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Can you go to jail for tax evasion?

If you are currently facing charges related to tax evasion, you may have concerns about the potential penalties you may face and whether you may have to spend time behind bars. Maybe you honestly forgot to file taxes one year and your finances have spiraled in the time since, or perhaps you understated the amount you owe, and you are wondering whether it will come back to haunt you. While tax crimes are undeniably serious in nature, in reality, the chance of you having to serve time for tax evasion are relatively slim.

It is, however, not impossible, and there are certain actions you may take that can make the Internal Revenue Service more likely to consider filing criminal tax charges against you.

IRS red flags

Arguably the easiest way to attract the unwanted attention of the IRS is to simply not file a necessary tax return. However, there are steps you can take when filing tax returns that can also lead the IRS to take a closer look at your finances and tax situation. For example, underreporting your income is one way to make the IRS take a second look, and taking the wrong credits or deductions when filing your taxes has the potential to do the same.

Many people who underreport their income on their taxes simply fail to report income earned during “side jobs,” either because they feel the money did not amount to much or because they feel it will go unnoticed. It is a risky move, however, and the penalties associated with getting caught can be considerable.

The role of the audit

Once you have the attention of the IRS, the organization may decide to move forward with auditing you. During the audit process, you can expect the IRS to look into whether you made any false statements about your income or financial affairs, and whether you were concealing any bank accounts you currently have. The IRS will likely also explore whether you omitted any sources of income when filing your taxes or undergoing your audit to assess whether there are potential signs of fraud.

Tax crimes can have serious implications, but this is not always the case. Ultimately, a relatively small percentage of those convicted of tax crimes end up serving time behind bars.


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