Appeal from the United States District Court
for the Western District of Tennessee at Memphis.
No. 2:16-cr-20078-1—Sheryl H. Lipman, District Judge.
Decided and Filed: March 3, 2017
Before: DAUGHTREY, SUTTON, and DONALD, Circuit Judges.
SUTTON, Circuit Judge. John Ballard lied about his income, hid money in family
members’ bank accounts, and filed then dismissed several Chapter 13 bankruptcy petitions.
Through these and other inartful dodges, he tried to avoid paying $848,798 in taxes arising from
his income as a securities broker between 2000 and 2008. The Internal Revenue Service noticed.
Even after the IRS started asking questions, Ballard told the agency that he did not have any
income in 2009, when in truth he had made over $500,000 as a broker that year. The lies and
deceptions led to a criminal charge, then a guilty plea, for violating 26 U.S.C. § 7212(a), which
prohibits “corruptly . . . obstruct[ing] or imped[ing] . . . administration of [the tax laws].”
The Sentencing Guidelines say that district courts may sentence individuals for violations
of that provision as a tax evasion offense or as an obstruction of justice offense, whichever is
“most appropriate.” U.S.S.G. App. A, Introductory cmt. Ballard urged the court to use the
obstruction of justice guideline. The district court disagreed. It rejected Ballard’s argument that
he never intended to evade paying his taxes but was merely delaying the payments (merely
obstructing justice in other words) until he made real money—apparently more than $500,000 a
year. Use of the tax evasion guideline led to a higher offense level for Ballard and an increase in
the sentencing range from 8–14 months to 24–30 months, and eventually led to a sentence of
18 months. We affirm.