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Supreme Court limits reach of tax crime statute

March 21, 2018

The Supreme Court is making it harder for the federal government to use a section of the tax law to convict someone of a crime.

The court ruled Wednesday to limit the application of a statute that the government had interpreted to give it a broad ability to charge someone with obstructing or impeding the work of the Internal Revenue Service.

The justices ruled that a person can only be convicted under the statute when they’re aware of a pending investigation or can reasonably foresee one when they take action to obstruct it.

The government argued someone could violate the statute by doing something intended to obstruct the IRS’s work even if the person wasn’t under investigation at the time or was under investigation but didn’t know it.

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