Thursday, October 21, 2021

Former IRS Tax Advocate Employee Indicted for Tax Evasion and Tax Obstruction (10/21/21)

DOJ Tax announced here the indictment of Wayne M. Garvin, previously Supervisory Associate Advocate with IRS’s Taxpayer Advocate Service in Philadelphia.  The indictment on CL is here.  The indictment charges three counts of tax evasion (§ 7201) and two counts of tax obstruction (§ 7212(a)).  The counts relate to false deductions on income tax returns and submission of false documents during the civil and criminal investigations. 

Key excerpts from the press release.

According to the indictment, Wayne M. Garvin, currently of Columbia, South Carolina, and previously of Philadelphia, allegedly filed individual income tax returns for the years 2012 through 2016 on which he claimed fraudulent deductions and expenses, including charitable contribution deductions and expenses associated with rental properties that he owned for some years. For the year 2013, Garvin also allegedly claimed he had expenses associated with service in the U.S. Army Reserves even though he did not perform any reservist duty that year. At the time Garvin filed his false tax returns, he was employed as a Supervisory Associate Advocate with the IRS’s Taxpayer Advocate Service in Philadelphia.

The indictment also alleges that after the IRS began an audit of Garvin’s 2013 and 2014 tax returns, Garvin submitted fraudulent documents to the IRS revenue agent conducting the audit. Among other fraudulent documents, Garvin allegedly created receipts from a church, invoices from a contractor and a letter from the Department of the Army in an attempt to convince the IRS he was entitled to claim the deductions and expenses on his returns. Garvin allegedly submitted the fraudulent documents to the IRS to prevent the IRS from assessing additional taxes against him for 2013 and 2014. Finally, the indictment alleges that after the IRS notified Garvin that he was under criminal investigation for filing false tax returns, Garvin provided the same fraudulent documents to IRS Criminal Investigation that Garvin previously provided to the IRS revenue agent.

 JAT Comments:

1. I am reminded of the old adage that, when you have dug yourself into a hole, stop digging.  See the Wikipedia Entry on the Law of Holes, here (the entry notes: "The second law of holes is commonly known as: 'when you stop digging, you are still in a hole.'"

2. Done.

Reader Request for Pro Bono Local Counsel in ED VA (Alexandria) (10/21/21)

Anthony Verni of Verni Tax Law, here, has asked that I post the following information and request about his need for local counsel in an FBAR collection case (nonwillful penalty) in the Eastern District of Virginia.  Anthony is serving pro bono and seeks a local counsel willing to serve pro bono as well.

I am a New Jersey Attorney who is interested in representing a husband and wife, who are Virginia Residents pro bono. The suit, which was initially filed in California, but transferred to the Eastern District of Virginia, seeks to reduce FBAR assessments to a judgement. Treasury asserted the Non-Willful FBAR Penalty against both the husband and wife for multiple years, since the taxpayers exceeded the maximum amounts in the mitigation guidelines.

The Taxpayer and his spouse entered the OVDI in 2014 and submitted all the necessary reports, amended returns and penalty worksheet. Unfortunately, the law firm (Hogan Lovells) and accounting firm committed serious errors. From what I can glean, no one ever reviewed the FBARS and other filings, prior to filing. It also appears that very little was done in terms of follow up. Sometime in the latter part of 2016, the Law Firm withdrew from representing the Taxpayers. The Taxpayers subsequently hired the Anaford Law Firm out of Zurich, who in turn assigned the matter to one of its U.S. Attorneys, Milan K. Patel.

From my review it appears that the Anaford Law Firm did little, if anything, to either advance or protects the taxpayers’ rights. In March of 2017 the IRS removed the taxpayers from the OVDI and thereafter conducted an examination of the Taxpayers.  In addition, Mr. Patel was subsequently indicted and convicted on securities fraud and is currently serving a 15 month sentence.

In July of 2018 the IRS assessed Non Willful FBAR Penalties against each of the Taxpayers in the amount of $421,000.

There are a number of issues that both the service and the taxpayers never addressed including the number of accounts and the propriety of assessing penalties against the Spouse, who neither had an interest in nor was a signatory to any of the Foreign Financial Accounts. I need to retain local counsel on a pro bono basis to permit me to file a motion pro hac vice and represent these two taxpayers.  The case is captioned as United States of America v. Waheeb G. Antakly and Maria T. Antakly: Case Number: 1:21-cv-00801 (LO/JFA). The case is venued in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia (Alexandria Division). The answer is due by the 25th of October, and as such, is time sensitive. I had asked the taxpayers to contact the DOJ Attorney handling this matter to see if the government will grant a short extension.

My reason for wanting to represent these taxpayers is based upon their current financial condition and based upon the poor representation they received thus far. I typically will handle one to two tax cases per year on a pro bono basis. This case caught my attention since it has novel issues pertaining to the mitigation guidelines and whether the taxpayer’s spouse, in fact, had an interest in or was signatory to any of the foreign financial accounts.

I can be reached at (561)531-8809 or by email at Anthony@vernitaxlaw.com.  I sure would appreciate it if someone could assist in this worthwhile effort. If I am unable to secure local counsel I will be unable to assist the taxpayers.

Monday, October 18, 2021

U.S. Sentencing Commission Judiciary Sentencing Information (“JSIN”) for Judges (10/17/21)

The U.S. Sentencing Commission has a tool on its website, titled Judiciary Sentencing Information, here.  The web page explains:

What is the Judiciary Sentencing Information (JSIN) platform?

The Judiciary Sentencing Information (JSIN) platform is an online sentencing data resource specifically developed with the needs of judges in mind. The platform provides quick and easy online access to sentencing data for similarly-situated defendants. JSIN expands upon the Commission’s longstanding practice of providing sentencing data at the request of federal judges by making some of the data provided through these special requests more broadly and easily available. If the court does consider the sentencing information provided by JSIN as part of its consideration of the factors in 18 U.S.C. § 3553(a) when imposing sentence, it should do so only after considering the properly calculated guideline range and any applicable departures provided for in the Guidelines Manual.

The page offers a link to the tool, here, and “Frequently Asked Questions” about the tool.

Since the tool is for judges, with a presumption that some judges will use it and may have sentencing decisions influenced by it, prosecution and defense counsel should be familiar with how it works.

The Sentencing Law and Policy Blog has here a good post (with further links) titled "Sentencing Commission Data Tool Is Deeply Flawed" (quotation marks in the title, to indicate that it is reporting on a Law360 article (paywall).  The SLP Blog quotes the Law 360 article by Michael Yaeger extensively, so access to the Law360 article may not be required for some useful information.  It is interesting that the illustrative example Yaeger offers for his concerns about the limitations of the tool is a tax example as follows:

When JSIN is queried for stats on the position of the sentencing table for U.S. Sentencing Commission Section 2T1.1 — tax evasion, offense level 17 and criminal history I — JSIN reports the median sentence as 18 months.  But when one uses the commission's full dataset to calculate the median on that same cohort (Section 2T1.1, level 17, history I, no 5K1.1) and includes sentences of probation, the median is significantly lower.  Instead of JSIN's 18 months, the median is just 12 months. That's a whole six months lower — and a 33% decrease....

Yeager then is quoted as concluding:

Friday, October 15, 2021

Court Sustains Willful FBAR Penalty for Two of Four Years (10/15/21)

In United States v. Hughes, (N.D. Cal. 3:18-cv-05931-JCS Entry 162 10/13/21), CL here and TN here, the Court (Magistrate Judge by consent) held in Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law Regarding Willfulness (“FF&CL”) in an FBAR collection suit that the defendant, Timberly E. Hughes, was liable for the FBAR willful penalty for 2 of the 4 years for which the Government sought judgment.  For the two years that the Court did not sustain the willful FBAR penalty, the Court did not find Hughes nonwillful but held that the Government had not met its burden of proof.  (As the Court worded it, if the Court could have found her nonwillful, it would have done so, but instead found that the Government had not met its burden of proof, which  I infer means that the Court was in equipoise, the only circumstances that permits burden of proof to control the result.)

I am not sure that the conclusion that the Government had not met its burden of proof is supported by the Court’s findings.  I think that the inferences the Court drew on the objective findings are suspect.  The Court does state that it applied the reckless standard for the finding of willfulness.  But I am surprised that, on the objective facts recounted, the Court found the Government failed to meet burden of proof (preponderance).

There is a lot that could be discussed about the FF&CL  I offer below just some points that I focused on and think worth mentioning, but there are surely more interesting points.  Those wishing to go further will find a lot of the documents in the case available free at CourtListener docket entries here.

1. One factor that I think the Court gave short shrift to was Hughes’ income tax issues for those years.  The Government’s Post Trial Brief, Dkt. 158, here, at pp. 3-6, states the following under captions of “Income Shifting” and “False Business Addresses”):  Hughes had a bookkeeping service business, a Schedule C business, generating substantial U.S. source service income.  Hughes owned two foreign corporations which she improperly reported as Schedule C U.S/ operations.  One of those businesses generated major net losses (raising the hobby loss issue permitting deductions only against income which was minimal).  Hughes reported her bookkeeping service income as income of the businesses which she improperly reported on Schedule C, thus claiming deductions to which she was not entitled.  The erroneous deductions were from $331,145 to $1,306,505 for the years.  Apparently, she also gave a false U.S.  business address for the foreign entity, the inference being that she was trying to hide the foreign nature of the entity.  As a result of this reporting, Hughes underreported her income tax liability by over $600,000 in the years involved.  In  dismissing this as a relevant factor, the Court said (p. 22):

Monday, October 11, 2021

On the Pandora Papers (10/11/21)

Readers of this blog are aware of the major investigation and related articles about the “Pandora Papers.”  The Pandora Papers leaks arise from an investigation by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists ("ICIJ"), here, which previously disclosed the Panama Papers.  The ICIJ page on the Pandora Papers is here.

I have not written on the Pandora Papers because the principal focus of the revelations has been disclosing hidden wealth, often from corrupt endeavors, in secrecy jurisdictions (often referred to as tax havens, tax being one of the principal reasons such secrecy jurisdictions attract wealth).  One previously identified secrecy-friendly jurisdiction is, unfortunately, the U.S. through certain states which have enacted corruption-friendly laws.

The Wikipedia entry for the Pandora Papers is here.  Wikipedia usually does a good job of updating with key information.

I offer some links to and excerpts from some articles I found helpful.  Some of the links may require subscriptions.  This is necessarily an anecdotal sample, but includes some that I thought particularly interesting and potentially informative to readers.

• Erin Adele Scharff & Kathleen DeLaney Thomas, Five myths about tax evasion (WAPO 10/8/21), here.  Excerpts:

Myth No. 4

Tax havens are all abroad.

            Portrayals of tax evasion tend to describe the problem as U.S. taxpayers transferring money overseas. The Tax Justice Network’s list of top tax havens, for example, focuses on countries (the British Virgin Islands, the Netherlands and Singapore, among others) where laws allow corporations to book profits in low-tax jurisdictions. Another list focuses on countries (including Taiwan, Bermuda and Liechtenstein) where foreign investment exceeds expected economic activity.

            As the Pandora Papers make clear, however, for foreign nationals the United States can serve as a tax haven. The rich can hide their wealth from local taxing authorities and the origins of that wealth from anti-corruption advocates. U.S. banking and trust laws make it hard to identify the owners of assets. For example, South Dakota allows virtually anyone to create a trust and name themselves as the trust’s beneficiary. The state also provides significant protection of trust assets from creditors and ensures the privacy of trusts.

            In fact, the Tax Justice Network ranks the United States just ahead of Switzerland in its Financial Secrecy Index. Of course, this is not the first time a trove of tax documents has shined a light on the United States’ role in hiding foreign assets. At the beginning of this year, Congress enacted new measures requiring more reporting of asset ownership, but states still have exceptional leeway to craft laws that help people avoid paying their share. 

Saturday, October 2, 2021

Plea Deal with Russian Bank Founder for Tax Perjury Requiring Payment of More than $500 Million (10/2/21)

I previously reported on the Indictment of Oleg Tinkov and move to extradite him.  U.S. Taxpayer Renouncing U.S. Citizenship Indicted And Extradition Started (Federal Tax Crimes Blog 5/11/20), here, where I discussed the DOJ press release.  I noted in the blog that the indictment charged two counts of tax perjury, § 7206(1), although, as his overall conduct was described, it seems that there could be other counts as well for which the grand jury could approve a superseding indictment.

Tinkov has now pled to a single count of tax perjury.  DOJ Press release “Founder of Russian Bank Pleads Guilty to Tax Fraud: Admits to Concealing More Than $1 Billion in Assets when Renouncing U.S. Citizenship and Agrees to Pay More Than $500 Million Penalty” (10/1/21), here.  I tried to access the plea agreement on PACER (Dkt Entry 25), but the link said, “You do not have permission to view this document.”  I suppose it is under seal.  When it is unsealed, it will be available on PACER (fee required) and, likely soon thereafter, free on CourtListener, here.

In the meantime, I offer excerpts from the press release.  I focus first on the damning facts of his conduct:

According to the plea agreement, Oleg Tinkov, also known as Oleg Tinkoff, was born in Russia and became a naturalized United States citizen in 1996. From that time through 2013, he filed U.S. tax returns. In late 2005 or 2006, Tinkov founded Tinkoff Credit Services (TCS), a Russia-based branchless bank that provides its customers with online financial and banking services. Through a foreign entity, Tinkov indirectly held the majority of TCS shares.

In October 2013, TCS held an initial public offering (IPO) on the London Stock Exchange and became a multi-billion dollar, publicly traded company. As part of going public, Tinkov sold a small portion of his majority shareholder stake for more than $192 million, and his assets following the IPO had a fair market value of more than $1.1 billion. Three days after the successful IPO, Tinkov went to the U.S. Embassy in Moscow, Russia, to relinquish his U.S. citizenship.

As part of his expatriation, Tinkov was required to file a U.S. Initial and Annual Expatriation Statement. This form requires expatriates with a net worth of $2 million or more to report the constructive sale of their assets worldwide to the IRS as if those assets were sold on the day before expatriation. The taxpayer is then required to report and pay tax on the gain from any such constructive sale.

Tinkov was told of his filing and tax obligations by both the U.S. Embassy in Moscow and his U.S.-based accountant. When asked by his accountant if his net worth was more than $2 million for purposes of filling out the expatriation form, Tinkov lied and told him he did not have assets above $2 million. When his accountant later inquired whether his net worth was under $2 million, rather than answer the question, Tinkov filled out the expatriation form himself falsely, reporting that his net worth was only $300,000. On Feb. 26, 2014, Tinkov filed a false 2013 individual tax return that falsely reported his income as only $205,317. In addition, Tinkov did not report any of the gain from the constructive sale of his property worth more than $1.1 billion, nor did he pay the applicable taxes as required by law. In total, Tinkov caused a tax loss of $248,525,339.

JAT Comments:

Thursday, September 30, 2021

TRAC Report on “Equal Justice and Sentencing Practices Among Federal District Court Judges” (9/30/21)

Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (“TRAC”) has a new report titled Equal Justice and Sentencing Practices Among Federal District Court Judgeshere.  The email I received with a summary of the report was titled:  “The Impact of the Identity of the Judge on Sentencing.”

TRAC gathers and maintains a lot of data and ways to access and analyze data at its web site, here.  For example, TRAC provides reports and bulletins on the IRS .  Scholars, practitioners, and students should familiarize themselves generally with the TRAC offerings and studies.

The particular TRAC offering discussed here on sentencing practices should be interesting for scholars, practitioners and students of federal tax crimes.  Sentencing, after all, is where the rubber hits the road so to speak.  So, I offer some excerpts first from the email summary and then the report (with some redundancy):

Excerpts from the Email Summary

            While judges need sufficient discretion to consider the totality of circumstances in assigning a sentence in a specific case to ensure it is "just," a fair court system always seeks to provide equal justice under the law, working to ensure that sentencing patterns of judges are not widely different for similar kinds of cases.

            While special circumstances might account for some of these differences, half of the courthouses in the country had median differences in prison sentences of 16 months or more, and average differences of 21 months or more. Five courthouses showed more than 60 months difference in the median prison sentence handed out across judges serving on the same bench.

Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Indictments of Swiss Enablers for U.S. Tax Evasion through a "Singapore Solution;" One U.S. Taxpayer Guilty Plea (9/28/21)

DOJ Tax issued this press release today: Indictment Unsealed Against Six Individuals and Foreign Financial Service Firm for Tax Evasion Conspiracy: Defendants Allegedly Used ‘Singapore Solution’ to Enable U.S. Clients to Evade Taxes on Over $60 Million Hidden Offshore, here.  In a related action, the press release states that another person pled guilty to one count of tax evasion.  I copy and paste the relevant information:

An indictment was unsealed today in New York, New York, that charges  offshore financial service executives and a Swiss financial services company with conspiracy to defraud the IRS by helping three large-value U.S. taxpayer-clients conceal more than $60 million in income and assets held in undeclared, offshore bank accounts and to evade U.S. income taxes.

 According to the indictment, from 2009 to 2014, Ivo Bechtiger, Bernhard Lampert, Peter Rüegg, Roderic Sage, Rolf Schnellmann, Daniel Wälchli and Zurich, Switzerland-based Allied Finance Trust AG allegedly defrauded the IRS by concealing income and assets of certain U.S. taxpayer clients with undeclared bank accounts located at Privatbank IHAG (IHAG), a Swiss private bank in Zurich, Switzerland, and elsewhere. In order to assist those clients, the defendants and others allegedly devised and used a scheme called the “Singapore Solution” to conceal the bank accounts of the U.S.-based clients, their assets, and their income from U.S. authorities. In furtherance of the scheme, the defendants and others allegedly conspired to transfer more than $60 million from undeclared IHAG bank accounts of the three U.S. clients through a series of nominee bank accounts in Hong Kong and other locations before returning the funds to newly opened accounts at IHAG, ostensibly held in the name of a Singapore-based asset manager. The U.S. clients allegedly paid large fees to IHAG and others to help them conceal their funds and assets. 

        * * *

“As alleged, the individual defendants and the Swiss firm Allied Finance conspired to defraud the IRS by assisting U.S. taxpayers in avoiding their tax obligations,” said U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss for the Southern District of New York. “They allegedly did this through an elaborate scheme that involved concealing customer assets at a Swiss private bank through nominee bank accounts in Hong Kong and elsewhere, with funds returning to the private bank in the name of a Singapore firm. One such U.S. customer, Wayne Chinn, pleaded guilty to his participation in the so-called ‘Singapore Solution,’ forfeited more than $2 million to the United States, and awaits sentencing for his admitted crime.”

        * * *

Also unsealed today was the guilty plea of Wayne Franklyn Chinn, of Vietnam and San Francisco, California, one of the U.S. taxpayer-clients, who participated in the Singapore Solution scheme.

 According to court documents filed in relation to his guilty plea, from 2001 through 2018, Chinn concealed approximately $5 million in undisclosed and untaxed income. During this period, Chinn held accounts in nominee names at Privatbank IHAG. Beginning in 2010, Chinn wired funds from these offshore accounts through nominee accounts in Hong Kong before returning them to newly opened accounts at IHAG held in the name of a Singapore based trust company acting on behalf of two foundations created to conceal Chinn’s ownership of the accounts. Chinn subsequently transferred the funds out of Switzerland to undeclared accounts in Singapore. Chinn did not file any tax returns or disclose his foreign bank accounts during the years at issue.

 Chinn pleaded guilty to one count of tax evasion which carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison. Chinn also consented to the civil forfeiture of 83% of the funds held in five accounts at two Singapore banks, which resulted in the successful forfeiture and repatriation to the United States of approximately $2.2 million. The civil forfeiture proceeding is United States of America v. Certain Funds on Deposit in Various Accounts, 20 Civ. 3397 (LJL).

 Chinn is scheduled to be sentenced on Nov. 19, and faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison. He also faces a period of supervised release, restitution and monetary penalties. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

ABA Tax Section Comments on Voluntary Disclosure Practice and Streamlined Filing Compliance Procedures (9/28/21)

The ABA Section of Taxation has submitted, here, comments on the Voluntary Disclosure Practice and the Streamlined Filing Compliance Procedures.  I have not had time to review them.  I post them now to get them out there for those who may not have received or may have overlooked the email notice.

I may comment later.

JAT Comments (added 10/29/21 at 4:00 pm):

On reading through the ABA Tax Section Comments, two items caught my attention:

1.  The problem of requiring disclosure for preclearance in Form 14457, Part I, of the foreign accounts gives the IRS (and DOJ) potentially incriminating information and thus creates the risk that that information may be used against the taxpayer if the IRS denies preclearance.  The recommended solution to the problem is (p. 6 footnote omitted):

• We recommend that the Service remove item #10 from Part I (requiring the disclosure of noncompliant accounts) and move it to Part II of Form 14457, so that the disclosure of the noncompliant accounts is made after (1) the taxpayer is precleared to make a voluntary disclosure and (2) the practitioner has time to conduct due diligence with respect to items that may constitute noncompliant accounts. The goal of preclearance is for the Service to determine that a taxpayer is “eligible for making a voluntary disclosure, including establishing unreported income is from legal sources and that the timeliness requirements are met.” We do not believe the bank account information is required to make such a preclearance determination. Requesting identification of, and information on, noncompliant accounts in advance of the preclearance determination requires the taxpayer to disclose incriminating information before he or she is cleared to proceed with disclosure. This deters taxpayers from using, and practitioners from recommending, the VDP.

Sunday, September 26, 2021

Article on German Wealthy Renewed Interest in Swiss Financial Institutions Because of Potential Tax Increase (9/26/21)

This is an interesting phenomenon about German wealthy fearing higher taxes to try to move and hide assets (and related taxable income).  See Oliver Hurt, German millionaires rush assets to Switzerland ahead of election (Reuters 9/24/21), here

Some excerpts:

ZURICH, Sept 24 (Reuters) - A potential lurch to the left in Germany's election on Sunday is scaring millionaires into moving assets into Switzerland, bankers and tax lawyers say.

If the centre-left Social Democrats (SPD), hard-left Linke and environmentalist Greens come to power, the reintroduction of a wealth tax and a tightening of inheritance tax could be on the political agenda.

"For the super-rich, this is red hot," said a German-based tax lawyer with extensive Swiss operations. "Entrepreneurial families are highly alarmed."

The move shows how many rich people still see Switzerland as an attractive place to park ealth, despite its efforts to abolish its image as a billionaires' safe haven.

    * * *

Friday, September 24, 2021

Grand Jury Indicts Alleged Offshore Willful Actor Who Should Have Entered OVDP But Attempted SFCP (9/24/21; 9/27/21)

DOJ Tax announced here the indictment of Mark Anthony Gyetvay.  Basically, as  I  understand  it on  quick review, Gytevay made  mega million in Russian related adventures and failed to (i)  pay tax and (ii) file appropriate FBARs.  A fair inference on the facts claimed in the  Press Release (and presumably the indictment) is that those failures were willful.  Then, Gyetvay tried to enter “Streamlined Filing Compliance Procedures in which he attested that his prior failure to file FBARs and tax returns was non-willful.”  Bad moves.

The opening  paragraph says:

A federal grand jury in Fort Myers, Florida, returned an indictment on Sept. 22 charging a Florida businessman with defrauding the United States by not disclosing his substantial offshore assets, failing to report substantial income on his tax returns, failing to pay millions of dollars of taxes and submitting a false offshore compliance filing with the IRS in an attempt to avoid substantial penalties and criminal prosecution.’ 

There is no mention in the opening paragraph of wire fraud.  But  later, the press release  says (emphasis supplied):

If convicted, he faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison for each wire fraud count, five years in prison for each failure to file FBAR count, five years in prison for tax evasion, five years in prison for making a false statement, three years in prison for each count of assisting in the preparation of a false tax return and one year in prison for each willful failure to file a tax return count.

I am in travel status now and so only post this for information purposes now.  I  probably will add some detail later after reviewing the indictment and thinking more about it.  In short, though,  for now, this guy has to be incredibly stupid and greedy (or some combination thereof) to forego the regular OVDP  and attempt the  SFCP.

JAT Comments (added 9/27/21):

Sunday, September 19, 2021

Appeals Arguments Over Whether Government Brought Evasion and Tax Conspiracy Charges Within Statute of Limitations With No Mention of WSLA (9/19/21)

In United States v. Pursley (on appeal to CA 5, Dkt. No. 20-20454), Pursley was convicted of 1 count of conspiracy related to tax and three counts of tax evasion, two for Pursley’s taxes and one for the taxes of another.  See the judgment here.  Pursley was a lawyer in Houston who enabled tax evasion by a client by moving untaxed monies from foreign accounts into the U.S. without accounting to the IRS for the unpaid tax.  Pursley’s client ultimately joined the OVDP, thus avoiding his own criminal exposure.  As required under the OVDP, the client had to disclose the enabler of the tax evasion scheme.

At the conclusion of trial after the guilty verdicts were returned, the judge sentenced Pursley to 24 months incarceration, ordered restitution of $2.5 million and imposed standard conditions.  I think the restitution was for Pursley’s taxes rather than the client’s taxes, because the client’s taxes had been paid in the OVDP.  So just from the restitution of Pursley’s taxes for two years, one can infer that he made a lot of money for his conduct.  But that need not detain us here.

On the appeal, Pursley raises only statute of limitations issues.  The parties’ briefs on appeal are:  Pursley’s opening brief, here; United States’ answering brief, here; and Pursley’s reply brief here. Pursley’s arguments are:

1.     As to all counts, the indictment was brought outside the statute  of limitations.

2.     As to the conspiracy count, the trial court erred by failing to give a requested instruction that it must find one overt act within the statute of limitations.

3.     As to the tax evasion counts, the trial court erred by failing to give a requested instruction that it must find one affirmative act within the statute of limitations.

The first argument, if successful, would require complete reversal and expungement of the conviction.  The second two would require retrial where, if there is enough evidence to get to the jury, the jury will almost certainly find at least one affirmative act within the statute of limitations.

Pursley makes no argument that the jury verdict of guilt should be overturned, except as required by the statute of limitations arguments.

The key statute of limitations argument (in # 1 above) is that the indictment was not brought within the applicable statute of limitations.  The judgment here provides in relevant part:  

Title & Section

Nature of the Offense

Offense Ended

Count

18 U.S.C. § 371

Conspiracy to defraud the U.S.

05/31/2013

1

26 U.S.C. § 7201

Tax evasion

09/20/2018

2

26 U.S.C. § 7201

Tax evasion

12/31/2012

3

26 U.S.C. § 7201

Tax evasion

10/31/2011

4

The indictment, here, was filed on September 20, 2018.  Just on the face of the judgment, it would appear that, without more, the six-year criminal statute of limitations would have expired on Count 4 on 10/31/2017, but the other counts would have been timely under the six-year statute.

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Ninth Circuit Adopts Primary Purpose Test for Attorney-Client Privilege (9/14/21)

In In re Grand Jury, Nos. 21-55085 & 21-55145 (9th Cir. 9/13/21), CA 9 here, the Court held that the “because of” test imported from the work-product context did not apply to the attorney-client privilege and instead applied a predominant purpose test for dual-purpose communications.  The opinion is short (14 pages) and the summary offered by the Court is good, so I just copy and paste the summary here.

Grand Jury Subpoenas

            The panel affirmed the district court’s orders holding appellants, a company and a law firm, in contempt for failure to comply with grand jury subpoenas related to a criminal investigation, in a case in which the district court ruled that certain dual-purpose communications were not privileged because the “primary purpose” of the documents was to obtain tax advice, not legal advice.

            Appellants argued that the district court erred in relying on the “primary purpose” test and should have instead relied on a broader “because of” test. Under the “primary purpose” test, courts look at whether the primary purpose of the communication is to give or receive legal advice, as opposed to business or tax advice. The “because of” test—which typically applies in the work-product context—considers the totality of the circumstances and affords protection when it  can fairly be said that the document was created because of anticipated litigation, and would not have been created in substantially similar form but for the prospect of that litigation. The panel rejected appellants’ invitation to extend the “because of” test to the attorney-client privilege context, and held that the “primary purpose” test applies to dual-purpose communications.

            The panel left open whether this court should adopt “a primary purpose” instead of “the primary purpose” as the [*3] test, as the D.C. Circuit did in In re Kellogg Brown & Root, Inc., 756 F.3d 754 (D.C. Cir. 2014). The panel wrote that Kellogg’s reasoning in the very specific context of corporate internal investigations does not apply with equal force in the tax context, and that the disputed communications in this case do not fall within the narrow universe where the Kellogg test would change the outcome of the privilege analysis.

            The panel addressed remaining issues in a concurrently filed, sealed memorandum disposition.

 JAT Comments:

Wednesday, September 8, 2021

Prosecution IRS Agent’s Contact with Defense Expert Without Defense Counsel (9/8/21)

In United States v. Shun, 2021 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 161023 (W.D.N.Y. Aug. 25, 2021), Cl here, in a tax crimes prosecution (conspiracy and tax perjury), one of the questions discussed in the opinion is whether an attempt by IRS CI agents assisting the prosecutor in the case to interview an expert designated by the defense was a violation of the defendant’s Sixth Amendment right to counsel.  The discussion is short but instructive, so I just cut and paste (Slip Op. pp. 4-7): 

Shun's Motion for Relief Based on Violations of her Sixth Amendment Rights

            On July 22, 2021, IRS Criminal Investigation Division Special Agent Scott Simmons, together with another IRS special agent, visited the offices of Freed Maxick CPAs, P.C. and attempted to interview Certified Public Accountant Richard Wright, who had previously been identified by Shun as a potential expert witness for the defense in this case. (Dkt. No. 186) Wright was not present at the Freed Maxick office when Simmons and the other agent arrived. (Id.) The agents spoke with another employee of the accounting firm and requested that the employee instruct Wright to call the agents when he returned. (Id.) Wright called later that same day and spoke with Simmons and the other agent briefly on speaker phone. (Id.) Agent Simmons asked Wright some questions and inquired about documents pertaining to the case. (Id.) Wright informed Simmons that he believed defense counsel should be present for their communications and terminated the call. (Id.)

            Defendant Shun contends that Agent Simmons' contact with Wright was a "willful and deliberate attempt to interfere with the effectiveness of her defense" in violation of her Sixth Amendment right to counsel. (Dkt. No. 186) Defendant requests various remedies because of this alleged violation, including that the Court: (1) order the Government to produce information about the nature and purpose of Agent Simmons' visit to Freed Maxick and telephone conversation with Wright; (2) deem the income tax principles to which Wright is anticipated to testify about at trial as "accepted" for purposes of the trial and prohibit the Government from offering contradictory testimony; and (3) grant additional sanctions in the form of fees and reimbursements to defendant. (Id.)

Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Ninth Circuit Panel Requires Cheek-Type Specific Intent for Civil Willfully Preparer Penalty (8/31/21)

In Rodgers v. United States,   (9th Cir. 7/6/21), CA9 here (unpublished and nonprecedential), the Court held (based on a prior appeal) that the return preparer penalty under § 6694(b)(2)(A) for a “willful attempt in any manner to understate the liability for tax on the return or claim” requires “specific intent to understate tax liability on tax returns or claims.”  Basically, the panel held, the civil penalty requires the same level of intent as § 7206, which is the Cheek-type of intent – specific intent to violate a known legal duty.  (The panel opinion does not cite Cheek, but that is the way I read the opinion.)

The opinion is nonprecedential because, as interpreted by the panel, the Ninth Circuit’s precedent compelled the conclusion.  Accordingly, the panel reversed because the district court held that willful blindness satisfied the test of willfulness.

JAT Comments:

1. A civil penalty statutory willfully “element” often is not interpreted and applied the same as the tax crime willfully "element." The obvious example for those who follow this blog is the FBAR civil willful penalty under 31 U.S.C. § 5321(a)(5)(C).  The FBAR criminal penalty requires Cheek-type specific intent willfulness.  Ratzlaf v. United States, 510 U.S. 135 (1994).  But the FBAR civil penalty with the same word (willfully), as interpreted and applied by the courts, requires a less specific intent, including willful blindness and reckless conduct.

Monday, August 30, 2021

Willful Blindness As Permitting Only an Inference of Knowledge (8/30/21)

I have written on the question of whether the willful blindness concept permits conviction of a knowledge element crime upon the finding of willful blindness or, instead, permits only an inference of the knowledge element upon showing willful blindness.  See blog entries here.  In other words, if the criminal statute requires a knowledge element, will a showing of willful blindness require conviction or only permit conviction. 

The key in jury cases is the instruction.  In United States v. Henson, ___ F.4th ___, 2021 U.S. App. LEXIS 24818, at *37-38 (10th Cir. Aug. 19, 2021), CA10 here and GS here, the Court affirmed a challenge to the following instruction for an offense requiring knowingly as an element (a less rigid intent element than willfully for tax crimes):

The term "knowingly" means that defendant [*38]  realized what he was doing and was aware of the nature of his conduct and did not act through ignorance, mistake, or accident.

When the word "knowingly" is used in these instructions, it means that the act was done voluntarily and intentionally, and not because of mistake or accident. Although knowledge on the part of the defendant cannot be established merely by demonstrating that the defendant was negligent, careless, or foolish, knowledge can be inferred if the defendant deliberately blinded himself or herself to the existence of a fact. Knowledge can be inferred if the defendant was aware of a high probability of the existence of the fact in question, unless the defendant did not actually believe the fact in question.

I have bold-faced the key language.  To which I say, exactly!

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Newsletter Focusing on DOJ Tax Criminal Enforcement Section (8/25/21)

I received the email below from Jeff Beinholt, an alumnus of DOJ Tax CES (the Criminal Section initialism).  The content speaks for itself.  Some readers of this blog may be within the target audience for his newsletter focusing on CES.

"Greetings. Jeff Breinholt here, an alumnus of the Tax (Crim) Division (1990-1997). About six months ago, I launched a newsletter devoted to Tax Division history, culture, and lore, called The Malone Report. It's a private online newsletter/blog that is only available to registered members (though it's free). Would any of you Tax Division alums like to be added? If so, you can send an email to GMAD2021@yahoo.com." 

Thursday, August 12, 2021

Daugerdas Re-Appears on the Tax Scene - This Time in a CDP Proceeding for Restitution Based Assessment (8/12/21)

In Daugerdas v. Commissioner (T.C. Dkt.7350-20L Order Dated 8/11/21), here, the Tax Court (Judge Goeke) in addressed some issues arising in a CDP proceeding arising from a lien filing related to a restitution-based assessment (“RBA”) under § 6201(a)(4) for tax loss arising from Title 18 crimes of conviction.  Long-term readers of this blog may recognize the petition, Paul M. Daugerdas.  A link to posts mentioning Daugerdas is here (sorted by relevance but can be sorted in reverse chronological order).

I find the order confusing so I will try to work through the order adding some of my own nuance (at the risk of further confusion).  I caution readers that I am confused about some of the Order and may be missing the point in some of my comments.  Nevertheless here is my best shot at working through the order.  I find it very difficult to summarize in fewer words in a meaningful way.

Judge Goeke summarizes Daugerdas’ relevant trajectory as follows (Order 1-2):

            For more than a decade beginning in the early 1990s, petitioner, a former tax attorney, designed, sold, and implemented fraudulent tax shelters to his clients to enabled them  to evade tax. In October 2013 he was convicted in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York on mail fraud, obstruction of the administration of the internal revenue laws, four counts of client tax evasion, and conspiracy to defraud the United States. United States v. Daugerdas, 837 F.2d 212, 218 (2nd Cir. 2016). He was acquitted of tax evasion for his personal income tax. At a sentencing hearing on June 25, 2014, the District Court sentenced petitioner to 180 months incarceration, 3 years of supervised release, restitution of $371,006,397, and preliminary forfeiture of $164,737,500 of petitioner’s assets.

Petitioner agreed to the restitution calculations submitted by the Government, and the District Court adopted those calculations. At the sentencing hearing, the District Court stated that the restitution pursuant to the Mandatory Victims Restitution Act (MVRA) and named the IRS as petitioner’s victim. It did not address a payment schedule or expressly state whether payment was due immediately. Addressing how to portion the restitution among petitioner and his co-defendants, it stated that petitioner is “responsible for the full amount of restitution” and made him jointly and severally liable with his co-defendants for $258.6 million of the restitution. The Court noted that petitioner had criminal proceeds of $97 million, i.e., tax shelter fees.

The IRS then made a § 6201(a)(4) assessment.  That provision is:

(4) Certain orders of criminal restitution
(A)In general. The Secretary shall assess and collect the amount of restitution under an order pursuant to section 3556 of title 18, United States Code, for failure to pay any tax imposed under this title in the same manner as if such amount were such tax.
(B)Time of assessment. An assessment of an amount of restitution under an order described in subparagraph (A) shall not be made before all appeals of such order are concluded and the right to make all such appeals has expired.
(C)Restriction on challenge of assessment. The amount of such restitution may not be challenged by the person against whom assessed on the basis of the existence or amount of the underlying tax liability in any proceeding authorized under this title (including in any suit or proceeding in court permitted under section 7422).

To repeat, the crimes of conviction were:  “mail fraud, obstruction of the administration of the internal revenue laws, four counts of client tax evasion, and conspiracy to defraud the United States.”  Restitution law divides the tax loss universe into tax loss related to Title 26 crimes (which includes tax evasion and obstruction of the administration of the internal revenue laws) and tax loss related to crimes under other Code provisions, principally Title 18 (which includes mail fraud and conspiracy).  Restitution for tax loss for Title 26 crimes is not generally available; restitution for tax loss for Title 18 crimes is generally available.  I say generally not available for Title 26 crimes, but a court can impose restitution for Title 26 tax crimes: (i) as a condition of supervised release after the defendant serves his incarceration period (see Order p. 8); or (ii) by consent of the defendant (which is a common condition in cases resolved by plea agreement, but there is no indication that Daugerdas consented here).  Judge Goeke discusses the supervised release that the sentencing court ordered (Order p. 8) but fails to tie it to the restitution ordered by the sentencing court.  In other words, from the factual recounting in the Order, the restitution did not include restitution for the tax crimes of conviction but only for the Title 18 crimes of conviction, so even if the court had imposed (which it does not seem to have done) restitution as a condition of supervised release, the need to tie restitution to tax crimes of conviction would seem unnecessary and nonsensical.  (The Order is not clear on this point, so I am taking a bit of a leap to conclude that the restitution related only to Title 18 crimes of conviction.)

Daugerdas was acquitted of his own tax evasion, so restitution could not include his own tax liability.  For Daugerdas’ own tax liability (plus penalties and interest), the IRS would have to the normal assessment mechanisms (including notice of deficiency).  Tax crimes fans will recall that the IRS can assess tax and assert civil fraud (for civil fraud penalty and open statute of limitations) even after an acquittal for the crime of tax evasion.   After a regular tax assessment, the IRS could then use its own collection mechanisms (particularly filing a lien) without concern about the restitution order and authority under § 6201(a)(4).  However,  the CDP proceeding in this case seems related only to the RBA under § 6201(a)(4).

As recounted by the Court, the sentencing court ordered Daugerdas to pay restitution of $371 million (rounded) of which $258.6 was jointly and severally imposed on his convicted co-defendants.  It is not clear to me from Judge Goeke’s order what the difference in amount is for which Daugerdas was solely liable (about $103 million). I infer (but the order is not clear) that the difference related to some Title 18 crime of conviction for which the other convicted defendants were not liable and thus their restitution could not include the related tax loss.

Now, back to the Order, Judge Goeke feels (Order pp. 8-9) that he does not have enough facts and law to decide whether the sentencing court ordered restitution to be due immediately (which would be the default rule).  I am not sure what that commotion is about, but Judge Goeke wants the parties to address it in subsequent briefing.

Probably the more interesting part of the Order is set up under the caption “3. Collection Procedures under Title 18” (Order pp. 9-10).  The Court recounts some basic restitution and restitution lien law.  Restitution lien law is the lien related solely to restitution and is not separate tax Code lien that arises  under § 6201(a)(4) which is designed to allow the IRS to use its collection mechanisms of lien and levy independent of mechanisms available under restitution law.  The Court notes that the restitution lien and enforcement of that lien may be enforced by the victim even if there is a payment schedule for the restitution.  I suppose the implication might be that immediate enforcement might also be available for the tax lien for an RBA and the broader issue for the RBA is whether a tax lien filing is inconsistent court-ordered schedule (depending upon how that issue is resolved).  

Judge Goeke wants more briefing to clarify and resolve his confusion.

Sunday, August 8, 2021

2021 Federal Tax Procedure Editions Now Available for Download on SSRN (8/8/21)

 I have posted to SSRN the 2021 editions of my Federal Tax Procedure Book.  I have not been formally notified by SSRN that they have been accepted (whatever that means; the author paper page shows them as “Submitted;” when accepted the status will change to “Distributed.”).  Nevertheless, it appears that they are available for the community to download.

 The links to download are here:

  • Federal Tax Procedure (2021 Student Ed.), SSRN here.
  • Federal Tax Procedure (2021 Practitioner Ed.), SSRN here.

Looking toward the next editions in August 2022, I am constantly revising the 2021 edition which became the working draft for the 2022 editions.  I make hundreds of changes during the year, some to add new "stuff," others to correct or better state the old "stuff," and still others for reasons that feel right at the time.  For the significant changes, I post the changes on the Federal Tax Procedure Blog page to the right titled "Federal Tax Procedure Book 2021 Editions Updates (8/9/21)", here.  Each time I make post a significant change, I reset the date in parentheses.

I ask that those desiring a copy of either or both editions download from the SSRN web site.  SSRN maintains statistics on downloads that are useful for scholars.  So, please, rather than sharing a copy of the pdf in each case, direct anyone you think may be interested to the SSRN site page for the publication so that the download metric can be useful.

Also, I urge those using the book to advise me when they think the book can be improved.  Most importantly I would like to know where I have misstated or omitted something of importance.  Also, even for more mundane matters such as wording or syntax that can be improved.  Your input will permit me to make updates on the Federal Tax Procedure Blog and then make the 2022 version better.

Thank you.

This blog entry is cross-posted on the Federal Tax Procedure Blog, here.

Tuesday, August 3, 2021

USAO SDNY and Bank of Butterfield Enter NPA (8/3/21)

The USAO SDNY has issued this press release:  Manhattan U.S. Attorney Announces Agreement With Bermudian Bank To Resolve Criminal Tax Investigation: The Bank of N.T. Butterfield & Son Limited Pays $5.6 Million in Forfeiture and Restitution; Receives Non-Prosecution Agreement as a Result of its Cooperation, here.  The combined NPA and Statement of Facts are linked in the press release; direct link is here.

Key excerpts from the press release:

Audrey Strauss, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Stuart M. Goldberg, Acting Deputy Assistant Attorney General of the Justice Department’s Tax Division, and James C. Lee, Chief of the Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation (“IRS-CI”), announced today that Bank of N.T. Butterfield & Son Limited (“BUTTERFIELD”) entered into a non-prosecution agreement (“NPA”) with the U.S. Attorney’s Office and agreed to pay $5.6 million to the United States for assisting U.S. taxpayer-clients in opening and maintaining undeclared foreign bank accounts from 2001 through 2013.  The NPA was based on BUTTERFIELD’s extraordinary cooperation, including its efforts in providing 386 client files for non-compliant U.S. taxpayer-clients, and provides that BUTTERFIELD will not be criminally prosecuted.  The NPA requires BUTTERFIELD to forfeit $4.896 million to the United States, representing certain fees that it earned by assisting its U.S. taxpayer-clients in opening and maintaining these undeclared accounts, and to pay $704,000 in restitution to the IRS, representing the approximate unpaid taxes arising from the tax evasion by BUTTERFIELD’s U.S. taxpayer-clients.

Monday, August 2, 2021

2d Circuit Holds that A U.S. Person Who Is Both Owner and Beneficiary of Foreign Trust Is Liable for Separate Penalties for Failure to Report in Both Categories (8/2/21)

There is a U.S. tax compliance problem with offshore activity often beyond the ability of the IRS to obtain or easily obtain relevant information and ensure that tax is properly reported and collected.  A prominent topic on this blog has been the FBAR reporting obligation that, as relevant to tax, assists in U.S. tax compliance with respect to foreign financial accounts.  A similar problem exists for foreign trusts with U.S. owners and beneficiaries and, not surprisingly, there are obligations for the U.S. owners and beneficiaries to report information to the IRS useful for tax compliance.

In Wilson v. United States, ___ F.4th ___, 2021 U.S. App. LEXIS 22315 (2d Cir. July 28, 2021), 2d Cir. here and GS here, the Court held that the following are two separate filing or reporting obligations that can attract separate penalties when both apply:  

  • § 6048(b)(1) requires “any United States person [who] receives . . . during any taxable year . . . any distribution from a foreign trust” to “make a return with respect to such trust for such year” that includes, inter alia, “the aggregate amount of the distributions so received from such trust;” the penalty for violating this obligation is 5% (by substitution for the 35% amount) for the § 6048(c)(1) penalty). § 6677(b)(2).
  • § 6048(c)(1) requires U.S. owners “of any portion of a foreign trust” to “ensure that . . . such trust makes a return for such [taxable] year which sets forth a full and complete accounting of all trust activities and operations for the year” and “other information as the Secretary [of the Treasury] may prescribe;” the penalty is 35% of the gross reportable amount.  § 6677(a)
For those wanting to read the statutes, § 6048 is here and § 6077 is here.

Based on that holding, the Court reversed the district court’s holding that a U.S. person subject who was both owner and distribution beneficiary could be subject to only the owner penalty of 5%.

Basically, the Court’s reasoning is that the plain meaning of the statutes imposes two separate reporting obligations and separate penalties for each without any indication that only one penalty applies for a pattern of conduct that violates both reporting obligations.  

Sunday, August 1, 2021

Tax Court Finds Offshore Account Owner Not Credible; Determines Income Tax Deficiency and Civil Fraud Penalty (8/1/21)

In Harrington v. Commissioner, T.C. Memo. 2021-95, GS here, the Court (Judge Lauber) determined deficiencies and the civil fraud penalty for a taxpayer who played the offshore account game (a pernicious variation of the audit lottery) and lost.  The taxpayer was a UBS depositor; UBS disclosed the taxpayer’s information and documents.  And the rest was, in a sense, inevitable. I won’t detail the particular facts of the taxpayer's audit lottery gaming, but will discuss the role of credibility.

I offer a series of excerpts directly or indirectly addressing the Court’s credibility assessments which did not go well for the taxpayer (boldface supplied by JAT except for title headings).

[*5] 

Petitioner testified that he lent this $350,000 to EWH as part of his effort to stabilize the company, by showing “potential creditors that * * * [EWH] had money in the bank.” There is no evidence that petitioner executed a loan agreement with Mr. Glube [Canadian lawyer] or EWH, and we did not find petitioner’s testimony credible.  We find that petitioner was impressed with Mr. Glube’s proficiency at secreting assets in the Cayman Islands and wished to secure the same treatment for his $350,000 nest egg.

A UBS document dated May 2002 identified petitioner and his wife as the “beneficial owners” of the Reed Account. In 2003 he traveled from New Zealand to the Cayman Islands and signed a variety of documents, one of which gave him a “power of attorney for the management of [Reed International’s] assets.” Despite being a beneficial owner of the Reed Account and having a power of attorney to manage the company’s assets, petitioner testified that he did not have “any access or control * * * to get the money back.” We did not find that testimony credible.

On the badges of fraud considered in imposing the civil fraud penalty: 

Saturday, July 31, 2021

Government Abuse of Rule 6(e)’s Grand Jury Secrecy Requirement (7/31/21)

In Harbor Healthcare System, L.P. v. United States, 2021 U.S. App. LEXIS 20988  (5th Cir. 7/15/21) (Unpublished), here, a nontax case, the Court had this interesting footnote (Slip Op. 6 n. 1):

   n1 The government asserts several times in its brief that “Harbor is a subject of a grand jury proceeding.” Under Rule 6 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, the government’s attorneys “must not disclose a matter occurring before the grand jury.” Fed. R. Crim. P. 6(e)(2)(B)(vi); see also In re Grand Jury Investigation, 610 F.2d 202, 213, 219 (5th Cir. 1980) (“Punishment for contempt of court is the sanction specifically authorized by Rule 6(e)(1) for violations of its provisions, and a contempt citation will generally provide an adequate remedy for such violation.”); Wayne R. LaFave et al., Secrecy Requirements, 4 Crim. Proc. § 15.2(i) (4th ed. 2020) (discussing the need to “keep secret the subject of the grand jury’s inquiry while it is considering the possible issuance of an indictment” (citing United States v. Proctor & Gamble Co., 356 U.S. 677, 681 n.6 (1958))). An exception exists for “[t]he court [to] authorize disclosure—at a time, in a manner, and subject to any other conditions that it directs—of a grand-jury matter preliminarily to or in connection with a judicial proceeding.” Fed. R. Crim. P. 6(e)(3)(E)(i). The government has not pointed to such authorization by this or another court.

JAT Comments:

1. I am sure that attorneys with substantial experience in white-collar crimes, including tax crimes, have had instances, particularly in the old days when the Thompson memorandum applied, where the Government let the entity know that an employee was not “cooperating” after the employee asserted the Fifth Amendment either in a proffer session or before the grand jury.

Friday, July 30, 2021

D.C. SDNY Approves John Doe Summons re Offshore Enablers (7/30/21; 7/31/21)

In The Matter of the Tax Liabilities of John Does, United States Taxpayers (S.D. N.Y. 7/15/21), CL here, the Court ordered the service of a John Doe Summons upon several prominent financial services businesses related to taxpayers who may have used an offshore law firm, Panama Offshore Legal Services for U.S. tax noncompliance.  I first cut and paste the order (short 2 pages) and then link to and excerpt from the USAO SDNY Press Release explaining more about the perfunctory order.

1. The Order

UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE
SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK


IN THE MATTER OF THE TAX
LIABILITIES OF:

JOHN DOES, United States taxpayers who, at any time during the years ended December 31, 2013, through December 31, 2020, used the services of Panama Offshore Legal Services, including its predecessors, subsidiaries, and associates, to establish, maintain, operate, or control any foreign financial account or other asset; any foreign corporation, company, trust, foundation or other legal entity; or any foreign or domestic financial account or other asset in the name of such foreign entity.

Case No. 21 Misc. 424

ORDER GRANTING EX PARTE
PETITION FOR LEAVE TO
SERVE “JOHN DOE”
SUMMONSES

THIS MATTER is before the Court upon the United States of America’s “Ex Parte Petition for Leave to Serve ‘John Doe’ Summonses” (the “Petition”). Based upon a review of the Petition and supporting documents, the Court has determined that the “John Doe” summonses to Federal Express Corporation a/k/a FedEx Express; Fed Ex Ground Package System, Inc. a/k/a FedEx Ground; DHL Express (USA), Inc.; United Parcel Service, Inc.; the Federal Reserve Bank of New York; The Clearing House Payments Company LLC; HSBC Bank USA, N.A.; Citibank, N.A.; Wells Fargo Bank, N.A.; and Bank of America, N.A. (the “Summoned Parties”) relate to the investigation of an ascertainable group or class of persons, that there is a reasonable basis for believing that such group or class of persons has failed or may have failed to comply with any provision of any internal revenue law, and that the information sought to be obtained from the examination of the records or testimony (and the identities of the persons with respect to whose liability the summonses are issued) are not readily available from other sources. Moreover, the information sought to be obtained by the summonses is narrowly [*2] tailored to information that pertains to the failure (or potential failure) of the group or class of persons to comply with one or more provisions of the internal revenue law. It is therefore:

ORDERED AND ADJUDGED that the Internal Revenue Service, through Revenue Agent Katy Fuentes or any other authorized officer or agent, may serve Internal Revenue Service “John Doe” summonses upon the Summoned Parties in substantially the form as attached as Exhibits A-F to the May 4, 2021 Declaration of Katy Fuentes, Dkt. No. 4, and Exhibits G-J to the July 15, 2021 Letter from Talia Kramer, Dkt. No. 18. A copy of this Order shall be served together with the summonses.

Thursday, July 29, 2021

Teacher Certificate Revocation Based on Fraud in Defraud Conspiracy; Wrong (7/29/21)

There are collateral consequences to being convicted of a tax crime (as well as other crimes).  Some of the collateral consequences for tax crimes are covered in Michael Saltzman and Leslie Book, IRS Practice and Procedure (Thomsen Reuters 2015), ¶ 12.06 Collateral Consequences.  (Note, I am the principal author  of Chapter 12, titled Criminal Penalties and the Investigation Function.)  Some of those are civil consequences.

In Certificate Revocation · "Crime of Moral Turpitude" · 18 U.S.C. §371 (Pennsylvania Law Weekly 7/20/21), the former teacher had his teaching certificate revoked after pleading guilty to a tax defraud conspiracy in 18 USC 371.  I don’t have a link to the article, but a Google search indicates that it is behind the Law.com paywall here.

The question addressed was whether the defraud conspiracy was a crime of moral turpitude.  The article says: “it was clear that conspiracy to defraud the United States was a crime of which fraud was an element.” 

As I have noted many times, the defraud conspiracy (commonly called a Klein conspiracy in a tax context) does not require fraud in its traditional meaning; thus, fraud (in its traditional meaning) is not an element of the crime.  Conduct falling far short of fraud is within the scope of the word defraud for the defraud conspiracy.  See  John A. Townsend, Tax Obstruction Crimes: Is Making the IRS's Job Harder Enough, 9 Hous. Bus. & Tax. L.J. 255, 330 ff. (2009), SSRN here.  It is true that at least deceit not involving fraud is required for conviction, but the point is that it is wrong to assume that because defraud is an element, fraud is an element.  It is not.

Accordingly, from the article, and without more, it would appear that the revocation was improper if it was based on a conclusion that the element of the crime was fraud in its traditional sense.  Of course, the Commission had the indictment in which, as usual, the prosecutors probably fluffed to manner and means to include some tax loss, so the intent to cause the tax loss would be fraud.  But, if that were the case, the offense was an offense conspiracy rather than a defraud conspiracy.  And, since this was a tax crime, the Government rarely charges without a tax loss -- which is the tax the defendant intended to evade so that there is a tax loss for sentencing.  Still, my understanding is that this type of consequence should be based on the elements of the crime.  A tax loss is not an element of the defraud conspiracy crime.  Hence, fraud is not an element of the defraud conspiracy.



Friday, July 23, 2021

ABA Tax Section Recommendation to IRS for Priority Guidance to Disavow Application of WSLA and Further Comments Re Same (7/23/21)

I have written several times on the Wartime Suspension of Limitations Act (“WSLA”), 18 U.S.C. § 3287, here.  In part relevant to tax crimes, the WSLA suspends “the running of any statute of limitations applicable to any offense involving fraud or attempted fraud against the United States or any agency thereof in any manner, whether by conspiracy or not.”  (Cleaned up.) The statute of limitations is suspended from the date of the “specific authorization for the use of the Armed Forces until 5 years after the termination of hostilities as proclaimed by a Presidential proclamation, with notice to Congress, or by a concurrent resolution of Congress.”  (Cleaned up.)

Where the WSLA is applicable, there are several authorizations that might establish the starting point for the suspensions.  Authorizations that have never been revoked were passed in 2001 and 2002 related to the activity after the 9/11 event.  So, for purposes of this discussion, I assume that the WSLA authorizes tax crimes prosecutions with the general 6-year statute of limitations for conduct back to 1995 or 1996 and the statute continues until 5 years after the authorizations are terminated.

Caveat:  There could be even earlier starting dates under the WSLA for earlier authorizations not yet revoked:  (1) a 1991 authorization incident to the Gulf “War”; and (2) a 1957 authorization (although it might not meet the “specific authorization” required by the WSLA.  Matthew Waxman, Remembering Eisenhower’s Middle East Force Resolution (LawFare 3/9/19), here.  The House has recently passed resolutions to revoke these authorizations.  See Karoun Demirjian, House votes to repeal military authorizations dating to Gulf War, Cold War (WAPO 6/29/21), here.

I have stated my belief that tax evasion under § 7201 is within the literal language of the WSLA.  That would mean also that the offense conspiracy to commit tax evasion would likely be within the literal language of the WSLA.  (The defraud conspiracy, in my view, would not be within the WSLA because the defraud conspiracy for some strange reason does not require fraud per Hammerschmidt v. United States, 265 U.S. 182, 188 (1924); see John A. Townsend, Tax Obstruction Crimes: Is Making the IRS's Job Harder Enough, 9 Hous. Bus. & Tax. L.J. 255 (2009), here; I think (perhaps speculation) that if the crime’s elements do not include fraud in the traditional sense of the term (defraud conspiracy does not), the WSLA would not apply.)

However, for some reason as yet unnanounced, at least in recent memory, DOJ Tax has asserted only the traditional six-year tax crime statute of limitations.  The CTM’s discussion of statutes of limitations does not even mention the WSLA.  DOJ CTM 7.00 STATUTE OF LIMITATIONS, here.  So how long DOJ Tax will forebear asserting the WSLA is open.  Further, in cases where the defendant challenges the normal statute of limitations, a court might sua sponte invoke the WSLA to deny the challenges.

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Court Reverses TOP Offset Against Social Security Payments That Exceed Court's Restitution Schedule for Payments (7/21/21; 8/2/21)

In United States v. Taylor, No. CrimAction 06-658-03, 2021 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 134638 (E.D. Pa. July 20, 2021), CL here, the Court found that the Treasury Offset Program (“TOP”) collection, via offset, of criminal restitution from Social Security Benefits was not permitted under the Court’s schedule for restitution ($100 per year) and ordered return of the collections in excess of the Court’s restitution schedule.

Key points of the holding:

1. In January 2008, Taylor was convicted of the defraud / Klein conspiracy In ordering restitution in the earlier criminal case, the Court determined restitution was $3,300,000 but that Taylor could pay not more than $100 per year and scheduled that she pay that amount per year.  

2. Taylor thereafter began receiving Social Security monthly payments.

3. The Federal Government has a Treasury Offset Program (“TOP”) permitting the Government to collect against debts a person owes to the Government by offsetting payments the Government owes to the debtor.  The Court’s discussion of the TOP program is good, so I quote it (Slip Op. pp. 5-6; cleaned up):

TOP is a federal program authorized by the Debt Collection Act of 1982, as amended by the Debt Collection Improvement Act of 1996, which permits the Treasury Department to collect delinquent debts owed to federal agencies. See 31 U.S.C. § 3716. Under TOP Congress has subjected to offset all funds payable by the United States,’ § 3701(a)(1), to an individual who owes certain delinquent federal debts. The contours of TOP program have been described in the following terms: 

The practice of withholding federal payment in satisfaction of a debt is known as an administrative offset.” The Debt Collection Improvement Act of 1982, 31 U.S.C. §§ 3701 et seq., authorizes the Treasury Department “to collect non-tax debts by withholding funds paid out by other federal agencies.” Pursuant to the TOP, any federal agency with a claim against the debtor, after notifying the debtor that the debt is subject to administrative offset and providing an opportunity to dispute the debt or make arrangements to pay it, may collect the debt by administrative offset. In order to do so, the creditor agency must certify to Treasury that the debt is eligible for collection by offset and that all due process protections have been met. If properly certified, the Treasury Department must administratively offset the debt. 

Under TOP, Social Security benefits are eligible for offset pursuant to the Debt [*6] Collection Improvement Act. n6  
   n6 An offset to a person’s Social Security benefits, however, cannot exceed 15% of the monthly covered benefit payment. 31 C.F.R. § 285.4(e).

Wednesday, July 14, 2021

Judge Holmes Weighs (At Length) Against Taxpayers Involved in Complex Bullshit Tax Shelters; Fraud Penalties Approved (7/14/21; 7/15/21)

Back in my younger years in the practice of tax law, I heard something like an aphorism or at least a pithy statement meant to suggest some truth that the difference between a doctor and a lawyer cheating on their taxes is that the doctor will file a false return underreporting tax liability (a felony) whereas the lawyer will file no return (generally a misdemeanor).  While there may be some truth in the statement, there is probably not as much truth as those acting on it by failing to file would like to hope.

I was reminded of that statement in today’s opinion in Ernest S. Ryder & Associates, Inc., APLC. v. Commissioner, T.C. Memo. 2021-88, here.  The opinion. 191 pages long and with a table of contents to help one navigate the opinion, is written by Judge Holmes who weighs in with his usual gusto in writing.

Here is the opening (Slip Op. pp.  4-5,  footnotes omitted):

Ryder & Associates, Inc., APLC (R&A), marketed six tax-reduction strategies that produced over $31 million in revenue between 2003 and 2011. The firm’s fixed costs were low, and its out-of-pocket expenses not very large. Yet year after year it paid no income tax. Its revenue flowed instead into 560 accounts and into Ryder Law Corporation, a related S corporation.  It flowed into more than 1,100 ESOPs,  other S corporations, LLCs, and other passthroughs. It flowed into ranches in Arizona, and it flowed into other ranches in New Mexico. And then it mostly seemed to pool in places where it would benefit Ernest S. Ryder and his wife Patricia, who received more than $15 million in distributions between 2002 and 2011 but paid only $31,000 in income tax during the years at issue.

The lead petitioner is a corporation, but the case is consolidated with other cases.  The principal actor in the drama, Ryder, was an accomplished tax lawyer, with an LLM from NYU Law School.  His entry into the law practice in the 1970s was particularly auspicious as noted by Judge Holmes (Slip Op. pp. 6-7): 

His timing was fortunate--he was at the stem-cell stage of his career the year that Congress enacted the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA). When there’s an avulsive change in the law like ERISA, young lawyers can develop valuable expertise in an environment uncluttered with more senior competitors.

Knowledgeable associates in a fast-growing field are a hot commodity, and in 1975 Ryder was hired away by Harrigan, Ruff & Osborne to help that firm’s clients get their retirement plans qualified under the new law. “[T]hat’s when my career really took a turn,” Ryder explained, and he was well on his way to becoming an expert in qualified retirement plans.

Judge Holmes recounts Ryder's trajectory thereafter to include (Split Op. 8 & 9, footnotes omitted):

The aggressiveness of Ryder’s tax-reduction strategies seems to have caused some tension with his partners at Ruff Ryder, and he was asked to leave the firm sometime in 1995. Ruff Ryder’s entire pension department and its profit-sharing clients left with him. With ample experience and a fully staffed pension practice, Ryder decided to open up his own firm in early 1996. And here begins the Ryders’ tax problems. R&A is a professional law corporation and has always been taxed as a C corporation. Ryder has owned 100%, and has acted as president, of R&A since its creation. We find that Ryder also provided 100% of his legal services to clients through R&A during the years at issue. 

Despite its success and longevity, R&A reported zero taxable income from 2002 through 2011. The Ryders also reported minimal taxable income on their individual returns for those years.

I can't help but point out the catchy firm name "Ruff Ryder."

Second Circuit Continues the Strong Consensus Rejecting the Argument that FINCen Regulations Under Pre-2004 Law Limit the Maximum Willful Penalty Prescribed under the 2004 Statutory Amendment (7/14/21)

In United States v. Kahn, ___ F.3d ___, 2021 U.S. App. LEXIS 20622 (2d Cir. 7/13/21), here, the Court held, consistent with the trend of cases after two district court burps, that the FBAR willful penalty in 31 USC § 5321(a)(5), here, as amended in 2004 to increase the maximum amount of the penalty, is not limited by the FINCen’s failure to update the underlying regulations which, consistent with pre-2004 law, capped the willful penalty at $100,000.  Readers of this blog should already be aware of the issue and the trend in the cases.  The majority opinion, while lengthy, does not break new ground in analysis of the issue, so I won’t address the majority opinion further, other than to say that, as of today, it is the definitive opinion, collecting and discussing the key issues and key cases, so it should be a starting point for those wanting to get into the issue as of now.

Monday, July 5, 2021

District Court Holds that Delinquent Payment and Filing After CI Agent Contact Is Admissible in Criminal Case (7/5/21)

In United States v. Thrush, 2021 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 118742 (E.D. Mich. 6/25/21), CL here, “Thrush was indicted on multiple counts of willfully failing to pay over payroll taxes and to file tax returns.”  After being contacted by the CI agent, Thrush “began making payments on his tax liability” and filed tax returns.  In the ensuing criminal case, the Government moved in limine “to exclude evidence of Defendant's delinquent tax payments and returns.”  

The Court held that, under Sixth Circuit precedent, Thrush could introduce the evidence.  After reviewing the case authority, the Court concluded (pp. 9-10):

Defendant's version of events, if believed, would allow a reasonable jury to infer that his failure to pay taxes and file tax returns was the result of ignorance, rather than willfulness. Accordingly, Defendant's [*10]  delinquent filings, if offered in conjunction with the assertions discussed above, would be probative of his mental state during the period in question.

In comparison, evidence of the delinquent filings poses only a modest risk of misleading the jury. The evidence will not, and cannot, be offered to show that Defendant's prior crimes, if any, were somehow vitiated, see Sansone 380 U.S. at 354, and the jury will be clearly instructed as to the elements of the charged offenses and the meaning of willfulness.

Based on the foregoing, the Government has not demonstrated that the probative value of Defendant's delinquent filings is substantially outweighed by the risk of misleading the jury.

JAT Comments:

District Court Holds that FBAR Nonwillful Penalty Survives Death (7/5/21)

In United States v. Gill, 2021 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 12203 (S.D. Tex. 6/30/21), CL here, the court held that an FBAR nonwillful penalty survives the death of the person subject to the penalty.  The decision turned on whether the FBAR nonwillful penalty was remedial or penal in nature.  The general rule is that remedial liabilities survive death, but penal liabilities do not.  The difference between these two categories is based on tests formulated in Hudson v. United States, 522 U.S. 100-101 (1997) (invoking the multi-factor test under Kennedy v. Mendoza-Martinez, 372 U.S. 144, 168–69, 83 S. Ct. 554 (1963)).  Where the cause of action does not fall “neatly” in these categories, the decision is made by “primary purpose of the statute.” (Slip Op. p. 8.)  Applying these tests, the Court finds the FBAR civil nonwillful penalty remedial.

A number of cases (cited by the court in the opinion) have held that the FBAR willful penalty (which in its typical application by the IRS produces larger penalties than would have applied under the nonwillful penalty) was remedial, thus permitting the penalty to survive death. Accordingly, it is not surprising that the nonwillful penalty survives death.