Sometimes, I am asked by prospective clients about my views on various tax protester theories. A tax protester is someone who does not believe that they are subject to a federal income tax. The IRS has an entire website dedicated to debunking these theories and I warn the prospective clients that they could go to jail if they rely on them. For some reason, they never come back to me :) A few weeks ago, one of the tax protesters (no connection to me) was convicted by a jury in Maryland.
According to the DOJ press release (https://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/maryland-chiropractor-convicted-filing-fraudulent-tax-returns-and-obstructing-irs):
According to the evidence presented at trial, Dr. Warren Gregory Belcher, 59, operated a chiropractic business for nearly 20 years. During that time, he received income for chiropractic services from insurance companies, patients and other third parties, including another chiropractor in Baltimore. From 2009 through 2015, Belcher filed individual income tax returns that did not report that he operated a chiropractic business and fraudulently claimed that he had earned no business income, when, in fact, the evidence at trial established that he received total payments of more than $350,000 during that time period.
The evidence introduced at trial included dozens of letters that Belcher sent to insurance companies and other third parties in which he threatened that the companies could be subject to civil and criminal penalties for reporting payments made to him for his services to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) on a Form 1099-MISC. Belcher also made threatening statements to an accountant to prevent the accountant from reporting his income to the government. The evidence showed that Belcher himself submitted fraudulent Forms 1099-MISC to the IRS falsely representing that companies that had reported his income to the IRS had not actually paid him income.
For the years 2009 and 2011, the IRS mailed Belcher notices informing him that his returns underreported his income. The IRS also assessed additional taxes and penalties against Belcher for his fraudulent returns, including a $5,000 penalty for filing a frivolous tax return. The evidence established that Belcher responded to these IRS notices by sending letters to the IRS asserting that the IRS was violating the law by assessing and collecting his taxes.
At trial, Belcher testified that he filed these “zero returns” based on a theory he read in a book called Cracking the Code. Belcher admitted that he knew the author of the book, Peter Hendrickson, and the author’s wife, Doreen Hendrickson, had both convicted of tax crimes.
U.S. District Judge Richard D. Bennett set sentencing for March 9, 2018. Belcher faces a statutory maximum sentence of three years in prison on each count, as well as a term of supervised release, restitution and monetary penalties.