Charging and Sentencing Trends of Criminal Tax Cases

Pennsylvania CPA Journal

Maybe it’s not as philosophical as, “If a tree falls in the woods and nobody is there to hear it, does it make a sound?,” but the question that vexes tax professionals is, “How false does a tax return need to be before a taxpayer might be charged with a tax crime?” It is not always clear.

The U.S. Sentencing Commission, which provides sentencing guidelines, collects substantial amounts of information on sentencing, including dozens of data points for every criminal case. The data are publicly available, permitting an analysis of specific categories of crimes, including tax crimes.

We reviewed the sentencing data collected by the Sentencing Commission for fiscal years 2017, 2018, and 2019. Our analysis focused on those cases in which the defendant’s primary sentence was for tax crimes. During this three-year period, 1,748 individuals met our criteria in federal district court sentences.

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“Charging and Sentencing Trends of Criminal Tax Cases,” by Jed M. Silversmith, JD, and Miranda A. Galvin,* Ph.D., was published in the Summer 2021 edition of the Pennsylvania CPA Journal. Reprinted with permission.

* Miranda A. Galvin, PhD, is a postdoctoral scholar in sentencing at the Criminal Justice Research Center at Pennsylvania State University, where she works with the Pennsylvania Commission on Sentencing.