Why Lenity Has No Place in the Income Tax Laws

by Andy Grewal — Tuesday, July 19, 2016

The conflict between the rule of lenity and administrative deference doctrines has drawn significant judicial attention recently (see prior coverage here ). I’ve posted on SSRN an essay that discusses some potential implications for the tax laws, and here’s the abstract:

A controversy has emerged over how to interpret statutes under which the government can undertake either civil or criminal action against a person. Should courts interpret these statutes like any other civil statutes, and defer to agencies to resolve ambiguities? Or should courts treat these statutes like pure criminal provisions, and use the rule of lenity to resolve ambiguities in a defendant-friendly fashion?

This Essay, prepared for the Missouri Law Review Symposium on “The Future of The Administrative State,” explains why the rule of lenity should never apply to the substantive provisions of the income tax laws, even though the government can proceed either civilly or criminally against taxpayers.

You can also download the full essay, “Why Lenity Has No Place in the Income Tax Laws.”
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