Former IRS agent convicted of failing to pay taxes
Stone Mountain woman testifies she believes she wasn't required to file returns

BILL RANKIN
Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Wednesday October 31, 2007

Sherry Peel Jackson, a former IRS revenue agent and certified public accountant, told a federal jury Tuesday she was sure she did not have to file income tax returns.

But after less than 30 minutes of deliberations, the jury convicted Jackson of failing to file income tax returns for four years, despite an income of more than $400,000 during that time, according to prosecutors.

The Stone Mountain woman faces a maximum of four years in prison. She will be sentenced early next year.

Jackson, 45, did not fit the typical profile of a criminal defendant. She worked as a revenue agent from 1988 to 1995 and then as an accountant.

But in July 2000, Jackson testified, she began to question whether she had to pay income taxes. By the following year, she decided she was not going to file a tax return.

Sitting at the witness stand, with large books of federal regulations and the tax code in front of her, Jackson said she could not find any section of the tax code that held her liable for income taxes.

"I'd done a lot of research and I was just about sure," she testified. "I did not have to file an income tax return."

During cross-examination, assistant U.S. Attorney Richard Langway read Section 1 of the tax code to Jackson, who is married. A tax is imposed on "every married individual," Langway read, asking Jackson how she could not be an individual.

"I couldn't find the definition of 'individual,' " Jackson replied.

Lowell H. Becraft Jr., one of Jackson's attorneys, told jurors they should not convict her of willfully disobeying the law because Jackson had a "good faith" reason to believe she did not have to file taxes. He reminded the jury Jackson attended Tuskegee University in Alabama and the University of Georgia, raised a family and lived the life of an ordinary American.

"You may have never heard of this before," Becraft said. "To you, it may sound wild. It may sound crazy. ... But she believes she's not required to file tax returns."

Langway called Jackson's reasoning "cockamamie" and "absurd."

"She's an 'individual' — she knows that," Langway said. "You should disbelieve everything she said."

Jackson was once entrusted with protecting IRS laws when she served as a revenue agent, Rodney Clarke, IRS criminal investigation special agent in charge, said in a statement.

The verdict, he said, "indicates that she knew exactly what she was doing when she stopped filing her own individual tax returns. While taxpayers such as Ms. Jackson have the right to contest their tax liabilities in the courts, taxpayers do not have the right to violate and disobey tax laws. The law establishing the requirement to file tax returns is crystal clear."

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