Hunter Biden Indicted for Tax Fraud

He faces up to 17 years in prison.

The special counsel investigating Hunter Biden, the president’s son, charged him on nine counts related to his failure to pay federal taxes on millions of dollars of income.

A federal grand jury in the Central District of California returned the indictment charging Hunter Biden with three felony tax offenses and six misdemeanor tax offenses.

The charges stem from special counsel David Weiss’ long-running investigation into the president’s son.

The indictment alleges that from tax years 2016 through 2019, Hunter Biden didn’t pay at least $1.4 million in self-assessed federal taxes, and that he filed false returns for tax year 2018 in order to evade the assessment of taxes. The indictment alleges that the president’s son “subverted the payroll and tax withholding process of his own company by withdrawing millions outside of the payroll and tax withholding process; spent millions of dollars on an extravagant lifestyle rather than paying his tax bills; in 2018, stopped paying his outstanding and overdue taxes for tax year 2015; willfully failed to pay his 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019 taxes on time, despite having access to funds to pay some or all of these taxes; willfully failed to file his 2017 and 2018 tax returns, on time; and when he did finally file his 2018 returns, included false business deductions in order to reduce the very substantial tax liability he faced as of February 2020.”

If convicted, Hunter Biden faces a maximum penalty of 17 years in prison, though actual sentences for federal crimes are typically less than the maximum penalties.

Thursday’s development comes months after a plea deal with prosecutors – in which the president’s son agreed to plead guilty to two misdemeanor offenses related to his filing of federal income taxes and enter a pretrial diversion agreement related to a felony firearm offense in order to avoid prosecution – fell apart. At the time, the judge in the case demanded that the lawyers from both sides make clear that the deal does not convey broad immunity offered to Biden from prosecution on his business dealings. Hunter Biden subsequently pleaded not guilty to the two misdemeanor offenses related to his filing of federal income taxes. That previous indictment alleges that Hunter Biden did not pay federal income taxes for either 2017 or 2018, despite owing more than $100,000 in taxes each year.

Granting the awkwardness of the usual convention of referring to Hunter Biden as “Biden” on second and subsequent mention, the substitution “the president’s son” over and over is rather jarring.

The previous plea deal was absurdly generous, given the grossness of the violations. This is tax fraud, pure and simple, and on a rather large scale. Not only was the amount of undeclared income quite large but he went through significant machinations to cover his tracks.

At the same time, one wonders how much effort federal authorities would have expended on uncovering these crimes were he Hunter Smith. We’ve seen time and again that the appointment of a special prosecutor/counsel, while obviously useful to insulate the investigation from politics and as a demonstration that no one is above the law, amounts to an incredibly well-funded fishing expedition.

That this will doubtless be used as a cudgel against Joe Biden in the 2024 campaign is unfortunate. And rather rich given the wanton disregard his likely opponent had for the rule of law during his presidency.

FILED UNDER: Crime, Law and the Courts, US Politics, ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Charley in Cleveland says:

    Get the pardon pen ready, Joe. If this was Don Junior getting indicted and Trump was still in office, is there any doubt that Junior would be pardoned? There would be howls of protest about how wrong such a pardon would be, and then a general resignation to the fact that the pardoning power has been abused, but, “whaddya gonna do about it?” That’s how the R’s roll, so do it Joe!

  2. Tony W says:

    Don’t do the crime if you can’t do the time.

    That goes for everyone.

    Also – Vote for Joe Biden in 2024, he’s Democracy’s best hope and a fantastic president.

  3. DK says:

    David Weiss coming up with these lame charges after a fishing expedition that is nearly six years old is a gross fraud. All of Hunter’s bad behavior and “he fill out a form wrong and didn’t pay taxes” is all Weiss has after six years of probing? Sad.

    But as long as we’re now pretending to care about tax evasion, when are we prosecuting all those billionaires and rich corporations who don’t and won’t pay taxes?

  4. DK says:

    @Tony W:

    Vote for Joe Biden in 2024, he’s Democracy’s best hope and a fantastic president

    Here here.

  5. Scott says:

    I have a legal question for anyone. Now that Hunter has all these indictments against him, can he then turn around and refuse his subpoena to testify to the House Oversight Committee on the grounds this would potentially put him in more legal jeopardy?

  6. Scott says:


    Hunter Biden would not face prosecution for this were he anyone else.

    Probably true but OTOH white collar crime is out of control. Too much of it, justice system is too slow, and favorably skewed toward the well off.

  7. DK says:

    @Scott: Cool, so when do we go after actual white collar criminals, instead of spending six years investigating the president’s son’s dick pics?

    Are Mitt Romney and Amazon still finagling their way to a 0% tax bill? I believe Hunter Biden has now paid his outstanding taxes, how much is maintaining David Weiss’s office costing us? Pfft.

  8. stevecanyon says:

    While I suspect Hunter Biden is being treated more harshly than Joe Taxpayer, he traded on his famous name to make all this money. Now having that famous name is working against him. Two sides of the same coin.

  9. OzarkHillbilly says:

    The previous plea deal was absurdly generous, given the grossness of the violations.

    I have read a number of lawyers who said the plea deal was in line with the general trend in such crimes. And while I feel white collar crime is treated as a “boys will be boys, tut tut tut” crime (mostly white suspects?) I can’t help feeling Hunter is being singled out because of his name.

  10. Jen says:

    @stevecanyon: And now for it to be equally applied. As DK notes, there are tons of white-collar criminals out there, getting away with this (and far worse). Republicans are slicing away at the IRS to prevent exactly this type of prosecutorial activity, and yet Hunter gets ensnared. He should 100% pay what is due. But the uneven application of this pisses me off.

  11. gVOR10 says:

    I’m thinking of Shirley Sherrod, the Dep’t of Agriculture official fired by Obama because GOPs misrepresented a speech she gave, and Lois Lerner, the IRS official attacked with bogus claims she targeted conservative non-profits, and the two GA poll workers who are suing Giuliani. And there are dozens of local election officials, school teachers, librarians whose names I’ve forgotten or never made the national news. This is something GOPs do regularly, pick some minor official or nobody and ruin their lives over nothing for some slight political gain. It’s just the kind of people they are.

  12. al Ameda says:

    This kind of thing is what Jim Jordan and his fellow midget Republicans have in mind when they talk about the ‘weaponization’ of government, right?

  13. gVOR10 says:


    It’s just the kind of people they are.

    From Atrios this morning, an example,

    I wonder if any of these people ever think about why, exactly, everyone around them is a complete asshole.

    A Republican member of Congress is alleging that a former top aide spearheaded a “vindictive” threat to expose his daughter’s OnlyFans account.

    Rep. Brandon Williams (R-N.Y.) told POLITICO that his former chief of staff and former legislative director attempted to retaliate against him using his 27-year old daughter’s account on OnlyFans, a popular forum for people to charge for access to sexually explicit content.

  14. Michael Reynolds says:

    The Democratic response should be, “We are happy to let the court system sort this out. No one is above the law. Period.” No whining. It’s the right answer morally, legally and politically.

  15. Mikey says:

    According to Trump, Hunter Biden is a very smart guy.

    Of course, the GOP hypocrisy is all-encompassing, so they’ll praise Cheeto Jesus for dodging taxes for years while demanding Hunter Biden’s head for doing the same.

    @Michael Reynolds: Yes, that’s the proper response, but at the same time one must acknowledge if this guy were “Hunter Jones” none of this would be happening at all.

  16. Jen says:

    @Michael Reynolds: And that’s 100% what I say whenever I am in the company of others in public. Here, though, I reserve the right to be annoyed AF at the unequal distribution of pique.

  17. James Joyner says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: DK: @Scott: If the filing is correct, “Hunter Biden didn’t pay at least $1.4 million in self-assessed federal taxes, and that he filed false returns for tax year 2018 in order to evade the assessment of taxes.” That strikes me as pretty substantial. Whether jail time is customary for that sort of thing, I haven’t the foggiest. But it’s pretty egregious.

    That corporations and those who make their money off of carried interest have massive tax loopholes that allows them to pay much less than they would seemingly owe is highly problematic. But often not actually illegal.

  18. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Mikey: @Jen:
    Oh it’s absolutely bullshit – hell, I’ve done half this stuff and so have a lot of people. Late filings? I mean, come on. My accountant faints when we don’t have to file for extensions. Over-claiming business deductions? Seriously? Show me a business that hasn’t.

  19. Michael Reynolds says:

    @James Joyner:
    Nah, by the usual non-political standards this is a case of pay what you owe, pay the hefty fines, go and sin no more. We don’t have the prison space to handle two percent of the people who do similar things. The IRS is not about punishment, it’s about collecting principal and interest. This is a purely political prosecution and we have to eat it.

  20. DK says:

    @James Joyner:

    That corporations and those who make their money off of carried interest have massive tax loopholes that allows them to pay much less than they would seemingly owe is highly problematic. But often not actually illegal.

    Whoever said “the law is the last sanctuary of scoundrels” must’ve had the US tax code in mind.

    Democrats used to be ruthless. I don’t know what’s happened. The refusal to offer even the most nominal defense of their people — from Hillary Clinton and Al Franken to Joe and Hunter Biden — is pretty weak tea.

    Trump could shoot someone in the middle of 5th Avenue and Republicans would go to bat for him. A special prosecutor could jail Chelsea Clinton for running a red light, the most you’d get out of Democrats is, “Let’s see what happens on appeal.”

    If Democrats ever realized American voters respect strength more than optics, they might double up on all this winning they’ve been doing of late.

  21. Beth says:

    @James Joyner:

    I dunno. I have a friend who did something about this egregious. Other than the unescapable liens, he’s out doing his thing.

  22. Modulo Myself says:

    There’s a difference between not paying taxes and filing false tax returns. I think his earlier agreement was about not paying taxes. The false tax deductions are a new charge, I believe.

    Anyway, white-collar crime is not blowing up your life and then being too broke to pay the huge tax bill. And white-collar crime is also not pushing the envelope on deductions. In most cases like his, I’m guessing, the worst that happens isn’t jail. It’s bankruptcy and being too poor to afford the high-life of luxury crack and escorts. He got lucky in that he’s connected and had people bail him out and pay what he owed.

  23. Tony W says:

    @DK: Gavin Newsom seems to understand the occasional need for bare-knuckles politics. Based on his performance against DeSantis the other day I have high hopes for his future.