Alain Leibman writes:
Generally, the 6-year statute of limitations prescribed by 26 U.S.C. § 6531(2) for tax evasion offenses under 26 U.S.C. § 7201 runs in cases involving a filed, but false, return — one that underreports income — from the date the return was filed with the IRS. But the tax evasion statute comprises two types of evasion offenses: evasion of the determination of the correct tax due and evasion of the payment of taxes. In the former case, which goes to the IRS’s assessment function, the filing date of the false return triggers the statute of limitations.
But what of an evasion of payment case, where the allegations focus on steps taken by a taxpayer to evade paying the IRS that which is acknowledged to be owed, and which implicates the IRS’s collection activity? Recently, in United States v. Irby, 703 F.3d 280 (5th Cir. 2012), the Fifth Circuit joined every other court of appeal in holding that in such cases the statute of limitations runs from the later of two event: either the return’s filing date or the date of the last act of evasion. Well after Irby filed the subject return, he was alleged to have used nominee accounts to hide assets from the IRS. The court held that the later use of the nominee accounts delayed the start of the 6-year limitations period, and made his prosecution timely.
(Alain Leibman, Esq., the author of this entry and a co-author of this blog, is a partner with Fox Rothschild LLP, based in our Princeton, NJ office. A former decorated federal prosecutor, he practices both criminal defense and commercial litigation in federal and state courts)