Wesley Snipes’ Appeal Denied, He Stays in Prison for Tax Evasion

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Snipes, 48, the star of the “Blade” action movies, was convicted in 2008 in a Florida court for willful failure to file federal tax returns from 1999 through 2001.

Snipes, who has served nearly one year of his three-year term, was accused of not filing personal income tax returns and not paying any taxes from 1999 through 2004 despite earning more than $37 million as an actor and producer.

Attorneys for Snipes said the case was improperly brought in Florida and should have been moved to New York, but the trial judge and a U.S. appeals court rejected those arguments.

Because Snipes failed to file his taxes 1999, 2000 and 2001, he’s sentenced to a year sentence in prison for each of those years, meaning he’s not scheduled for release until 2013. Also of note, Snipes actually had a Florida driver’s license during those three years, so it would seem his claim is pretty bogus. Either way, did he think the trial would go any differently in New York? It would be the “hey, you didn’t pay your taxes, go to jail” story all over again.

Back Story:

Five promoters of Florida-based tax defier organization, American Rights Litigators/Guiding Light of God Ministries (ARL), were charged with selling worthless “bills of exchange” and promoting other schemes to orchestrate tax fraud, according to an indictment which was unsealed today, the Justice Department and Internal Revenue Service (IRS) announced. Defendants Eddie Ray Kahn, Stephen C. Hunter, Danny True, Jerry R. Williamson and Allan J. Tanguay, all of Florida, were indicted by a federal grand jury in Washington on Sept. 3, 2008.

Snipes said the IRS’ own code meant no citizen had to pay taxes on income earned in this country, and the agency had no legal authority to collect wages anyway, because it is not a proper government entity.

Wesley Snipes tax appeal

In a yearslong battle with the IRS, Snipes drew on the dubious “861 argument.” So named because it refers to Section 861 of the tax code, the law holds that foreign-source wages of U.S. citizens are taxable. But tax protesters take that to mean only such income is subject to tax, and no wages made in this country are.

Judge and jury have long rejected those ideas, but there are exceptions. A few have won acquittal because the jury thought they sincerely believed they did not have to pay taxes.

The IRS bears a unique burden of proof in criminal tax cases. The agency must show not only that someone broke the law, but he or she did so with willful, bad purpose to defraud the government.

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