Death may have been certain for prominent Chicago tax attorney Burton Kanter, who died in 2001, but taxes are not — following a decision Tuesday by the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

The unanimous opinion, written by Judge Diane Wood, directed the U.S. Tax Court to find that the late lawyer did not engage in a fraudulent scheme to avoid taxes, as alleged by the Internal Revenue Service. The Dec. 1 ruling in the 23-year-old case — which at one point went before the U.S. Supreme Court — will wipe out about $15 million, plus interest, in tax deficiencies and civil penalties that the government claimed Kanter owed for his role in alleged illicit kickbacks.

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