Lack of Funds Not a Defense to Criminal Tax Fraud Charges

Criminal tax charges were recently upheld by the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals against an individual who withheld payroll taxes but failed to pay those amounts over to the Internal Revenue Service (“IRS”). The defendant had been convicted of fifteen counts of Failure to Account for and Pay Over Withholding and FICA Taxes, in violation of 26 U.S.C. § 7202, and three counts of Making and Causing the Making of a False Claim for a Tax Refund, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 287. The lower court sentenced the defendant in the case to 22 months in prison and 36 months of supervised release and ordered him to pay the amount owed plus penalties.

The defendant in the case, Richard Blanchard, did not pay trust fund taxes for approximately 6 years despite withholding taxes from his employees. The case started out as a civil tax audit, but then it became a criminal tax case. Blanchard appealed the decision of the district court, stating that the government failed to prove that he was financially able to pay over the employment tax and that the government must do so in order to show that his failure to pay violated the relevant statute. The appellate court found not only that the government did not need to prove that Blanchard was able to pay the tax, but also that Blanchard’s inability to pay that tax would not even constitute a defense to the government’s accusations. The court cited previous cases and stated that every individual must conduct his financial affairs in such a way that he is able to pay his tax liability when it becomes due. Thus, Blanchard’s conviction and sentence of 22 months plus 36 subsequent months of supervised release were affirmed.

The case is disturbing to the extent that it brings to mind the concept of debtors prison. Business owners need to understand that failure to pay withheld tax over to the IRS may result in criminal tax fraud charges as well as civil tax penalties.

If you have unpaid payroll taxes or other tax problems contact the tax attorneys at Brager Tax Law Group, A.P.C., at 800-380-Tax Litigator for a confidential consultation.

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