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Obstruction of justice and the tax code

Lawmakers may sometimes create overly expansive laws in order to prosecute more individuals. Unfortunately, such actions can result in prosecution of innocent people. It can also result in severe consequences for actions that most would describe as relatively minor infractions.

In the case of tax laws, this is now the subject of a future U.S. Supreme Court decision. This case concerns a taxpayer charged with failing to file the proper tax returns. In addition, he faced obstruction of justice charges for disposing of many of his old records – apparently before he knew an IRS investigation was underway.

When originally tried, a judge sentenced the taxpayer to three years imprisonment based on the obstruction of justice charges. Soon after, a federal appellate court affirmed this conviction. And due to receiving such a harsh sentence, the taxpayer took this matter all the way to our nation’s highest court.

While this taxpayer acknowledged he failed to file the proper tax returns (even after an attorney and accountant told him about the filing requirements), he challenged the obstruction of justice charges. Obstruction of justice is a felony offense. The failure to file the proper forms, on the other hand, was only a misdemeanor.

A taxpayer has understandable concerns when what started as a misdemeanor could potentially result in a three-year sentence. While we need to wait to see how the Supreme Court will ultimately rule, what is at stake is extremely clear.

The failure to comply with tax laws, even for seemingly minor offenses, can result in harsh consequences. Michigan taxpayers may therefore find it helpful to consult with experienced tax attorneys when facing allegations of violating IRS rules.

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