Admitting Tax Records Under The Business Records Hearsay Exception

In taxpayer dispute, Internal Revenue Service tax records, concerning tax lien notification, were admissible under the business records hearsay exception, under FRE 803(6), in Haag v. United States, 485 F.3d 1 (1st Cir. 2007)

A First Circuit case addressed the issue of whether records maintained by the Internal Revenue Service may be admitted under the business records hearsay exception.

In the case, after a tax judgment was entered against taxpayers Robert and Kathleen Haag for approximately $1.85 million, they filed an action claiming that “they had been deprived of their statutory right to a Collection Due Process (“CDP”) hearing with respect to the federal tax liens filed against them because the Internal Revenue Service (“IRS”) had allegedly failed to notify the Haags of their right to such a hearing.” Haag, 485 F.3d at 2. The notification could not originally be found but was then located:

“The government affiant asserted that she had accessed the IRS’s computerized database and printed copies of the letters from electronic data maintained by the IRS in its regular course of business. Each electronic copy had a certified mail number that corresponded to receipts obtained from the U.S. Postal Service bearing Mr. Haag’s signature and indicating delivery on December 4, 2003.”

Haag, 485 F.3d at 2. The taxpayers claimed they never received the notice. The trial court then granted summary judgment for the government. The taxpayers appealed.

The First Circuit affirmed. The tax records were admissible as business records:

“The IRS computerized records would be admissible at trial and are a conventional method of proving correspondence under the business records exception to the hearsay doctrine. Fed. R. Evid. 803(6); see also, e.g., United States v. Moore, 923 F.2d 910, 914-15 (1st Cir. 1991); United States v. Hayes, 861 F.2d 1225, 1228-29 (10th Cir. 1988). A government deponent described the operation of the computer-generated system of sending letters; and an affiant described the location in an IRS computer of copies of the letters sent to the Haags with certified mail numbers matching the numbers on the receipts signed by Robert Haag.”

Haag, 485 F.3d at 3. On appeal, the taxpayers claimed the government failed to show they actually mailed the notification. However, this argument was unavailing since they did not controvert the government’s deposition testimony about the procedure in sending the notification.

For another case considering the issue whether tax returns may be admitted as business records, see United States v. Garth, 540 F.3d 766 (8th Cir. 2008) (in conspiracy to defraud the United States prosecution involving the submission of false tax returns, the Confrontation Clause was not violated by the admission of tax returns of non-testifying witnesses because the defendant had stipulated that these returns were business records under the FRE 803(6) hearsay exception and the returns were not “testimonial” under Crawford v. Washington, 541 U.S. 36 (2004)).

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