Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Misunderstanding of RFRA Not A Defense To Willful Failure To File Tax Returns

The Oregonian reports that an Oregon federal district court yesterday found a tax protester guilty on four counts of willful failure to file tax returns.  The verdict came in a second trial on stipulated facts after defendant's first trial ended in a hung jury. The court ruled that while a good faith misunderstanding of the tax law is a defense to "willfulness", that defense was unavailable here. As reported by The Oregonian:
Bowman’s lawyer had argued during Bowman’s jury trial that Bowman’s reliance on another federal law, the Religious Freedom [Restoration] Act, led to his "good faith’' misunderstanding of his obligations under the federal tax code. The judge threw out that defense before Bowman’s second trial, ruling that any "good faith'' misunderstanding had to be of the tax code itself, not another law.
The court's ruling was presumably based on its reading of the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Cheek v. United States (1991).  An appeal of the conviction is planned.