Sunday, February 17, 2008
Wesley Snipes is not the only one dealing with tax issues these days. It seems the former mayor's brother in Philadelphia, in response to charges against him, is arguing that the tax code is unconstitutional. The Philadelphia Inquirer reports here on a trial that sounds like a scene from a Broadway play. But as bizarre as the testimony may be, tax cases can be very difficult for the government.
In Cheek v. United States, the accused was unsuccessful on his claim of no knowledge as the Court noted that one cannot argue a statute's unconstitutionality without having knowledge of the statute. But Cheek was successful in obtaining a reversal as the trial court had not given an appropriate knowledge instruction. After all, tax statutes are complicated.
Although tax cases can be difficult ones for the government, when there is a failure to file and a proper jury instruction is given, a claim of no knowledge can be difficult for the accused. As noted by Justice Blackmum (Marshall joining) in his dissent in the Cheek case:
"it is incomprehensible to me how, in this day, more than 70 years after the institution of our present federal income tax system with the passage of the Revenue Act of 1913, 38 Stat. 166, any taxpayer of competent mentality can assert as his defense to charges of statutory willfulness the proposition that the wage he receives for his labor is not income, irrespective of a cult that says otherwise and advises the gullible to resist income tax collections."
Stay tuned to find out how the accused fares in this trial.
(esp) (w/ a hat tip to Peter Goldberger)