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When is 'obstruction' really actionable?

As tax attorneys, we know how difficult dealing with the IRS can be. After all, most business owners do not have the same intimate knowledge of the U.S. Tax Code that IRS agents and Justice Department lawyers may have. But prosecutors have a great deal of discretion when determining when to pursue charges, and the law is written quite broadly to account for different actions that can be criminalized.

With that said, the charge of “obstruction of justice” is raising significant questions, especially when it comes to alleged interference with the administration of the tax code. In fact, the U.S. Supreme Court will review a conviction where the defendant requested an instruction to the jury that the prosecution must prove that he was aware of an IRS investigation before destroying documents in order to be found guilty of obstruction of justice. 

Of course, the request for the instruction was denied, and the defendant was convicted and sentenced to three years in prison. But it raised significant concerns about the potential overreach of “obstruction” language. Essentially, innocent acts that could ostensibly be seen as evasive or frustrating to investigators could be deemed criminal.

The story exemplifies the need for an experienced tax attorney when the IRS contemplates criminal actions. A skilled lawyer can carefully analyze all the relevant facts and provide professional advice on how to defend such charges and how to proceed.

If you have questions about the potential consequences of a tax crime, an experienced tax attorney can advise you.

The preceding is for informational purposes only.

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Law Offices of Robert T. Leonard, APC

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