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Law School Case Brief

United States v. Garber - 607 F.2d 92 (5th Cir. 1979)


A tax return is not criminally fraudulent simply because it is erroneous. Willfulness is an essential element of the crime charged. As such, the government must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant willfully and intentionally attempted to evade and defeat income taxes for each year in question by filing with the Internal Revenue Service, a tax return which she knew was false. It is not enough to show merely that a lesser tax was paid than is due. Nor is a negligent, careless, or unintentional understatement of income sufficient. The government must demonstrate that the defendant willfully concealed and omitted from her return income which she knew was taxable.


Defendant taxpayer sold her blood to manufacturers of medical products in exchange for weekly payments because she had a rare antibody in her blood. Although these payments were declared as income, defendant also received additional payments, which were not reported as income. Defendant was convicted under the Internal Revenue Code, 26 U.S.C.S. § 7201, for knowingly misstating her income on her 1972 tax return. Defendant appealed.


By not reporting the additional payments she received as income, did defendant violate the Internal Revenue Code, 26 U.S.C.S. § 7201?




The Court reversed that conviction because evidence of willfulness was lacking. The court noted that no court had yet determined if payments received by a donor of blood were taxable as income. According to the Court, by excluding defendant's proffered expert testimony and by denying its requested jury charge, the district court withheld defendant's argument that she could not have willfully evaded a tax if there was reasonable doubt that a tax was due from the jury. As a result, defendant's trial was fundamentally unfair.

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