A Minneapolis lawyer who has raised philosophical questions about the government’s authority to impose taxes was found guilty of failing to pay his state income taxes in 2013 and 2014.
Ramsey County prosecutors alleged in a criminal complaint that William Butler last filed a tax return in 2008, listing “0” on every line, and had not filed a state return since.
Yet there was evidence he had deposited $1.3 million into his bank accounts between February 2012 and October 2013, the complaint said. The Internal Revenue Service had determined that his adjusted gross income was $385,233 in 2012 and $295,904 in 2013.
Butler, 55, was found guilty on Wednesday of two counts of failing to file a tax return. The jury deliberated for 90 minutes, according to the Ramsey County Attorney’s Office. He faces up to five years and a $10,000 fine on each of the two counts. Sentencing is set for May 8. Part of his sentence will include a requirement that he prepare his past tax returns, the County Attorney’s Office said.
“Butler not only knows he has an obligation to file a Minnesota income tax return, but his refusal to file is a willful attempt to evade or defeat the tax which he views as the product of unjust or immoral government,” the criminal complaint said.
Butler did not testify but was allowed to submit excerpts from his blog about why he believed he did not have to pay taxes. He has also written articles characterizing the government’s taxing authority as a “coercive power” and taxation as “coercive and involuntary transfers of property.”
According to a summary of the accusations, the complaint said that Butler has stated “that there is no question” that Jesus regards tax collectors “as ‘sinners’ who have violated God’s law and who must acknowledge their sins and repent.”
Butler was suspended from practicing law in 2015 by the Minnesota Lawyers Professional Responsibility Board. He has been denounced by federal and state district judges, sanctioned and held in contempt for filing frivolous lawsuits over house foreclosures, then failing to pay the fees and fines when he was sanctioned.
Neither Assistant County Attorney Tom Hatch, who prosecuted the case, or Butler’s attorney, Dan Biersdorf, could be reached for comment.