Has DOJ Tax Crossed The Line In Its Press Releases? (5/25/12)

Press releases are an important component of the Government's war on tax crime.  The notion is that, for maximum general tax enforcement bang for the limited criminal enforcement buck, the public needs to hear that tax crimes are enforced and thereby encourage better tax behavior.  Hence, publicity of criminal tax charges, convictions and sentences, by the IRS and by DOJ Tax is standard, almost daily, fare.  For the IRS's publicity policy statement, see IRM 1.2.19.1.9  (Approved 05-23-1986), Policy Statement 1-183, here; for DOJ Tax's Policies, see AAG Memo of 9/8/2000, here; For DOJ Tax's 2012 press releases, see here.  U.S. Attorneys also issue press releases in selective tax cases.

DOJ Tax recently issued a press release that has drawn controversy.  The title of the press release is:  Georgia Tax Cheats Indicted for Conspiring to Defraud the United States (5/23/12), here,  The White Collar Crime Prof Blog questions the ethical propriety of the release.  See DOJ Press Release Treads on Presumption of Innocence (White Collar Crime Prof Blog 5/24/12), here.  Not only does the author of the blog call out DOJ Tax, but, via a comment to that blog (see the blog), so does Professor Monroe Freedman, a law professor and noted expert on ethics, see here.  The point is that by calling them tax cheats DOJ has pronounced their guilt in a way that impairs the presumption of innocence.  It would have been better to just say that the individuals were charged rather than calling the tax cheats or, alternatively, calling them alleged tax cheats.  But alleged tax cheats may not have the same punch as just tax cheats.

I would appreciate comment from this community on the issues raised as to press releases.

I am aware of no response yet from DOJ Tax.  I will post one if I hear of it.