Date: Monday, May 21, 2007
While you're reading the above information, I'm adding the following as an illustration of how the law works. This is an excerpt from the case of United States v. Hicks (at the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit:
"Robert W. Hicks appeals his conviction for willful failure to file tax returns for the four years 1983 through 1986. Hicks argues that the Internal Revenue Service's alleged failure to comply with the Paperwork Reduction Act precludes his being penalized for failing to file a return [ . . . ]
"At the close of the prosecution's case in chief, Hicks filed motions for judgment of acquittal, arguing, as he does here, that the IRS violated the Paperwork Reduction Act by its failure to display Office of Management and Budget (OMB) control numbers and expiration dates on Form 1040 and associated instruction booklets and regulations [ . . . ]
"The public protection provision of the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1980, Pub. L. No. 96-511, 94 Stat. 2812 (codified at 44 U.S.C. 3501 et seq.), states: "Notwithstanding any other provision of law, no person shall be subject to any penalty for failing to . . . provide information to any agency if the information collection request involved . . . does not display a current [OMB] control number . . . ." 44 U.S.C. §3512. The PRA and regulations promulgated under the PRA require that federal government agency information collection requests display OMB control numbers and, when appropriate, expiration dates. [ . . . ]
"The IRS, like any federal agency, must comply with the PRA and, in particular, must display OMB control numbers on its tax return forms and on its regulations. [ . . . ] But even assuming without deciding that the IRS failed to comply with the PRA here, its failure does not prevent Hicks from being penalized.
The legislative history of the PRA and its structure as a whole lead us to conclude that it was aimed at reining in agency activity. See S. Rep. No. 930, 96th Cong. 2d Sess., reprinted at 1980 U.S. Code Cong. & Adm. News 6241 (legislative history of PRA). Where an agency fails to follow the PRA in regard to an information collection request that the agency promulgates via regulation, at its own discretion, and without express prior mandate from Congress, a citizen may indeed escape penalties for failing to comply with the agency's request. See, e.g., United States v. Hatch, 919 F.2d 1394 (9th Cir. 1990); United States v. Smith, 866 F.2d 1092 (9th Cir. 1989). But where Congress sets forth an explicit statutory requirement that the citizen provide information, and provides statutory criminal penalties for failure to comply with the request, that is another matter. This is a legislative command, not an administrative request. The PRA was not meant to provide criminals with an all-purpose escape hatch. See United States v. Burdett, No. CR 91-00340 (E.D.N.Y. July 30,1991); see also United States v. Wunder, 919 F.2d 34, 38 (6th Cir. 1990) ("Defendant was not convicted of violating a regulation but of violating a statute which required him to file an income tax return.").
"Moreover, the provision of the tax code under which Hicks was convicted predates the PRA by over 25 years. If, in enacting the PRA, Congress had intended to repeal 26 U.S.C. 7203, it could have done so explicitly. Repeals by implication are not favored. Morton v. Mancari, 417 U.S. 535, 549 (1974). Congress enacted the PRA to keep agencies, including the IRS, from deluging the public with needless paperwork. It did not do so to create a loophole in the tax code."
--from United States v. Hicks, 947 F.2d 1356, 91-2 U.S. Tax Cas. (CCH) paragr. 50,549 (9th Cir. 1991).