Internal Revenue Service
Internal Revenue Service ()

A former Reed Smith tax partner faces a year in prison for federal tax evasion under a guilty plea announced Friday by the San Francisco U.S. attorney’s office.

James Kleier was charged in May 2013 with failing to file federal returns for the 2008, 2009 and 2010 tax years despite earning more than $1.3 million in income during that time. As part of a plea agreement filed Thursday in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, Kleier pleaded guilty to one misdemeanor count of “willfully failing” to file his taxes in 2008. Terms of the deal call for Kleier to serve one year in prison and to pay restitution totaling $650,993.

Neither Kleier nor his attorney, federal defender Elizabeth Meyer Falk, returned messages seeking comment Friday afternoon.

Court documents offer no clues as to why the veteran tax attorney shirked his taxpaying duties. But they do confirm it was a long-standing practice. Kleier acknowledged that he stopped filing tax returns in 2000, even though his employer was reporting his earnings to the Internal Revenue Service.

Kleier handled state and federal tax cases for Preston Gates & Ellis from 1999 until he left for Reed Smith in 2005. Kleier worked as a partner in that firm until 2010. A Reed Smith press release from 2005 said Kleier spent most of his early career at Morrison & Foerster and then worked briefly at Graham & James before joining a group that opened Preston Gates’ San Francisco office. He also taught state taxation courses at Golden Gate University and criminal tax law at UC-Hastings College of the Law.

Kleier was still listed Friday as an active member of the state bar, but “a conviction for tax evasion would be grounds for discipline,” bar spokeswoman Laura Ernde said. “Once the conviction is final, the State Bar Court will determine the level of discipline.”

Because Kleier is not pleading to a felony, he will not face an interim suspension.

Kleier is scheduled to be sentenced May 29 in San Francisco.

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