Paul L. Caron

Monday, June 6, 2011

Supreme Court Denies Cert. in Wesley Snipes' Tax Appeal

SnipesThe Supreme Court this morning denied the cert. petition of Wesley Snipes, who is serving his three-year sentence on three counts of willful failure to file tax returns under § 7203. The cert. petition had raised these two issues:
  1. Is an accused person deprived of the right under Article III and the Sixth Amendment to be tried only by a jury of the community where venue is proper, when factual questions determinative of whether venue has been correctly laid are determined solely by a jury selected in the place challenged by the defendant as incorrect?
  2. Where venue is a contested factual issue in a criminal trial, does the government bear a burden of proof beyond a reasonable doubt or only by a preponderance of the evidence?

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> -Snipes knew he was required to file returns and he willfully failed to so so for three years.
Well, in that case, I can't feel much less sorry for him then.

Posted by: bonzo | Jun 7, 2011 3:22:53 PM

Snipes bought into the "Section 861 position," originally developed and peddled by a tax protest lawyer named Larken Rose. As used by Snipes, he argued that his income wasn't subject to U.S. income taxation because it was foreign-generated--or something like that. He was acquited of this aspect of the charges, which included tax evasion. His guilty verdict was based on his failure to file for three consecutive years. He was found guilty of three counts of failure to file, each of which is punishable by a year in prison. The judge gave him three years, to be served consecutively. There is no moral issue in this case--Snipes knew he was required to file returns and he willfully failed to so so for three years.

Posted by: Publius Novus | Jun 7, 2011 9:07:52 AM

I think he was a tax denier -- he argued that the IRS was not a legally constituted agency, and that he was not a US citizen or resident. I hope the gov't collects the taxes he should have paid before they let him out.

Posted by: eli bortman | Jun 7, 2011 5:14:06 AM

> or whoever handled his taxes.
And therein lies the moral vacuity of tax law.
The person committing the crime (or negligence) is not responsible, but another person is.
I agree that Snipes and those like him who paid good money with a good faith belief that their accountants, etc where handling the taxes correctly, owe any back taxes.
I do not agree that someone acting in good faith should be held criminally responsible and jailed because someone else who they trusted acted wrongly. And, that "someone else" gets off scott-free.
Now, if they acted or instructed their accountant to act in bad faith, then if have no moral problem with them going to jail.
Now admittedly, I have not followed Snipes case well enough to know if he crossed that moral line or if he is just a victim of an arbitrary and capricious criminal liability law that causes injustice to those without the needed mens reas to be morally guilty.

Posted by: bonzo | Jun 6, 2011 8:32:11 PM

Good. This guy deserves it--or whoever handled his taxes.

Posted by: Tax Accountant NJ | Jun 6, 2011 12:56:03 PM