Jesse Jackson Jr.’s Wife Sentenced for Tax Fraud
Sandra “Sandi” Jackson, the former Chicago alderman and wife of beleaguered Jesse Jackson Jr., on Aug. 14 was sentenced to one year in prison for underreporting the couple’s income.
Both husband and wife were reportedly sentenced – Sandra for filing false tax returns, and Jesse Jr. for spending campaign money for his personal use – after they pleaded guilty in February.
Sandi copped to failing to report $600,000 in income that the couple earned from 2006 to 2012, according to the AP, while Jesse Jr., son of well-known civil rights leader Jesse Jackson, schemed to spend $750,000 in campaign funds on vacations, furs, and Michael Jackson memorabilia. He was sentenced to two and a half years in prison.
During the federal investigation that leveled Jesse Jr.’s political hopes as a Democratic heavy, he resigned as an Illinois congressman, and Sandi resigned as an alderman of Chicago’s 7th ward.
Jesse will begin his sentence first, on Nov. 1, in an Alabama prison. He was ordered to repay all the money he misused, and Sandi was ordered to repay $22,000. They will also perform community service.
For Better and for Worse
Willful failure to pay the correct amount of tax on one’s income is a felony, says Mansoor Ansari, a tax attorney in Chicago. “Mrs. Jackson was convicted for underreporting her income,” he explains.
But she got off lightly. “For basic underreporting, the defendant’s penalty is usually 20 percent of the underreported amount. However, the actual dollar value dictates the length of imprisonment for a criminal case.”
While it may seem strange that only one member of a couple would be nailed for a joint return, there’s a reason in this case. “Mr. Jackson seems to have taken the brunt of the punishment for the misallocation of campaign funds,” Ansari observes. “For this reason, instead of punishing both the wife and husband for the same crimes, the prosecutor seems to have divided them up.”
Know What You’re Signing
The Jacksons’ sentencing points to the importance for both members of a couple to know what they are signing when they put their names on a tax return. “When a taxpayer signs a tax return, they are signing under penalty of perjury,” Ansarai says.
“More specifically, the taxpayer attests that all of the information on the tax return from the name to the income and deductions are all true,” he says. “The couple are equally at fault if they both signed the fraudulent tax return. For this reason, they must both be held accountable.”
Ansari reiterates, “Do no lie on your tax return. Do not take deductions that you are not entitled to take. Do not underreport your income to avoid paying income tax.” And if you have any questions about what you’re signing, “talk to a licensed CPA about your tax strategies, not tax avoidance.”