Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit

by
Frances and her husband John filed a joint return for 2004. The IRS subsequently found the return deficient and informed them that they owed an additional $488,177 in income taxes and underreporting penalties of $138,732. The couple filed suit. John, a Harvard-educated tax lawyer, represented them at trial. Frances, a former teacher with an MBA, doctorate, and a law degree, attended the trial. The Tax Court ruled against the couple, finding them jointly and severally liable, 26 U.S.C. 6013(d), Three years later, Frances sought innocent spouse relief, 26 U.S.C. 6015. The Tax Court rejected the claim. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, finding that her meaningful participation in the trial precluded Frances from after-the-fact seeking to avoid responsibility for those liabilities. Such relief is available only if the petitioner has not “participated meaningfully in [the] prior proceeding”—in this case, the 2012 trial. Mrs. Rogers’s contention that she lacked knowledge of business and financial matters, including complex tax matters, and otherwise did not understand what transpired during the 2012 trial lacked credibility and she had every opportunity to raise her claim during the 2012 trial. Her testimony was self-serving and at odds with her education and experience. View "Rogers v. Commissioner of Internal Revenue" on Justia Law

by
The Seventh Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of an action alleging the violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment because the county placed a disproportionate tax on commercial and industrial properties in Mattoon Township. The court analyzed plaintiffs' claim solely on comity principles and held that the district court appropriately abstained from hearing the action. View "Perry v. Coles County, Illinois" on Justia Law

by
In 1999, after deregulation of the energy industry in Illinois, Exelon sold its fossil-fuel power plants to use the proceeds on its nuclear plants and infrastructure. The sales yielded $4.8 billion, $2 billion more than expected. Exelon attempted to defer tax liability on the gains by executing “like-kind exchanges,” 26 U.S.C. 1031(a)(1). Exelon identified its Collins Plant, to be sold for $930 million, with $823 of taxable gain, and its Powerton Plant, to be sold for $870 million ($683 million in taxable gain) for exchanges. Exelon identified as investment candidates a Texas coal-fired plant to replace Collins and Georgia coal-fired plants to replace Powerton. In “sale-and-leaseback” transactions, Exelon leased an out-of-state power plant from a tax-exempt entity for a period longer than the plant’s estimated useful life, then immediately leased the plant back to that entity for a shorter sublease term. and provided to the tax-exempt entity a multi-million-dollar accommodation fee with a fully-funded purchase option to terminate Exelon’s residual interest after the sublease. Exelon asserted that it had acquired a genuine ownership interest in the plants, qualifying them as like-kind exchanges. The Commissioner disallowed the benefits claimed by Exelon, characterizing the transactions as a variant of the traditional sale-in-lease-out (SILO) tax shelters, widely invalidated as abusive tax shelters. The tax court and Seventh Circuit affirmed, applying the substance over form doctrine to conclude that the Exelon transactions failed to transfer to Exelon a genuine ownership interest in the out-of-state plants. In substance Exelon’s transactions resemble loans to the tax-exempt entities. View "Exelon Corp. v. Commissioner of Internal Revenue" on Justia Law

by
The bankrupt businesses had debts that far exceeded the value of their assets. Bankruptcy courts authorized the sale of their principal assets (gasoline stations and a movie theater and café). Under Illinois law, the Illinois Department of Revenue (IDOR) may pursue the purchaser in a bulk sale for state taxes owed by the seller. To facilitate sales of the debtors’ properties, the bankruptcy court (11 U.S.C. 363(f)) allowed the sales to proceed free of any interests other than the bankruptcy estate's. Under section 363(e), a party whose interest has been removed is entitled to “adequate protection,” typically payment from the sale proceeds to compensate for the decrease in value of the party's interest. Each bankruptcy court assumed that IDOR was entitled to adequate protection but concluded that, because the sale proceeds were insufficient to satisfy the claims of the senior-most creditors (mortgages holders), IDOR was entitled to no portion of the sale proceeds. There were no other assets available. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. While the removal of IDOR’s interest likely increased the price bidders were willing to pay for the properties, IDOR has not given a realistic assessment of the value of its interest. The court rejected an argument that IDOR would have recovered 100 percent of the tax delinquency from an informed purchaser; IDOR’s claims were properly denied for want of evidence enabling the bankruptcy court to assign a reasonable value under section 363(e). View "Illinois Department of Revenue v. First Community Financial Bank" on Justia Law

by
In 2001, McMahan and his wholly owned corporation participated in a tax shelter called “Son of BOSS” that “is a variation of a slightly older alleged tax shelter,” BOSS, an acronym for ‘bond and options sales strategy.’” BOSS “was aggressively marketed by law and accounting firms in the late 1990s and early 2000s” and involves engaging in a series of transactions to create an “artificial loss [that] may offset actual—and otherwise taxable— gains, thereby sheltering them from Uncle Sam.” The Internal Revenue Service considers the use of this shelter abusive and initiated an audit of McMahan’s 2001 tax return in 2005. In 2010, the IRS notified McMahan it was increasing his taxable income for 2001 by approximately $2 million. In 2012, McMahan filed suit against his accountant, American Express, which prepared his tax return, and Deutsche Bank, which facilitated the transactions necessary to implement the shelter. McMahan claimed these defendants harmed him by convincing him to participate in the shelter. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the rejection of all the claims by dismissal or summary judgment. McMahan’s failure to prosecute prejudiced the accountant and Amex defendants and the Deutsch Bank claim was untimely. View "McMahan v. Deutsche Bank AG" on Justia Law

by
The plaintiffs formed the Fredericksburg partnership to search for oil and contracted with Kraft for management services. The IRS began a criminal investigation of the partnership, Kraft, and Kraft principals Valeri and Blum. In 2003, the plaintiffs and the IRS settled allegations against the partnership in exchange for the payment of taxes for the tax year 1994. The statute of limitations for 1994 tax liability had expired, but the IRS had obtained a waiver from Valeri. The plaintiffs allege that the IRS did not sign the agreement and Valeri could not waive the statute of limitations on plaintiffs’ behalf, 26 U.S.C. 6229(a)–(b); that the IRS never sent the plaintiffs required notices that the IRS had begun an administrative proceeding, 26 U.S.C. 6223(a); and that plaintiffs did not discover these alleged violations until 2009. The plaintiffs never sent formal refund claims but filed suit in 2012. The Seventh Circuit affirmed dismissal of the refund claims for lack of jurisdiction for failure to exhaust administrative remedies and claims for damages because they alleged IRS errors only in assessing taxes, not in collecting them, and were outside the scope of section 7433. The court rejected claims to exceptions under the “informal claim doctrine,” noting that the plaintiffs never perfected their claims. View "Goldberg v. United States" on Justia Law

by
Wilson was the Director, Chairman of the Board, President, and CEO of Imperial, which acquired e-Bio, which ran a fraud scheme, "Alchemy." It involved purchasing biodiesel from a third party and reselling it as though it had been produced by e-Bio, to take advantage of government incentives for renewable-energy production without expending production costs. Wilson was convicted of 21 counts: fraud in connection with the purchase or sale of securities, 15 U.S.C. 78j(b) and 78ff; fraud in the offer or sale of securities, 15 U.S.C. 77q(a) and 77x, and 18 U.S.C. 2; material false statements in required SEC filings, 15 U.S.C. 78ff and 18 U.S.C. 2; wrongful certification of annual and quarterly reports by a corporate officer, 18 U.S.C. 1350(c)(1); material false statements by a corporate officer to an accountant, 15 U.S.C. 78m(b)(5) and 78ff, and 18 U.S.C. 2; and false statements to government investigators, of 18 U.S.C. 1001. The dcourt sentenced Wilson to 120 months’ imprisonment and to pay $16,468,769.73 in restitution. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. None of Wilson’s contentions reach the high threshold of showing that a reasonable jury could not have found him guilty. Viewed in the light most favorable to the prosecution, the evidence adequately supports the jury’s finding that Wilson knowingly and willfully made false statements to investors, regulators, an outside accountant, and government agents, and the reasonable inference that Wilson participated in “Alchemy.” View "United States v. Wilson" on Justia Law

by
The Cosgriffs reside in South Beloit, Roscoe Township, Winnebago County, Illinois. They installed a $50,000 pool at their home. When township employees came to the home to reassess its property value after the pool addition, one of the Cosgriffs’ dogs bit one of the employees. That employee and Roscoe Township sued the Cosgriffs. The Cosgriffs started a petition campaign encouraging taxpayers to notify the township that its employees should not trespass on private property. The Cosgriffs’ next property assessment was significantly higher than their last. The Cosgriffs challenged the increased assessment before the Winnebago County Board of Review, which ruled in favor of the Cosgriffs and substantially reduced the assessment. The Cosgriffs then sued Winnebago County and individual defendants, alleging that the defendants acted unconstitutionally when they increased the Cosgriffs’ property assessment because the Cosgriffs spoke out against township employees trespassing on private property. The district court dismissed the Cosgriffs’ 42 U.S.C. 1983 claims, reasoning that comity principles barred federal courts from hearing these claims. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. Because the Cosgriffs challenge the administration of a local tax system under section 1983, their claims fall outside the scope of the statute. Available state remedies are plain, adequate, and complete. View "Cosgriff v. Winnebago County" on Justia Law

by
Fadden earned over $100,000 per year but did not submit tax returns. After an audit, the IRS garnished his wages. Fadden filed for bankruptcy, triggering an automatic stay. Fadden claimed that he had no interest in any real property nor in any decedent’s life insurance policy or estate. Fadden actually knew that he would receive proceeds from the sale of his mother’s home (listed by the executor of her estate for $525,000) and would receive thousands of dollars as a beneficiary on his mother’s life insurance policies. A week later, Fadden mentioned his inheritance to a paralegal in the trustee’s office and asked to postpone his bankruptcy. When Fadden finally met with his bankruptcy trustee and an attorney, he confirmed that his schedules were accurate and denied receiving an inheritance. The Seventh Circuit affirmed his convictions under 18 U.S.C. 152(1) for concealing assets in bankruptcy; 18 U.S.C. 152(3) for making false declarations on his bankruptcy documents; and 18 U.S.C. 1001(a)(2) for making false statements during the investigation of his bankruptcy. Counts 1 and 2 required proof of intent to deceive. Fadden proposed a theory-of-defense instruction based on his assertion that his conduct was “sloppiness.” The Seventh Circuit upheld the use of pattern instructions, including that “knowingly means that the defendant realized what he was doing and was aware of the nature of his conduct and did not act through ignorance, mistake or accident.” View "United States v. Fadden" on Justia Law

by
El-Bey, a "Moorish national," created an EIN for the Trust, naming himself as the trustee and fiduciary. El-Bey filed six tax returns for the Trust, each seeking a $300,000 refund, signing each return, identifying himself as the fiduciary, and listing his date of birth as the date of trust creation. The IRS flagged these returns as frivolous and notified El-Bey that he would be assessed a $5,000 penalty per return if he failed to file a corrected return. El-Bey returned the letters to the IRS, including vouchers and tax forms bearing no relation to the returns. Based on the fourth and fifth tax returns, the IRS mailed two $300,000 refund checks, which El-Bey deposited, using the funds to purchase vehicles and to buy a house. After the sixth return, El-Bey was indicted on two counts of mail fraud, 18 U.S.C. 1341, and six counts of making false claims to the IRS, 18 U.S.C. 287. The district court allowed El-Bey to proceed pro se and appointed standby counsel over El-Bey’s objection. El-Bey advanced irrelevant arguments, interrupted the judge, and made it challenging to manage the trial. The court expressed frustration, but later instructed the jurors, who indicated that they could continue to be impartial. The Seventh Circuit remanded for a new trial. Statements by the court in the presence of the jury conveyed that El-Bey was guilty or dishonest and impaired El-Bey’s credibility in the eyes of the jury. View "United States v. El-Bey" on Justia Law