When it comes to committing tax fraud and other tax crimes, the IRS can leave you with nothing and even throw you in jail. Here’s some advice on how to protect yourself from the IRS, what to expect, and how to handle it.
1. Get a lawyer. If the IRS criminally investigates you, this is crucial. Because of attorney-client privilege, communications between a client and his attorney are protected, keeping everything confidential. The accountant-client privilege does not extend to criminal tax matters.
2. Tax crimes are most likely spotted during an audit. If you are caught by an auditor in a tax lie or fraud, you may be penalized or your case may be referred to the IRS’ Criminal Investigation Division (“CID”).
3. Auditors will look for tax fraud. Also known as tax evasion, this is a willful act, with intent to defraud the IRS. For example, using a false social security number, keeping another set of financial books, or claiming a blind spouse as a dependent when you are single. Other examples which may not be as obvious are: not reporting all income on your tax return, overstating your deductions, or claiming phony deductions and exemptions. Any of these items could constitute a reason to be punished with a tax fraud civil penalty.
4. Negligence and fraud are not always clear. A mistake on your tax return will cost you a 20% penalty on the increase in tax, while tax fraud will cost you a 75% penalty on the increase in tax. Tax fraud examples include multiple sets of books of record for a business, false receipts, and altered checks. Usually, the auditor will not tell you if a criminal tax fraud referral has been made.
5. Alleged tax fraud cannot be combated easily. Defenses raised against tax fraud allegations are: cash hoard, nontaxable income, and honest mistake. The IRS does not typically accept any of these defenses at face value. In this case, a skilled attorney will be your most useful weapon.
6. Lying will only make it worse. If an IRS auditor believes you’ve cheated on your taxes, they can either impose a penalty for fraud, or begin a criminal investigation. In this case, they can get information from law enforcement agencies, and even other IRS divisions. Also, to ask someone else to lie to the IRS on your behalf is a separate crime.
7. Unless formally charged, you may not know of an investigation. But, you may hear from your friend, employee, accountant or lawyer. The CID will usually investigate cases involving $20,000 or more.
8. You will be the last source. If the CID is building a case against you, chances are they have already contacted potential witnesses, and looked at thousands of records. If they still want to talk to you, you are probably recommended for prosecution. They will be looking for a confession from you.
9. Know your rights. A special agent must contact you immediately if you are the target of a tax fraud investigation. He will read you a version of the Miranda rights—the right to remain silent, the right to have an attorney, and the warning that anything you say can be used against you. Know that it will be.
10. If you are convicted, consequences are high. If you put the government through a trial, there is an 80% chance that you will be send to federal prison for tax fraud. However, if you reach a plea bargain without a trial, chances are that you could be fined and/or placed on probation, given home confinement, or sent to a halfway house.
Reasons You Can be Charged
If CID recommends prosecution, it will give its evidence to the Justice Department to decide the special charges. Individuals are typically charged with one or more of three crimes: tax evasion, filing a false return, or not filing a tax return. All of which are tax fraud.
The sooner you hire tax counsel experienced with criminal tax matters, the higher the chance that further escalation of your case in the criminal arena could be avoided or limited.
Protect yourself from excessive fines and possible jail time. Let the tax attorneys of the Law Offices Of Jeffrey B. Kahn, P.C. located in Los Angeles, San Francisco and elsewhere in California defend you from the IRS.
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