Supreme Court Rejects Tax Code Guilt by Ignorance

The US Supreme Court, by a vote of 7-2, has turned down efforts to prosecute people for obstruction of tax violation investigations if they are unaware that such an investigation is even taking place.

The fact that this was not a vote of 9-0 shows how arbitrary the whole idea that 9 black-robed lawyers appointed for life would be any serious bulwark for anything called “Rule of Law.”

Two of these black-robed priests saw no reason to reverse or end efforts to prosecute people for obstruction when they were not aware an investigation was going on.

Just take that in, folks, two of the people entrusted with being guardians of the great society-stabilizing, republic-legitimizing principle of “Rule of Law” thought the idea of “Rule of Law” based on a Constitution that ostensibly champions individual liberty was not contradicted by prosecutors trying to throw people in cages for doing things that impeded investigations they were not at all aware were going on at the time.

Yeah, like I always say, there is no Rule of Law, there is ONLY Rule of Power.


Supreme Court Keeps Tax Code From Becoming a Dragnet

In Marinello v. United States, a 7-to-2 majority of the Supreme Court limited the government’s sweeping interpretation of the tax code’s criminal catch-all provision, which prohibits “corruptly … endeavor[ing] to obstruct or impede the due administration” of the tax code. That broad language leaves the majority of Americans who want to comply with the tax laws in the dark as to all the conduct that it proscribes.

The government argued that someone would not have to be aware of the existence of a pending tax-related proceeding, such as an investigation or an audit. The Supreme Court disagreed.


……According to the National Federation of Independent Business, if the court had bucked that trend and upheld the government’s position in Marinello, “that
would have greatly complicated tax compliance for small businesses, who already spend inordinate time, energy, and money on tax issues,” the federation argued. “And worse, it would have opened the doors for prosecutions against businesses for engaging in completely legitimate practices simply because the government alleges that business might have had some improper motive”—namely, cheating the tax man.

But the petitioner in this case was no Boy Scout. As the owner of a courier business, Carl Marinello failed to file corporate and personal tax returns for more than a decade; mishandled corporate funds; paid employees in cash without proper documentation; and “stored” many tax documents in the shredder.

In 2009, he told an IRS agent that he “could not recall the last time he had filed an income-tax return,” and that destroying files was “the easy way out.”

Marinello was tried and convicted of nine offenses, including eight counts of willfully not filing tax returns (under 26 U.S.C. § 7203), and one count—the only troublesome one, and the only one that he appealed—of violating the catch-all provision.

To limit its scope, Marinello had asked the trial court to instruct the jury that in order to convict him of violating that provision, the government had to prove that he knowingly obstructed a pending IRS investigation…….


Thankfully, in United States v. Bishop (1973), the Supreme Court acknowledged that “our complex tax system” often causes uncertainty “even among taxpayers who earnestly wish to follow the law.” And “[i]t is not the purpose of the law to penalize … innocent errors made despite the exercise of reasonable care.”

The court’s Marinello decision echoes Bishop’s call for lenity.

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Paul Gordon is the publisher and editor of iState.TV. He has published and edited newspapers, poetry magazines and online weekly magazines. He is the director of Social Cognito, an SEO/Web Marketing Company. You can reach Paul at