FindLaw Network

White Plains: 914-686-7171
Chappaqua: 914-238-7171
East Hampton: 631-329-7171

Large Firm Skills
With Small Firm Service

Overview of the federal crime of tax obstruction

| Dec 26, 2019 | Criminal/Civil Tax Litigation |

There has been a lot of talk about obstruction in the media these days. In running speech, obstruction refers to the effort of one person unfairly refusing to let another person, or institution, do his or her job.

In the world of federal taxation, tax obstruction refers to a violation of a certain federal law. Specifically, it is a crime, punishable by a fine of $5,000 and up to three years in prison, for a person to try to prevent or delay the IRS from enforcing the tax code.

There are some limits on this broad law. For example, a person either has to threaten or use force against an employee of the IRS. While communication can sometimes get wrongly taken as a threat, most people would agree that it is not right to use violence or to threaten violence against a federal tax collector.

However, a person can also violate this federal law by acting with what is called corrupt intent. Of course, this provision could apply to just about anyone who is trying to stall or block the IRS from collecting back taxes or from discovering something that the person really does not want them to discover.

It should be noted that a person can still be charged with tax obstruction even if they otherwise would not have been subject to criminal tax litigation. In other words, what starts as a strictly civil matter could become criminal if the IRS does not like how a taxpayer is behaving.

There are certainly limits to what a New Yorker can legally do to protect himself or herself from tax liability, but the important thing to remember about tax obstruction is that people have the right to defend their interests and to insist that the IRS follow the law and their procedures. Those who are accused of obstruction should consider speaking with an experienced tax litigation attorney.