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Akio Kawashima v. Holder

The Supreme Court held in this case that the aggravated felony definition at 8 U. S. C. § 1101(a)(43)(M)(i) (an offense that "involves fraud or deceit in which the loss to the victim or victims exceeds $10,000") encompasses tax offenses. It reached this conclusion despite a separate provision of the statute that designates only certain tax offenses as aggravated felonies: § 1101(a)(43)(M)(ii) (an offense that "is described in section 7201 of title 26 (relating to tax evasion) in which the revenue loss to the Government exceeds $10,000").

The Court's primary justification for why its interpretation did not render clause (ii) superfluous was a hypothetical that even the government conceded had never arisen in any tax prosecution: evasion of tax payment without fraud or deceit. In other words, a taxpayer who files a truthful return but puts the money beyond the IRS's reach. Since the tax offense listed in clause (ii) covers this scenario (as well as evasion that involves fraud or deceit), the Court concluded that clause (ii) covers some offenses not covered by the fraud or deceit offense in clause (i).

Justice Ginsberg's dissent points out how ridiculous it is to attribute this intention to Congress when the government has never prosecuted anyone for filing a truthful return and then evading payment. Instead, she attributes to Congress the sensible intent of only making the most serious tax offense, 26 U.S.C. § 7201, an aggravated felony. And in all of the known prosecutions, that tax offense has involved fraud or deceit. Thus, it makes no sense for Congress to create two provisions side-by-side and have one of them be essentially meaningless. Instead, clause (ii), which specifically addresses the most serious tax offense that causes loss of revenue to the government of more than $10,000, should be interpreted to exclude tax offenses from the fraud and deceit offenses covered by clause (ii). But only two justices agreed with Justice Ginsberg's analysis, so that is not the law.

Read the decision at