When facing an investigation or audit by the IRS, an individual may decide that he wishes to accept whatever determination the IRS reaches, pay any taxes or penalties assessed and move on with his life. Another option we recommend is that you consult with a qualified attorney to pursue whatever defenses may be available. A third option, and probably the worst is to obstruct the IRS investigation. Attempting to obstruct or interfere with an IRS investigation violates 26 U.S.C. § 7212 and is punishable by up to three years in prison.
The statute is actually quite broad in terms of what it covers. Threatening and harassing IRS agents obviously violates the statute. But even actions that are not targeted against the IRS can also be prosecuted for violating the statute. For instance, anything that impedes an IRS investigation or assists in the creation of a tax evasion scheme is also considered obstruction of the IRS. So while an individual may not even be attempting to evade his own tax bill or even know of an IRS investigation, he can be prosecuted under this statute for a wide range of conduct.
The prosecutions initiated by the IRS under this statute fall into four categories:
1. Harassment of the IRS and its employees
2. Harassing a third party through the IRS
3. Impeding an IRS investigation in order to avoid taxes
4. Creating a tax evasion scheme
As you can see, these four categories encompass a wide array of conduct and also can be prosecuted under other statutes that are discussed elsewhere on this website. Like 26 USC § 7201 which criminalizes all attempts to evade or defeat income taxes, § 7212 targets a broad range of conduct that the IRS views as interfering with their goals and procedures.