SAN FRANCISCO – Attorney James Patrick Klier, who practices in San
Francisco, was suspended on March 19 from practicing law for 90 days and placed
on probation for two years after he stipulated to failing to file tax returns
for 11 years, based on a total of $1.3 million in earnings.
“The State Bar Court judge determined that because Klier was
a tax attorney and partner in a tax practice, his intentional misconduct
amounted to moral turpitude,” the discipline report from California Lawyer said.
The report explained that Klier committed multiple acts of
intentional misconduct. Prior to this order, Klier practiced law for 20 years,
discipline-free, before the misconduct began.
“(Klier) helped save the State Bar time and resources by
entering a stipulation, and also cooperated with authorities in the criminal
investigation of the matter,” the report said. “In addition, he presented
evidence of extensive pro bono service and writings and lectures on tax
matters—though credit for this was tempered by the fact they occurred
contemporaneously with his own failure to pay taxes.”
On May 1, 2013, Klier pled guilty to two counts of failing
to file income tax returns. According to his plea agreement, Klier was a
practicing tax attorney focusing on federal and state tax controversies. From
1999 through 2005, Klier was a partner at Preston, Gates and Ellis LLP. From
2005 through 2010, Klier worked at Reed Smith LLP. During those years from
1999 through and including 2010, Klier failed to report any income he earned, court documents state.
According to court documents, for 2008, 2009 and 2010, Klier
earned $624,923, $476,088 and $200,734, respectively. He was required by law to
file an income tax return with the IRS and did willfully fail to do so, documents state. He
agreed to pay past-due taxes to the government in the total amount of $650,993
for 2003, 2008, 2009 and 2010.
“Our tax system is vital to this country and our
communities, funding programs and services like roads, water, education, and
agriculture, accessed and needed by millions of people every day,” Northern
California-based U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag said in a statement. “The defendant, a tax
attorney, should and did know that he is required to file tax returns and pay
taxes. This office will continue to work with the IRS to ensure that each person
pays his or her fair share.”
The maximum statutory penalty for each count failure to file
a tax return is one-year imprisonment and a fine of $100,000.
“However, any sentence following conviction would be imposed
by the court after consideration of the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and the
federal statute governing the imposition of a sentence,” the court documents
Klier has lectured at Golden Gate University in San
Francisco and was a regular lecturer on criminal tax law at UC Hastings College
of the Law. He was the chairman of local and national bar associations for his
tax expertise. He previously chaired a task force for the American Bar
Association’s Section of Taxation, along with the San Francisco Bar
Association’s Barristers Club Tax Section, according to publisher Bloomberg
BNA, where Klier is listed as an author.
In 2009, he also earned a spot on California’s list of the
top 250 delinquent taxpayers.