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What constitutes criminal tax evasion?

Tax evasion is a crime, but not all tax issues constitute the legal definition of "tax evasion." Ultimately, prosecutors will be held to a strict burden of proof and -- as you might expect -- you will be innocent until proven guilty in these cases.

The more you understand about the crime of tax evasion, the better off you'll be when navigating your criminal defense regarding these charges. So, let's get started.

Tax form mistakes do not constitute tax evasion

Tax evasion involves the purposeful underpaying of taxes. However, making a mistake in your tax filing will not constitute tax evasion. Tax forms are complex and tax laws are difficult to understand. It's perfectly possible and understandable that your lack of expertise regarding tax law has resulted in the underpayment of your taxes.

A simple error on your tax forms should not lead to a tax evasion conviction. You'll need to pay what you owe, and you could have to pay fines, penalties or interest, but a court will not criminally convict you. In order for the IRS to succeed in a tax evasion conviction, prosecutors must prove that your evasion of taxes was deliberate.

The basics of federal tax calculation

The tax code is certainly complicated, especially when it comes to running a business and keeping track of what you can deduct and what you can't. However, at it's core the process is fairly straightforward:

  • Each of you have to file a tax return that states your income, the size of your family and your expenses.
  • Next, the IRS will calculate your total income and deduct certain expenses from your income to arrive at your adjusted gross income (AGI). The IRS then locates your AGI on a chart that shows the percentage of your income that you must pay in taxes.
  • In some cases, you may qualify for special circumstances that allow you to pay less money in taxes.

What's an example of tax evasion?

During each part of the process above, a tax filer could try to defraud the IRS. For example, an individual might fail to file his or her tax return to avoid paying taxes. An individual might underreport income to pay less in taxes if he or she receives a lot of cash payments.

Just because the IRS accuses you of tax evasion does not mean that prosecutors will succeed in convicting you. You will have the opportunity to defend yourself against the alleged crimes, and through your criminal defense, you may be able to improve your situation.

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