Attempting to Interfere with Administration of Internal Revenue Laws in Violation of Section 7212(a)
Title 26, United States Code, Section 7212(a), makes interfering with the administration of Internal Revenue Laws a crime, and provides as follows:
(a)Corrupt or forcible interference – Whoever corruptly or by force or threats of force (including any threatening letter or communication) endeavors to intimidate or impede any officer or employee of the United States acting in an official capacity under this title, or in any other way corruptly or by force or threats of force (including any threatening letter or communication) obstructs or impedes, or endeavors to obstruct or impede, the due administration of this title, shall, upon conviction thereof, be fined…or imprisoned not more than 3 years, or both….
Section 7212(a) contains two clauses: the first one prohibits acts of force or threats of force planned to interfere with federal agents operating under Title 26 and the second clause, known as the omnibus clause, is more general and prohibits any act that corruptly obstructs or impedes, or endeavors to obstruct or impede, the due administration of the Internal Revenue Code.
In order for the government to achieve a conviction under § 7212(a), the government must prove the following three elements beyond a reasonable doubt:
- an individual acted corruptly,
- an individual endeavored, and
- an individual attempted to/or did obstruct or impede the administration of the Internal Revenue Code.
The first element the government must prove in a § 7212(a) prosecution is the individual acted corruptly.
In the context of § 7212(a), corruptly means acting with intent to secure an unlawful gain or benefit for oneself or another. It is specifically not required that the corrupt act be proven to be bad, evil, or even illegal.
The means by which an individual may attempt to prevent the IRS from performing its lawful function is unlimited. A few examples of corrupt acts are:
- filing a false complaint against a revenue agent,
- persuading another, with or without threat, not to talk to IRS employees,
- filing false IRS forms against IRS employees and others, including Forms 1099, and
- interfering with the sale of property seized by IRS to pay a tax debt.
The second, or omnibus, clause of § 7212(a) does not require that the corrupt act be committed upon an officer or employee of the United States, only that the corrupt act “impedes, or endeavors to obstruct or impede, the due administration of this title.”
It should be noted, however, a malcontent who annoys a revenue agent, without desire to obtain an undue advantage, may not rise to the level of a corrupt act.
The second element the government must prove in a § 7212(a) prosecution is the individual endeavored.
The omnibus clause is specifically broad, therefore, the ways an individual can endeavor to impede the due administration of the Internal Revenue Code are unlimited. One common “endeavor,” under this section, is an individual who focuses corrupt action against individuals involved in investigating/prosecuting tax violations. Other examples of endeavors include:
- creating false documents to support deductions during an audit,
- hiding money through shell corporations,
- filing false lawsuits against IRS officials,
- falsely causing federal tax liens to be released, and
- interfering with the sale of foreclosed property.
To Obstruct or Impede the Due Administration of the Internal Revenue Laws
The third element the government must prove in a § 7212(a) prosecution is the individual obstructed and/or impeded the due administration of the Internal Revenue Code.
The omnibus clause is focused on prohibiting efforts to impede the collection of tax and/or auditing records, whether the efforts are for oneself or another. This clause does not require that the individual’s actions adversely prejudiced the government’s processes. The clause also does not require that the action be taken against an officer or employee of the government.
Administration of the internal revenue laws contains an enormous list of undertakings, including receipt and processing tax returns, receipt of payments, mailing of correspondence and forms, responding to questions from taxpayers, monitoring taxpayers’ compliance of tax laws, to name a few.
The venue, for purposes of §7212(a), will occur in any district in which an individual committed the corrupt act (s) establishing an endeavor to impede the administration of the Internal Revenue Code.
Statute of Limitations
Section 6531(6), provides a 6 year statute of limitations for “the offense described in 7212(a) (relating to intimidation of officers and employees of the United States).” It has been argued that the 6 year limitation should only be applied to offenses involving “intimidation of officers and employees of the United States,” but the courts have held that the language in the parentheses is meant to be descriptive, not restrictive. Therefore, the statute of limitations for a § 7212(a) omnibus clause charge is six years from the last act establishing a corrupt endeavor to impede or impair the due administration of the Internal Revenue Code.