Saturday, January 29, 2022

Court Rejects Ineffective Assistance of Counsel Claim Based On Counsel's Delay In Preparation and Filing of Amended Returns (1/29/22)

In Evdokimow v. United States, No. 19-14130 (NLH), 2022 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 13110 (D.N.J. Jan. 25, 2022), CL here and GS here, the court rejected Evdokimow ‘s request for relief “to vacate, correct, or set aside his federal sentence pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255.”  Evdokimow raised several claims for relief, all related to ineffective assistance of counsel.  All of Evdokimow’s unsuccessful claims are interesting but I focus on the first one considered in the opinion, which the district court titles “Correction of Petitioner’s Returns” (Slip Op. 9-12.)

Evdokimow’s argument was that his lawyer, Kridel, after learning of the criminal investigation, failed to have Evdokimow’s amended returns filed promptly “had a crushing impact on Evdokimow’s defense at trial, as Evdokimow was, as set forth above, barred from introducing evidence that he had amended his returns based entirely upon the delay between the time Evdokimow learned of the government’s investigation and the time his amended returns were filed, which this Court held to be too long to be considered ‘prompt;’ the Third Circuit affirmed the conviction on that basis.”

There was a substantial delay in filing amended returns.  In the criminal trial, the defense wanted to submit proof of the filing of amended returns to permit the jury to infer his good faith and lack of criminal intent with respect to the original returns.  The Government opposed the proffer, and the court rejected the proffer on motion in limine and again at trial.  Evdokimow raised the issue on the appeal from the conviction, but the Court of Appeals rejected the argument.  United States v. Evdokimow, 726 Fed. Appx. 889, 2018 U.S. App. LEXIS 6564 (3rd Cir. 2018) CA3 here & GS here, which I discuss in Court of Appeals Affirms Exclusion of Amended Returns and Payments after Start of Criminal Investigation (Federal Tax Crimes Blog 3/20/18), here.

In this § 2255 proceeding, the district court held that the argument did not meet did not meet the requirements of Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668, 687 (1984) that the petitioner show “(1) defense counsel’s performance was deficient and (2) the deficiency actually prejudiced the petitioner.”  The Court reiterated its holding from trial held that (i) proof of subsequent filing of the amended returns, even if filed more promptly, would have had “slight probative value” on the issue of his intent when filing the original returns forming the basis for the tax evasion charge and (ii) that slight probative value was “substantially outweighed by the potential for prejudice and confusion to the jury.”

Thursday, January 27, 2022

Ninth Circuit Clarifies Affirmative Act for Evasion of Assessment After Return Filed Can Restart Statute Of Limitations (1/27/22)

In United States v. Orrock , 23 F.4th 1203 (9th Cir. 1/26/22), CA9 here and GS here, the Court resolved potential confusion in the 9th Circuit as to whether the evasion of assessment statute of limitations runs from (i) the first date that all elements of the crime existed (often in evasion of assessment cases when the taxpayer files the return) or (ii) a later date where the taxpayer committed an affirmative action of evasion (e.g., lie in an audit or, as in Orrock, file some false related return). The Court held that the latter date could, in effect, restart the statute of limitations. In other words, if the taxpayer had done no affirmative act after filing the return, the statute of limitations applies from the date of filing the return. If the taxpayer does an affirmative act after filing the return, the statute of limitations is in effect “refreshed.”

I am surprised that this could really be a continuing issue. I think that, in the 9th Circuit cases that appeared to create uncertainty on the point, there was just confusion that has now been clarified.

I offer on this subject the following from Michael Saltzman and Leslie Book, IRS Practice and Procedure, ¶ 12.02[1][c][iv] Affirmative act of evasion (Thomsen Reuters 2015) (some footnotes omitted) (note: I am the principal author of Chapter 12,  titled Chapter 12: Criminal Penalties and the Investigation Function):

We discuss statutes of limitations below, but it is important to note here that the statute of limitations begins to run on the date of the last affirmative act of evasion. To illustrate, assume the taxpayer files a false return with intent to evade tax. That filing alone can be the affirmative act. If it is the only affirmative act, then the statute of limitations runs from the date of filing. There can be later affirmative acts with respect to a previously filed return. For example, if, incident to an audit of the return, a taxpayer makes a false statement to the agent in order to hide the original fraud on the return, then the statute of limitations on evasion will run from the date of the false statement.n104 Although the affirmative act element and the willfulness element of tax evasion are stated as separate elements, the elements are related in that the affirmative act element requires a willful intent to evade motivating the affirmative act. Stated otherwise, if the affirmative act element is satisfied, then wouldn't the willfulness element necessarily be satisfied? The cases discussing the issue are sparse, but the logic seems compelling.
   n104 United States v. Beacon Brass Co., 344 US 43 (1952) . The false statement is also a separate crime under 18 USC 1001. The Ninth Circuit, in an opinion many practitioners believe was wrongly decided, held that where the filing of a false return was an act of evasion of assessment, the crime was complete and started the statute of limitations, so that subsequent false statements in audit to avoid assessment were not separate acts of evasion starting a new statute of limitations. United States v. Galloway, 125 AFTR2d 2020-803 (9th Cir. 2020) (unpublished). The reasoning is not consistent with Beacon Brass where a taxpayer’s later false statements in the course of an audit effectively refreshed the statute of limitations.

 I will revise that footnote in the next cumulative supplement to the Saltzman treatise.

Wednesday, January 26, 2022

11th Cir. Remands For IRS To Re-Determine FBAR Penalties After Affirming Original Calculation Was Arbitrary And Capricious (1/26/22)

In United States v. Schwarzbaum, 24 F. 4th 1355 (11th Cir. 1/25/22), CA11 here and GS here, the Court affirmed the district court’s holdings that (i) Schwarzbaum was liable for the FBAR civil willful penalty and (ii) that the IRS calculation of the willful penalty was arbitrary and capricious. Based on the latter holding, the Court remanded for the IRS to recalculate the penalty.

The first holding—liability for the willful penalty—is consistent with the consensus holdings expanding the element of willfulness for the civil penalty beyond the strict meaning it has for the criminal penalty. Specifically, the willful penalty can apply to reckless conduct. However, in making that holding, the Court footnoted some of its reasons for the reckless conclusion (Slip Op. 13 n8):

   n8 Schwarzbaum argues that the district court’s finding that he recklessly violated the FBAR reporting requirements, even though his CPAs had advised him in previous years that he need not report accounts lacking a U.S. connection, conflicts with United States v. Boyle, 469 U.S. 241 (1985), in which the Supreme Court said: “When an accountant or attorney advises a taxpayer on a matter of tax law, such as whether a liability exists, it is reasonable for the taxpayer to rely on that advice.” Id. at 251 (emphasis omitted).
       Boyle concerned a different tax statute and did not provide the legal standard for willfulness in the FBAR context. Moreover, the Supreme Court’s statement in Boyle is readily distinguishable. While it may be generally reasonable for a taxpayer to rely on professional advice, it is no longer reasonable once the taxpayer has realized—as Schwarzbaum should have, once he read the FBAR instructions—that he has been receiving bad advice.

The second holding—arbitrary and capricious calculation with its consequence of remand to the IRS for recalculation—is, for me, the troublesome part of the opinion. The district court and the Court of Appeals applied the APA arbitrary and capricious test for review of agency actions. 5 U.S.C. § 706(2)(A). The statute states that the willful penalty per unreported account “shall not exceed” the greater of $100,000 or 50% of the amount in the account in the unreported account on the reporting date (June 30 for the years involved). The IRM has a formula that determines the maximum willful penalty that it will assess at 50% of the highest amount in the accounts in all willful years. The IRM then allocates that penalty in equal portions over the willful years. For example, assume that the person had $900,000 static amount in an account over 3 years and their respective reporting dates that was willfully not reported on timely FBARs. The IRS could theoretically assess $450,000 per year for an aggregate of $1,350,000. The IRM nevertheless provides a formula for a lesser penalty of 50% of the highest amount in all willful years ($450,000) and applying that amount over all three years in proportion to the high amounts in the accounts for each year provided that the amount allocated for each year cannot exceed the maximum the statute allows (50% of the amount on the reporting date for the year). This formula will always result in the penalty for a year never exceeding the amount the statute permits the IRS to assess. Indeed, the example illustrates this perfectly because the IRS could have assessed $1,350,000, but under the formula, the penalty is substantially less, $450,000. In effect, the IRS has (in mind) exercised its discretionary authority to impose a lesser penalty than it could have. I discuss this aspect in District Court Muddles an FBAR Willful Penalty Case (Federal Tax Crimes Blog 3/22/20; 3/24/20), here; see par. 4 of that blog. (I should note that, depending upon the numbers assumed in the account for high amounts and reporting date amounts, the IRM formula could be affected, but the formula would always limit the amount that could be assessed for each year to 50% of the unreported account amount(s) on the reporting date.)

Thursday, January 13, 2022

5th Circuit Reverses Conviction to Have Court Calculate the Foreign Evidence Request Final Action for Statute of Limitations Suspension and, Properly Instructed, Have Jury Determine Whether Criminal Act Occurred in Statute of Limitations as Suspended (1/13/22)

In United States v. Pursley, 22 F.4th 586 (5th Cir. 1/13/22), CA5 here and GS here, the Court reversed Pursley’s judgment of conviction on conspiracy and tax evasion counts because

  • the district court had not calculated the statute of limitations suspension period for foreign evidence requests under 18 U.S.C. § 3292; and
  • the district had not instructed the jury that it must find an overt act/affirmative act within the applicable statute of limitations period as extended by § 3292.

The Court remanded to have the district court (i) calculate the suspension period under § 3292 and (ii) if after that calculation, there are acts that a jury could find were committed in the applicable statute of limitations (calculated with the suspension), to retry the case and submit the issue to the jury as to whether there were such acts.

For an introduction to § 3292, I offer the following from my 2013 Tax Crimes book which was the last time I considered it in detail (John A. Townsend, Federal Tax Crimes, 2013 pp. 463-466 ( 2013 SSRN: (note I copy and paste the text without the footnotes, so those wanting the footnotes should download the pdf file; I think this remains a fair summary of the law even today):

b. Foreign Country Evidence.

             In a world where international commerce, often of the illegal sort and often assisting tax fraud, is increasing exponentially, key evidence may be overseas.  Because long delays may be encountered in gathering foreign evidence, 18 U.S.C. § 3292 in some cases permits the statute of limitations to be suspended during the period between the U.S. request for foreign evidence and the production of that evidence by the foreign authority.  The key elements for this tolling are:

Monday, January 10, 2022

3rd Circuit Rejects Argument to Extend Marinello Pending Proceeding Requirement for Tax Obstruction to the Defraud Klein Conspiracy (1/10/22)

In United States v. Desu, 23 F.4th 224  (3rd Cir. 1/7/22), CA3 here and GS here, the Court affirmed a conviction of Desu for “tax fraud.”  The Court rejected several arguments but apparently wrote the precedential opinion to clarify the standard of review for an “an evidentiary hearing as provided in Franks v. Delaware, 438 U.S. 154 (1978).”  The Franks hearing is a general process in criminal cases rather than related to tax, so I don’t discuss it here.

The Court did address, rather perfunctorily, a tax crimes issue that has been discussed several times on this blog – whether the Supreme Court’s decision in Marinello v. United States, ___ U.S. ___, 138 S. Ct. 1101 (2018), holding that a pending administrative proceeding is required for tax obstruction can apply to and limit the tax defraud conspiracy (the Klein conspiracy) that arguably is sufficiently similar to tax obstruction as to warrant a pending administrative proceeding limitation.  The consensus of the holdings in other courts (district and circuit) has been that that aspect of Marinello does not apply to the defraud Klein conspiracy.

The Court rejected the argument.  The Court’s reasoning is short so I copy and paste pp. 231-232 (omitting a footnote):



            Desu next argues that the two counts in the indictment alleging violations of 18 U.S.C. § 371 fail to state an offense. In those counts, the government alleges that Desu conspired “to defraud the IRS by impeding, impairing, obstructing, and defeating the lawful government functions of the IRS to ascertain, compute, assess, and collect income taxes,” a crime known as a Klein conspiracy. App. 94, 100. Desu claims that [*8] both counts fail to state an offense under Marinello v. United States, 138 S. Ct. 1101 (2018). In Marinello, the Supreme Court held that to convict someone of obstructing or impeding the administration of the Internal Revenue Code under 26 U.S.C. § 7212(a), the government must prove that a ‘“nexus’ [existed] between the defendant’s conduct and a particular administrative proceeding, such as an investigation, an audit, or other targeted administrative action.” Id. at 1109. Desu claims that both counts fail to state an offense because they do not allege that an investigation was pending when he committed the conspiracies as required by Marinello in the separate but similar statute.