Not having a firm grasp on taxes is rarely an acceptable defense for committing tax-related crimes. HOWEVER, a woman in Maine is employing a slightly different angle for her defense:
Carole Swan testified Wednesday during a suppression hearing in U.S. District Court in Bangor that she’s basically illiterate. Swan’s inability to read much more than names and numbers will be a ‘‘fact of significance in her defense,’’ said Leonard Sharon, an attorney in Auburn. Swan couldn’t have known if her and her husband’s tax returns understated their income because she didn’t have a full understanding of their taxes without being able to read, he said. Her inability to read also plays into whether she understood that certain work had to be reported when filing for federal worker’s compensation claims, he added. ‘‘Her lack of reading ability affects her quantum of knowledge,’’ Sharon said. Swan was indicted in early 2011 on federal charges for allegedly using her position as a Chelsea selectwoman to extort $20,000 from a local construction company. She’s also charged with tax fraud and making false statements to obtain worker’s compensation payments.