Ever wonder what it would take to be convicted of a tax crime? It’s probably less than what you would think. Hopefully you continue reading this post to satisfy your curiosity and not because you have any real need to know. Obtaining tax relief early in the game will usually help you avoid criminal investigations.
So for inquiring minds, here are some of the more common tax violations:
1. Evasion of Assessment
2. Evasion of Payment
3. Failure to Collect or Pay over Tax
4. Failure to File
5. Fraud & False Statements
All of these offenses require wilfulness, or criminal intent. Take “Failure to File,” for example. You may be guilty under Internal Revenue Code section 7203 for failure to file a return if (1) you are required to file a return, and (2) you willfully fail to file the return when it is required to be filed. Simple as that. If convicted, the penalty can be as high as $25,000, or imprisonment for up to one year, or both.
The “Evasion of Assessment” and “Evasion of Payment” crimes may be applicable even if the tax assessment or payment was not ultimately evaded. For example, you may be found guilty under Internal Revenue Code section 7201 for attempting to evade or defeat a tax if (1) a tax is due and owing, and (2) you willfully attempt to evade or defeat a tax or the payment of a tax. If convicted, the penalty can be as high as $100,000, or imprisonment for up to five years, or both. See the IRS Tax Crimes Handbook for more information.
The silver lining here is that wilfulness is usually a subjective standard in the tax code, meaning that a defendant’s good faith belief that he is not violating the tax laws, no matter how objectively unreasonable that belief may be, is a defense in a tax prosecution.