Stolen Income is Still Taxable IncomeOctober 24, 2016
The Tax Court in Swartz v. Comm., Docket No. 3583-10 (10/17/16) has just entered an order holding that a taxpayer's criminal conviction for theft of $12.5 million from his employer precludes him from arguing that he did not receive such income. The rule of law preventing him from arguing that he did not receive the income is called collateral estoppel. Under the doctrine of collateral estoppel, any issue litigated in a prior legal proceeding is conclusive of the same issue.
Code Sec. 61(a) provides that all income including illicit income such as embezzlement, larceny, false pretenses, extortion, or any other types of theft unless there is restitution paid in the same year as the theft. In this case, the Taxpayer, Mark Swartz was a CFO who participated in his company’s Key Employee Loan Program (KELP) for its executive officers. He took a “loan” that was unauthorized in one year and did not pay it back until a later year. Mr. Swartz was convicted of larceny and conspiracy with respect to the $12.5 million.
The Tax Court ruled that collateral estoppel applied and that Mr. Swartz's conviction for stealing $12.5 million precludes him from arguing that he didn't have $12.5 million in unreported taxable income. The Court did not address the issue of the tax effects of the later repayment as that issue was not before the court.