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Criminal Tax Defense

We literally wrote the book (actually books), beginning in 1983.

Since 1978, we have over 60 years of combined experience in state and primarily federal courts.

There are major differences between civil and criminal tax matters and bankruptcy, but there are connections between the three, and each area must be evaluated with consideration of the others.

We take an holistic view to problem solving: the “West Point Systems Engineering” approach.


The MacPherson Group has over four decades of litigation and appellate experience ranging from civil RICO suits to defense of federal tax evasion charges to both criminal and civil appeals to the federal circuit courts and the U.S. Supreme Court. They have tried over 55 criminal tax cases in 25 states.

In a criminal case one cannot “settle up” with IRS merely by paying the tax, penalty, and interest that might be owed. Once you are aware that you are under investigation, we can assist in trying to convince the government to drop the case. There are several levels at which this is possible the sooner you get qualified assistance the better your chances.

Criminal investigations can take as long as six years, from start to indictment, and usually take two to four years to come to closure. If the case proceeds forward, we will advise you of your options concerning negotiating a plea agreement or going to trial, as well as issues concerning the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, which dictate what kind of jail sentence and/or fines you could face.

  • Scores of criminal tax investigations in over 25 states, with over 25 of the investigations dropped.

  • Over 55 tax plea agreements nationwide, with more than half of the clients receiving a sentence of probation or community confinement with work release.

  • Over 55 jury trials in 25 states, with over 40% victorious – acquitted at trial or on appeal.

  • Experience with appeals to the federal circuit courts and the U.S. Supreme Court.

Brothers Nathan and Scott MacPherson Provide an overview of Criminal Tax Defense
Second-Generation Tax Defense Attorneys

Watch Mac’s sons Nathan and Scott MacPherson provide an overview of the firm’s criminal tax defense practice area. In the video, they discuss how to handle yourself if you are approached by IRS Criminal Investigation Defense agents, the three most commonly prosecuted tax crimes plus two related white collar crimes, the two elements of every tax crime, and how to attack willfulness using the Cheek Defense and reliance defense.


Contact us now if you are under investigation for a tax crime. Click to learn about the Civil Tax Defense and Holistic Tax Solutions practice areas and for more videos by the MacPhersons.

Fundamentally, all tax crimes have two basic elements: the prohibited act and the defendant's mental state. The Supreme Court has held that, "A good-faith misunderstanding of the law or a good-faith belief that one is not violating the law negates willfulness, whether or not the claimed belief or misunderstanding is objectively reasonable." (Cheek v. United States, 498 U.S. 192 (1991)). The test for what is a reasonable, good-faith belief is subjective, not objective. In other words, it does not matter what the jury thinks is reasonable to believe. What matters is that the jury believes that you believed that what you did was lawful. This is called the "Cheek Defense." Mac tried the companion case to Cheek, U.S. v. Dunkel, including petitioning for a writ of certiorari to the U.S. Supreme Court, 111 S.Ct. 747 (1991), the outcome of which was that, "The Supreme Court then told [the 7th Circuit] to reconsider Dunkel's case in light of Cheek," 927 F.2d 955 (7th Cir. 1991), with the result of Cheek's conviction being overturned. Read more about it in the Case of the Missing Truffles on our Case Studies page.

The sooner you have an experienced litigator on board, who is certified in both tax and in criminal law, the better prepared you become. Please review a sample of our successes; Criminal Cases Dropped 

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Below are some of the types of cases and issues we have resolved for our clients:

  • Conspiracy (acquittals)

  • Tax evasion

  • False returns

  • Acquittals

  • Failure to file returns, supply information, or pay taxes, both income and employment taxes (numerous acquittals)

  • “5th Amendment returns”

  • “zero returns” and other “tax protester/patriot” issues

  • Use of offshore trusts and bank accounts (acquittals)

  • Assault upon IRS agent (acquittal)

  • Obstruction of justice (dismissed)

  • CTR (acquittal)

  • FBAR (dismissed) and other offshore/foreign issues

  • Interference with IRS agents (acquittal)

  • Mail and wire fraud

  • Form OID

  • Form W-4 (numerous acquittals)

  • False claims

  • Perjury

  • Forfeiture (case won by settlement, $0.5M)

  • Money laundering

  • Summons enforcement litigation (numerous cases won).

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