The number of tax evasion prosecutions fell 5.3 percent last year, continuing a steady decline for at least two decades, according to a new study.

Tax Analysts and the Transactional Record Access Clearinghouse, a data-gathering and research organization at Syracuse University, published the study of Justice Department data. They found that during fiscal year 2007, the government reported 196 new prosecutions whose lead charge was "attempt to evade or defeat tax," down from the 207 reported in 2006 and 214 reported five years ago.

Prosecutions fell 49.4 percent from the 387 reported in 1997, and 68.7 percent from the 626 reported in 1987. The Internal Revenue Service was the lead investigative agency for 93.4 percent of the prosecutions last fiscal year. Manhattan was the most active district with 12 prosecutions, followed by 11 prosecutions in Los Angeles and 10 in Forth Worth.

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