with 90% of the cases as being leading tax cases.  Some may only be leading in my imagination.

Boulware v. United States, 552 U.S. 421 (2008), here.  Boulware refines tax evasion elements, principally tax due, from the original Spies holding.

Bryan v. United States, 524 U.S. 184 (1998), here.  Bryan is not a tax case, but has interesting discussion of the willfulness element for tax crimes)

Cheek v. United States, 498 U.S. 192 (1991), here.  Cheek is the latest of the Supreme Court's major cases on willfulness, which is required for most tax / Title 26 crimes.

Hammerschmidt v. United States, 265 U.S. 182 (1924), here.  Hammerschmidt now is the leading case on the defraud conspiracy.  In a tax setting, this type of conspiracy with the Hammerschmidt spin on it is known as the Klein conspiracy, after United States v. Klein, 247 F.2d 908 (2d Cir. 1957), cited below.

Haas v. Henkel, 216 U.S. 462 (1910), here.  Haas created the defraud conspiracy problem that Hammerschmidt sought to solve.

Holland v. United States, 348 U.S. 121 (1954), here.  Holland is a leading case on the indirect methods of proof in criminal tax cases.

James v. United States, 366 U.S. 213 (1961), here.  James is the fountainhead of jurisprudence for proposition that evasion requires that the taxpayer both know the law he intends to evade (a subjective determination for the trier of fact) and the law must be knowable (an objective determination for the judge).

Rutkin v. United States, 343 U.S. 130 (1952), here.  Rutkin was a predecessor case that required the Supreme Court to render the James decision.

Sansone v. United States, 380 U.S. 343 (1965), here.  Sansone deals with potentially overlapping tax crimes and the concept of lesser included offense.  It also condones the claiming of previously unclaimed tax deductions in the case in chief in a tax crimes case (a gambit which is now more limited as a means to mitigate the tax loss in the application of the sentencing guidelines).

Spies v. United States, 317 U.S. 492 (1943), hereSpies is the fountainhead tax evasion opinion.

United States v. Bishop, 412 U. S. 346 (1973), here.

United States v. Caldwell, 989 F.2d 1056 (9th Cir. 1993), here.  Caldwell is powerfully rejects the notion that the defraud / Klein conspiracy can apply if all the defendant does is make the IRS's job harder.  Similar reasoning would probably applied to tax obstruction, Section 7212(a)>

United States v. Coplan, 703 F.3d 46 (2d Cir. 2012), here.  Coplan questions the Hammerschmidt / Klein expansion of the defraud conspiracy beyond the generally accepted meaning of defraud.

United States v. Garber, 589 F.2d 843 (5th Cir. 1979), here.  Garber is a progeny of James.

United States v. Garber, 607 F.2d 92 (5th Cir. 1979), here.  Id.

United States v. Ingredient Technology, 698 F.2d 88 (2d Cir. 1983), here.  Ingredient Technology offers learning on several key concepts in tax crimes.  Click on the case and read the opening paragraph for its flavor.

United States v. Klein, 247 F.2d 908 (2d Cir. 1957), here.  Klein is the leading defraud conspiracy case in a tax setting.  It applies Hammerschmidt.  Defraud conspiracies in a tax setting are called Klein conspiracies.  Sometimes outside a tax setting, they are called Klein conspiracies, but it seems to me that they should more properly be called Hammerschmidt conspiracies outside the tax setting.

United States v. Pinkerton, 328 U.S. 640 (1946), here.

United States v. Stein, 541 F.3d 130 (2d Cir. 2008), here.  The then largest tax fraud case in history, involving KPMG defendants.  This criminal case spawned many opinions.  This one is probably the most significant.  Thirteen defendants were dismissed for prosecutorial abuse -- forcing KPMG to cut off attorneys fees for those defendants.