TOAfter months of speculation, Hunter Biden, the son of President Joe Biden, has been indicted on tax and gun possession charges. According to court documents, he is expected to plead guilty to two lesser tax charges as part of a plea deal.
In a letter filed in federal court, the charges are listed as “Informations.” When information-based charges are filed, it usually means that the defendant has accepted the charges and is cooperating with the investigation, and that is the case here. Notably, the letter is signed by US Attorney David Weiss, who was appointed by President Donald Trump in 2018 and has overseen the Biden investigation ever since.
According to the letter, Biden has agreed to plead guilty to two counts of non-payment under Article 7203 of the Tax Code. That section covers a wide variety of crimes, including:
- failure to pay taxes or estimated taxes;
- fail to file a return;
- lack of record keeping; and
- lack of provision of information.
In this case, the charges focus on non-payment of taxes for tax years 2017 and 2018.
Non-payment generally does not result in jail time. It is considered a misdemeanor and generally results in fines of up to $25,000, although jail time of up to a year may be added if the situation warrants.
According to court documents, the tax liability was related to a combined income of $3 million during those two years — $1.5 million per year. In 2021, Biden claimed to have paid the IRS what he owed. However, paying the obligation after the due date (in this case, April 17, 2018 for the 2017 tax year and April 15, 2019 for the 2018 tax year) does not mean that a crime has not been committed. .
A misdemeanor for non-payment can become a felony in some cases. According to the Justice Department manual, these are people who do not file tax returns or pay a tax “but who also commit acts of evasion or obstruction.” In that case, the charges would be filed as felonies under sections 7201 either 7212(a). That is not the case here, probably because Biden paid the tax due and was cooperating with the authorities.
This is the part of the story that taxpayers often worry about. It is important to understand that non-payment is a crime under the statute. But most civil matters do not normally become criminal investigations, although there are times when they may be referred for criminal investigation when there are indications of possible fraud. Criminal investigations may also be initiated upon receipt of information from the public, as well as ongoing ongoing investigations by other law enforcement agencies or US attorneys’ offices throughout the country.
IRS-CI is the criminal investigative arm of the IRS and works closely on tax-related investigations with federal, state and local law enforcement partners and agencies. While they may work on cases involving other financial crimes, in 2022, IRS-CI opened 1,388 investigations for what they call “pure tax” or general tax crimes. Those include cases, like this one, where they look at high-income taxpayers who deliberately choose not to file returns or pay taxes due, as well as predatory tax schemes and tax-related fraud (such as refund schemes). In 2022, this resulted in 789 recommendations to the Department of Justice for prosecutions and 699 sentences.
Those numbers are evidence that self-filing taxpayers and those who initially cooperate with tax authorities by setting up payment programs or working to resolve their debt rarely face criminal charges. They are usually reserved for intentional cases, like here. Also, government authorities often bring tax crime cases against high-profile individuals to prove a point (just look at Messi and the Giudices, for example).
In general, prosecutions for tax crimes do not have a significant place in federal sentencing records. Perhaps unsurprisingly, drug offenses were the most common federal crime in fiscal year 2021, representing 31.3% of all cases.
The firearm charge is being handled a little differently: It’s being treated as a diversion case. This is important from a legal perspective because entering the diversion program means that you technically do not plead guilty to the weapons charges. Criminal possession of a weapon may be considered a felony, depending on the jurisdiction, and can result in a substantial jail sentence.
However, some jurisdictions offer alternative programs for non-violent offenders with substance abuse problems. Typically, compliance consists of the types of behaviors you would associate with probation: curfew, random drug testing, and participation in substance abuse treatment programs. TO Study National Institute of Justice 2018 found that participants in alternative sentencing programs such as diversion programs tended to result in reduced recidivism rates. The prosecutor-led study also found that these programs resulted in cost savings in the court system.
Biden’s substance abuse problems have been widely reported. He claims that he started consuming in 2016, and by 2018, wrote in his autobiography“I was smoking crack every 15 minutes.”
That deadline is key. According to court documents, Biden purchased a Colt Cobra 38SPL revolver around October 23, 2018. He was using drugs at the time. The gun was later found, allegedly thrown away by Joe Biden’s daughter-in-law, Hallie Biden, the widow of President Beau Biden’s son. Biden told the police that he thought Hallie believed he would use the gun to kill himself.
His family performed a failed intervention in 2019, but later that year, he finally changed thingswhich he attributes to his wife and family.
Biden will have to appear in court to officially answer the charges, and a judge must approve the plea deal. So far, no court date has been made public.
White House reaction
A White House statement from spokesman Ian Sams posted on Twitter read: “The President and First Lady love and support their son as he continues to rebuild his life. We will have no further comment.”