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What is the difference between tax evasion, and a simple mistake?

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In most tax audits the IRS is only attracted in collecting the taxes owed, along with interest plus a few penalties. Possibly the IRS might inflict a negligence penalty or a late filing penalty fee. However, if during the tax audit the IRS suspects that you have committed tax fraud they can inflict a civil tax fraud penalty. The civil tax evasion penalty is equates to 75% of the tax owed, plus interest on the penalty. Worse yet the IRS tax auditor might ask the tax evasion referral specialist to look at your case to see if it should be sent to the IRS Criminal Investigation unit for criminal tax prosecution. The IRS tax evasion referral specialist is usually not a tax lawyer, however, he has experience in tax fraud cases, and will seek the advice of the IRS’ own tax evasion lawyers for help if it seems essential.


Felony Tax Evasion crimes include filing a false tax return, tax evasion, filing false documents, failure to collect employment taxes, failure to pay taxes, and failing to file a tax return.

The penalties for criminal tax evasion are very serious. They range up to 5 years in jail, plus fines of up to $500,000, plus the costs of prosecution for each separate tax evasion crime. Once the criminal tax evasion case is finished the IRS Criminal Investigation unit will refer the case back to the IRS Examination Division where the taxes will be assessed, and the IRS can be likely to add on the civil tax evasion penalty, on top of any criminal tax evasion fines.


“What is the difference between tax evasion, and a simple mistake?” Generally tax evasion involves an intentional wrongdoing. Mere carelessness is not tax evasion.

The IRS decides whether tax evasion has been committed by looking for badges of tax evasion. These badges include:


  • Understatements of income;
  • Inadequate records;
  • Failure to file tax returns;
  • Implausible or inconsistent explanations of behavior;
  • Concealment of assets;
  • Failure to cooperate with tax authorities;
  • Engaging in illegal activities;
  • Attempting to conceal illegal activities;
  • Dealing in cash; and
  • Failure to make estimated tax payments



If you have any of these tax evasion problems and the IRS audits you, you may need to engage a felony tax evasion lawyer. Actions you take during the course of a tax audit can turn a run of the mill tax controversy into a tax evasion case. For example, lying or giving evasive answers to IRS investigators, delaying tactics, and other actions designed to mislead IRS agents are all indicia of felony tax evasion.


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An experienced tax evasion attorney can help you navigate the treacherous waters of an IRS tax audit, and help formulate an effective strategy. Whether and when to answer questions from the IRS, or whether to stand on your 5th Amendment rights, are questions that only a tax fraud lawyer can help you answer. Your financial freedom, as well as your personal freedom may depend on the right answers. For example in one recent case handled by affiliated tax lawyers at Wise Laws, the IRS alleged that our client had failed to report over $200,000 in income and didn’t file tax returns for more than 4 years. Nevertheless we ultimately settled the case for much less than the IRS first demanded, and without paying any tax evasion penalties.


If you or your accountant even suspects that you might be subject to a criminal or civil tax evasion penalty you owe it to yourself to arrange for an appointment with Wise Laws.


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