Achilli v. United States, Nos. 430

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtFRANKFURTER
Citation77 S.Ct. 995,1 L.Ed.2d 918,353 U.S. 373
PartiesSam ACHILLI, Petitioner, v. UNITED STATES of America
Decision Date27 May 1957
Docket NumberNos. 430,834

353 U.S. 373
77 S.Ct. 995
1 L.Ed.2d 918
Sam ACHILLI, Petitioner,

v.

UNITED STATES of America.

Nos. 430, 834.
Argued May 2, 1957.
Decided May 27, 1957.
Rehearing Denied June 24, 1957.

See 354 U.S. 943, 77 S.Ct. 1391, 1394.

Peter B. Atwood, Chicago, Ill., for the petitioner.

Charles K. Rice, Washington, D.C., for the respondent.

Mr. Justice FRANKFURTER delivered the opinion of the Court.

Petitioner was charged in a three-count indictment under § 145(b) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1939, 26 U.S.C.A. § 145(b), with the felony of wilfully attempting to evade federal

Page 374

income taxes by filing a false return. 1 Upon conviction, he was sentenced to concurrent two-year prison terms and was fined $2,000 on each count. The Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit reversed the conviction on count one, but affirmed the convictions on counts two and three. 234 F.2d 797. We granted certiorari limited to a question of general importance in the enforcement of the income tax, namely, whether petitioner could be prosecuted and sentenced under § 145(b) for an offense claimed by him to be punishable also under § 3616(a) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1939, 26 U.S.C.A. § 3616(a). 352 U.S. 1023, 77 S.Ct. 588, 1 L.Ed.2d 595.2

The threshold question is whether the conduct for which petitioner was convicted was an offense under

Page 375

s 3616(a). That section made it a misdemeanor for any person to deliver to the Collector 'any false or fraudulent list, return, account, or statement, with intent to defeat or evade the valuation, enumeration, or assessment intended to be made * * *' and provided maximum penalties of one year in prison and a $1,000 fine, together with the costs of prosecution. 53 Stat. 440. If the wilful filing of a false income tax return was not embraced by § 3616(a), petitioner's case falls, and discussion of other issues becomes unnecessary.

Unlike § 145(b), which appeared in the income tax chapter of the 1939 Code and was specifically and restrictively designed to punish evasion of that tax, § 3616(a) was placed among the Code's 'General Administrative Provisions' and was general in scope. Failure explicitly to exclude evasion of the income tax from the scope of § 3616(a) is urged as ground for its inclusion, thereby making it a misdemeanor to file a false return with intent to evade the income tax, despite the specific felony provision of § 145(b).

As long ago as 1926 it was the Government's position that the predecessor of § 145(b) effectively repealed § 3616(a)'s applicability to income tax evasion. See brief for the United States pp. 16—19, in United States v. Noveck, 273 U.S. 202, 47 S.Ct. 341, 71 L.Ed. 610. To be sure, during the last five years, the Government prosecuted a small number of minor offenses, we are told less than seven per cent of the criminal income tax evasion cases involving the filing of false returns, as misdemeanors under § 3616(a). More recently, a series of cases brought the relation of § 145(b) to § 3616(a) into focus and called for an interpretative analysis of the history of these sections in order to ascertain their respective functions. And so now, for the first time, has the Government made a detailed survey of the problem of alleged overlapping between § 3616(a) and § 145(b).

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Section 3616(a) goes back to the Act of 1798, 1 Stat. 580, 586, when excise taxes and customs duties were the main sources of federal revenue. Being general in scope, this section, as successively re-enacted, was applicable to the first federal taxes on income from 1861 to 1871, and again in 1894; there were no separate provisions for punishing income tax evasions. See, e.g., the Act of 1861, 12 Stat. 292, 309; the Act of 1894, 28 Stat. 509, 553.

A different story begins with the income tax legislation that followed the passage of the Sixteenth Amendment. Section II of the Revenue Act of 1913, 38 Stat. 114, 166, contained its own criminal sanctions. Section II(F) proscribed the making of a false return with intent to evade the income tax, an act that would otherwise have been punishable under what was then § 3179 of the Revised Statutes of 1874, the immediate predecessor of § 3616(a). The offense would have been a misdemeanor under either statute. But § II(F) provided a maximum fine of $2,000 while § 3179 only permitted a fine of up to $1,000. It seems clear that § II(F) displaced § 3179. Such implied repeal, pro tanto, is further demonstrated by the fact that §§ 3167, 3172, 3173 and 3176 of the Revised Statutes, related provisions in the enforcement of the revenue laws, were specifically incorporated, as modified, into § II, but § 3179 was not. Nor was it incorporated by reference; § II(L) made applicable only those administrative and general tax provisions 'not inconsistent with the provisions of this section,' and § 3179 was obviously inconsistent with § II(F).

The Revenue Act of 1916, 39 Stat. 756, 775, and the Act of 1917, 40 Stat. 300, 325, offer further evidence that Congress withdrew the income tax from the reach of the general provisions of § 3179. Both of those Acts imposed income taxes, proscribed the making of false returns as a misdemeanor, and punished that offense more severely

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than did § 3179.3 In addition to its specific prohibition of false returns, the 1917 Act made it an offense to evade or attempt to evade taxes imposed by it, thereby using for the first time language similar to that subsequently found in § 145(b).

In an effort to escape the effect of the scheme for punishing...

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58 practice notes
  • United States v. Clancy, No. 12815.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (7th Circuit)
    • April 14, 1960
    ...F.2d 797, 808, certiorari denied, 352 U.S. 916, 77 S.Ct. 214, 1 L.Ed.2d 122, vacated 352 U.S. 1023, 77 S.Ct. 588, 1 L.Ed.2d 595, affirmed 353 U.S. 373, 77 S.Ct. 995, 1 L.Ed. 2d 918, rehearing denied 354 U.S. 943, 77 S.Ct. 1391, 1 L.Ed.2d A review of defendants' tendered instructions relied ......
  • Wood v. U.S., Nos. 91-1323
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — First Circuit
    • October 8, 1992
    ..."giv[ing] coherence to what Congress has done within the bounds imposed by a fair reading of [the] legislation." Achilli v. United States, 353 U.S. 373, 379, 77 S.Ct. 995, 998, 1 L.Ed.2d 918 (1957). And if Congress is displeased when it sees how its general language and purpose have been fi......
  • Community-Service Broadcasting of Mid-America, Inc. v. F. C. C., COMMUNITY-SERVICE
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (District of Columbia)
    • September 29, 1978
    ...construction . . . improperly narrows the plain meaning of (the) statute"). 44 Wright Op. at note 4; see Achilli v. United States, 353 U.S. 373, 379, 77 S.Ct. 995, 998, 1 L.Ed.2d 918, 922 (1957) (coherence must be given to all portions of the statute); Gayler v. Wilder, 51 U.S. (10 How.) 47......
  • Hutcherson v. United States, No. 18375.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (District of Columbia)
    • March 18, 1965
    ...2 The force of Berra for our purposes is of course not diminished by the Court's subsequent determination, see Achilli v. United States, 353 U.S. 373, 77 S.Ct. 995, 1 L.Ed.2d 918 (1957), that the two sections did not in fact 3 If it be suggested that the grant of certiorari on the refusal o......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
58 cases
  • United States v. Clancy, No. 12815.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (7th Circuit)
    • April 14, 1960
    ...F.2d 797, 808, certiorari denied, 352 U.S. 916, 77 S.Ct. 214, 1 L.Ed.2d 122, vacated 352 U.S. 1023, 77 S.Ct. 588, 1 L.Ed.2d 595, affirmed 353 U.S. 373, 77 S.Ct. 995, 1 L.Ed. 2d 918, rehearing denied 354 U.S. 943, 77 S.Ct. 1391, 1 L.Ed.2d A review of defendants' tendered instructions relied ......
  • Wood v. U.S., Nos. 91-1323
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — First Circuit
    • October 8, 1992
    ..."giv[ing] coherence to what Congress has done within the bounds imposed by a fair reading of [the] legislation." Achilli v. United States, 353 U.S. 373, 379, 77 S.Ct. 995, 998, 1 L.Ed.2d 918 (1957). And if Congress is displeased when it sees how its general language and purpose have been fi......
  • Community-Service Broadcasting of Mid-America, Inc. v. F. C. C., COMMUNITY-SERVICE
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (District of Columbia)
    • September 29, 1978
    ...construction . . . improperly narrows the plain meaning of (the) statute"). 44 Wright Op. at note 4; see Achilli v. United States, 353 U.S. 373, 379, 77 S.Ct. 995, 998, 1 L.Ed.2d 918, 922 (1957) (coherence must be given to all portions of the statute); Gayler v. Wilder, 51 U.S. (10 How.) 47......
  • Hutcherson v. United States, No. 18375.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (District of Columbia)
    • March 18, 1965
    ...2 The force of Berra for our purposes is of course not diminished by the Court's subsequent determination, see Achilli v. United States, 353 U.S. 373, 77 S.Ct. 995, 1 L.Ed.2d 918 (1957), that the two sections did not in fact 3 If it be suggested that the grant of certiorari on the refusal o......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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