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ACHILLI v. UNITED STATES

decided: May 27, 1957.

ACHILLI
v.
UNITED STATES



CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE SEVENTH CIRCUIT.

Warren, Black, Frankfurter, Douglas, Burton, Clark, Harlan, Brennan, Whittaker

Author: Frankfurter

[ 353 U.S. Page 373]

 MR. JUSTICE FRANKFURTER delivered the opinion of the Court.

Petitioner was charged in a three-count indictment under § 145 (b) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1939 with the felony of wilfully attempting to evade federal

[ 353 U.S. Page 374]

     income taxes by filing a false return.*fn1 Upon conviction, he was sentenced to concurrent two-year prison terms and was fined $2,000 on each count. The Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit reversed the conviction on count one, but affirmed the convictions on counts two and three. 234 F.2d 797. We granted certiorari limited to a question of general importance in the enforcement of the income tax, namely, whether petitioner could be prosecuted and sentenced under § 145 (b) for an offense claimed by him to be punishable also under § 3616 (a) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1939. 352 U.S. 1023.*fn2

The threshold question is whether the conduct for which petitioner was convicted was an offense under

[ 353 U.S. Page 375]

     § 3616 (a). That section made it a misdemeanor for any person to deliver to the Collector "any false or fraudulent list, return, account, or statement, with intent to defeat or evade the valuation, enumeration, or assessment intended to be made . . ." and provided maximum penalties of one year in prison and a $1,000 fine, together with the costs of prosecution. 53 Stat. 440. If the wilful filing of a false income tax return was not embraced by § 3616 (a), petitioner's case falls, and discussion of other issues becomes unnecessary.

Unlike § 145 (b), which appeared in the income tax chapter of the 1939 Code and was specifically and restrictively designed to punish evasion of that tax, § 3616 (a) was placed among the Code's "General Administrative Provisions" and was general in scope. Failure explicitly to exclude evasion of the income tax from the scope of § 3616 (a) is urged as ground for its inclusion, thereby making it a misdemeanor to file a false return with intent to evade the income tax, despite the specific felony provision of § 145 (b).

As long ago as 1926 it was the Government's position that the predecessor of § 145 (b) effectively repealed § 3616 (a)'s applicability to income tax evasion. See brief for the United States in United States v. Noveck, 273 U.S. 202, pp. 16-19. To be sure, during the last five years, the Government prosecuted a small number of minor offenses, we are told less than seven per cent of the criminal income tax evasion cases involving the filing of false returns, as misdemeanors under § 3616 (a). More recently, a series of cases brought the relation of § 145 (b) to § 3616 (a) into focus and called for an interpretative analysis of the history of these sections in order to ascertain their respective functions. And so now, for the first time, has the Government made a detailed survey of the problem of alleged overlapping between § 3616 (a) and § 145 (b).

[ 353 U.S. Page 376]

     Section 3616 (a) goes back to the Act of 1798, 1 Stat. 580, 586, when excise taxes and customs duties were the main sources of federal revenue. Being general in scope, this section, as successively re-enacted, was applicable to the first federal taxes on income, from 1861 to 1871, and again in 1894; there were no separate provisions for punishing income ...


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