Tuesday, February 8, 2022

Follow On Cases After Criminal Tax Convictions--Daugerdas and Larson (2/8/22)

Two recent cases have evoked memories of criminal prosecutions for promoters of abusive tax shelters:  United States v. Daugerdas, 2022 U.S. App. LEXIS 2776 (2d Cir. 1/31/22), Summary Order, CA2 here and G.S. here; and Larson v. Commissioner, T.C. Memo. 2022-3, G.S. here.

I have discussed Daugerdas’ criminal prosecution and conviction in many blog entries. See here. Daugerdas was a lawyer promoter of Son of Boss tax shelters. He made a lot of money in the fraudulent shelters and, as one consequence, brought down his law firm, Jenkens & Gilchrist. At his sentencing, the Court imposed a sentence of 180 month period of incarceration and major financial penalties in the form of forfeiture of $164,737,500 and restitution of $371,006,397. Daugerdas had previously exhausted his direct appeal and 18 U.S.C. § 2255 remedies. This time, while still incarcerated, he sought relief for the monetary penalties by a writ of audita querela, a writ in criminal cases used to cover matters that could not be addressed in the other remedies he pursued. The Court held that the writ querela was not available because “Daugerdas could have sought relief through other legal avenues.”  As to both of the other remedies—direct appeal and § 2255—even though it was not certain that he could obtain relief, he had the opportunity to pursue relief.

One interesting argument Daugerdas raised was the potential for relief under the holding of Honeycutt v. United States, ___ U.S. ___, 137 S. Ct. 1626 (2017), G.S. here. Honeycutt held that, because of the language of the criminal forfeiture statute, a criminal defendant could not have forfeiture imposed for conduct for which the financial benefit went to other co-conspirators rather than Honeycutt. However, the principle of Honeycutt does not apply to restitution. (See 137 S.Ct. at 1634-1635.)  Co-conspirators can be held jointly and severally liable for restitution for losses within the reasonable scope of the conspiracy. See e.g., United States v. Veasey, (5th Cir. 1/28/21) Unpublished, CA5 here, and G.S. here (where the defendant raised the possibility for relief from restitution based on Honeycutt protectively in the event Honeycutt was applied to restitution during the appeal, see Slip Op. 27); and DOJ CTM, 44.03[2][b] Scheme, Conspiracy, or Pattern, here, pp. 14-16.

Tuesday, February 1, 2022

Second Circuit Affirms Tax Court that IRS Withdrawal of Certification of Seriously Delinquent Tax Debt to Secretary of State Makes § 7435 Proceeding Moot (2/1/22)

In Ruesch v. Commissioner, 25 F. 4th 67 (2d Cir. 1/27/22), GS here, the Court affirmed the Tax Court's holding that the § 7345 proceeding was moot where the IRS withdrew the "seriously delinquent tax debt" certification to the Secretary of State. The Tax Court opinion is Ruesch v. Commissioner, 154 T.C. 289 (2020), TC here at Dkt #25 and GS here.

In addition to holding that the § 7345 proceeding was mooted by the withdrawal of the certification, the Tax Court also held (from the syllabus):

Held: We do not have jurisdiction, under IRC sec. 7345 or otherwise, to consider in this case petitioner's challenge to her underlying liability for the penalties.

 The Second Circuit addressed that issue as follows (emphasis supplied by JAT):

   Even if the Tax Court had jurisdiction to assess the validity of Ruesch's underlying debt, Ruesch had already received the only relief she could obtain under the statute, namely, reversal of her certification as an individual with "seriously delinquent tax debt." See 26 USC § 7345(e)(2). Since there was no further relief the Tax Court could have provided under the statute, and since the statute provided Ruesch's only claimed basis for relief, it should have determined that Ruesch's remaining claims were mootn3
   n3 We note that Ruesch may yet have the chance to challenge her underlying liability in Court. That liability is currently the subject of an IRS appeals process that has still to run its course. See 26 USC § 6320. After receiving a final determination through that process, Ruesch will be able, if necessary, to "petition the Tax Court for review of such determination (and the Tax Court shall have jurisdiction with respect to such matter)." Id. § 6330(d)(1); see id. § 6320(c). If Ruesch continues to object to the IRS's position regarding her underlying liability, she will eventually have her day in Court. For now, however, there is nothing further for our Court or the Tax Court to do.

 Two points about this: