By Mary Lundstedt, Esq.
On May 10, 2018, the United States Attorney for the District of Maryland announced that new Baltimore Police Commissioner Daryl De Sousa has been charged with three misdemeanor counts of willful failure to file a U.S. individual income tax return. Specifically, the charges allege that Commissioner De Sousa failed to file returns for tax years 2013, 2014 and 2015-each failure a violation of Internal Revenue Code (IRC) §7203.
Under IRC §7203, it is a misdemeanor to willfully fail to “make a return, keep any records, or supply any information” as required under the Code. Unlike other tax crimes requiring an act, IRC §7203 involves the omission of the statutory duty to file a return. If convicted, Commissioner De Sousa could face up to one-year imprisonment per violation, be fined up to $25,000 per violation, and be required to pay the costs of prosecution.
On May 10, 2018, Commissioner De Sousa released the following statement on Twitter:
“I fully admit to failing to file my personal Federal and State taxes for 2013, 2014 and 2015. I did file my 2016 taxes and received an extension for my 2017 taxes. I have been working to satisfy the filing requirements and, to that end, have been working with a registered tax advisor.
To be clear, I have paid Federal, state and local taxes regularly through the salary withholding process.
While there is no excuse for my failure to fulfil my obligations as a citizen and public official, my only explanation is that I failed to sufficiently prioritize my personal affairs. Naturally, this is a source of embarrassment for me and I deeply regret any embarrassment it has caused the Police Department and the City of Baltimore. I accept full responsibility for this mistake and am committed to resolving this situation as quickly as possible.”
Many are concerned that Commissioner De Sousa’s position is incompatible with such an omission of duty. On May 10, 2018, The Baltimore Sun quoted Del. Luke Clippinger, a Baltimore Democrat, as saying: “It goes directly to his credibility as a police officer, much less as Commissioner, that he took the job knowing he was in violation of federal law. It was a willful omission of a material fact as he applied for a job that demands the public’s trust.” And on May 11, 2018, Baltimore City Mayor Catherine Pugh placed Commissioner De Sousa on paid leave pending resolution of the matter.
Local newspaper reporter, Sarah Meehan of The Baltimore Sun, interviewed Glen Frost, managing partner of Frost & Associates, LLC, to learn more about why the IRS would press criminal charges for failure to file tax returns. Mr. Frost explained that while it’s uncommon for the IRS to pursue criminal charges for misdemeanors, the IRS likes to make examples out of public figures. He further stated that “[m]ost criminal tax violations they charge are felonies, but failure to file is a misdemeanor count. It’s rare, I’ll say, but it happens.”
As you can see from this very public example, failing to file your tax returns can be a serious criminal offense and may result in heavy fines and/or imprisonment.
Update: It was reported on May 15, 2018, that Daryl De Sousa resigned as Baltimore Police Commissioner.