The Curious Story of Mark's Law

Mark Schwarz, a new attorney at Helsell Fetterman, is the author of a bill that was signed into law in October, 2011.

The genesis of Mark’s Law was a conversation between two neighbors in Las Vegas back in 2006. Mark Schwarz was employed by the IRS and his neighbor worked for the Office of the Inspector General for the Nevada State Prison System. The focus of the discussion was how to reduce the amount of tax fraud in prisons.

Many inmates were committing tax fraud by filing tax returns with false W-2s. The criminals would file a fraudulent return showing low income and a large number of dependents—gaining them tax credits and substantial refunds.

Mark discussed the issue with the IRS and drafted a law that would require the prison system to make yearly reports of the social security numbers of incarcerated individuals. That way prisoners could not file tax returns.

The law was proposed twice. The first time, it got little traction. Then CNN ran a story on the billions of dollars lost each year in tax-fraud schemes. The second time the draft of the bill moved from the IRS’ Guidance Plan to the legislature where it is believed to have been championed by Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY). Ultimately it became a law.

Where can you read this law? It starts on page 84 of the United States—Korea Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act. Entitled “Requirement for Prisons Located in the United States to Provide Information for Tax Administration,” the law requires all American prisons to supply information on their inmates for tax purposes.

What started as a casual conversation in a driveway resulted in legislation that will save our government millions of dollars and help keep criminals from committing tax fraud while being locked up.

Contact Mark at or (206) 689-2147.