howardnlby Howard Stephenson

You may have seen a recent news report of a Utah resident who was found guilty of several tax related felonies regarding unpaid Utah income taxes. Many Utahns mistakenly think the Utah State Tax Commission doesn’t go after income tax cheats – that they only piggy-back on tax audits conducted by the Internal Revenue Service. They’re wrong.

The case of one Salt Lake County resident illustrates measures taken by more than a few Utahns who want to avoid paying their fair share of taxes. Fortunately, the Utah State Tax Commission has a team whose sole responsibility is to investigate these individuals, and they did just this in a case won in court on Friday, June 3rd, 2005.

In Salt Lake’s 3rd District Court, Mr. Kevan C. Eyre, was found guilty of 12 tax-related felonies after a three-day trial presented by the State Tax Commission along with lawyers from the State Attorney General’s office. The case against Mr. Eyre was not a simple instance of overlooking small amounts of income. Instead, it was determined that he did not file returns or pay taxes on many year’s worth of earnings with an estimated combined dollar figure of almost $750,000.

Finding the Scofflaws

So how do cases such as this end up in the hands of the Tax Commission’s criminal investigators? Some cases come in as referrals from the Internal Revenue Service, law enforcement and other government agencies or the Commission’s own auditors. Many others come straight to the state investigators’ desk from taxpayers who are upset that someone is not paying their fair share of taxes.

In the Eyre case, the investigation originated out of a question asked by a government official in another state who was unsure of the residency status of Mr. Eyre and made a phone call to the Utah State Tax Commission. Looking into his residency status to verify the information, it was apparent that Mr. Eyre was in fact a Utah resident, and one who had not filed taxes for multiple years.

Historically, those charged with tax evasion and related charges come from all walks of life and use a variety of causes, philosophies and reasoning in their attempt to justify breaking the law while burdening the rest of state taxpayers with their actions. Some claim that they are not legally required to pay federal or state income taxes, while the really gutsy ones set out to intentionally defraud the state by forging documents and filing false returns in order to claim an illegitimate refund.

With so many different styles of trying to beat the system, state criminal investigators have to be one step ahead of trends and schemes, looking for unusual patterns in filing, examining well-crafted counterfeit earning statements and conducting interviews to verify information. The objective is always to increase compliance and make tax responsibility something we all share equitably.

The Utah State Tax Commission’s criminal investigative team works tirelessly to go after those literally picking the pockets of all of us, because when some decides not to pay, the financial burden gets passed along to those who do. It is a job that often goes unnoticed, except for a brief mention in the paper to highlight months of hard work. After all is said and done and the case goes to court, a guilty verdict in favor of the Tax Commission is a win for all of the honest taxpayers of the state. Whenever someone cheats on their taxes, they’re really cheating the rest of us whose taxes would be lower if everyone paid their fair share.