There are a number of statutes in the Internal Revenue Code that authorize the federal government to prosecute individuals, including those dealing with tax evasion, fraud and false statements, failure to file returns, failure to pay tax, etc. Some, like the tax evasion statute, are worded in particularly broad terms and may ensnare the unwary or careless taxpayers.
IRS Criminal Investigation Division (“CID”) may become involved in a number of ways. Usually it may open up an investigation in the higher profile cases, ones involving drug dealings, political figures, alleged mobsters, etc. Some of these are the result of coordination with the FBI, DEA, INS and other agencies and could be part of special programs being targeted by the federal or state governments. However, average citizens should not assume that they are immune from investigation by the CID. They may be targets of special programs, such as those involving tax protester groups, bankruptcy fraud, or bank deposits or currency exchange transactions involving cash of $10,000.00 or more, for example. In addition, they may be referred to CID by Revenue Agents of the Examination Division or Revenue Officers of the Collection Division who have reason to believe that there may be fraud or tax evasion involved in the cases they are working. Finally, CID may open an investigation simply as a result of a telephone call to their “squeal” line if it feels that the call warrants further investigation.
A criminal case is the most serious kind of case that IRS can have against a taxpayer. Nothing even comes close to the impact of an investigation by the Criminal Investigation Division. If it results in a referral to the U.S. Justice Department and subsequent prosecution, the consequences may be devastating, including damage to the taxpayer's personal and business reputation, financial ruin, break up of his or her family unit, and, worst of all, incarceration.
If you are contacted by Special Agents and asked to be interviewed, decline the interview and contact a criminal attorney immediately. Do not say anything to them. Anything you say may be held against you – even statements you may consider to be innocuous. For example, many criminal statutes require an element that is known as “willfulness.” Willfulness is a state of mind that cannot be demonstrated through direct evidence. The government must resort to circumstantial evidence to prove a state of mind, such as statements by the taxpayer. Therefore, even statements about the weather, depending on the context in which they are made, may be relevant to prove “willfulness.” An unwary taxpayer, encouraged by seemingly friendly and low-key Special Agents, may disclose information that is damaging to his or her case.
How do you know you have been contacted by Special Agents? They almost always travel in pairs, show their gold badges, and, as a matter of policy, usually read your “Miranda” rights on initial contact.
The need to retain counsel cannot be overemphasized. The criminal “game” is played by special rules and you need a representative who knows them.
This is a particularly broad, catch-all statute that subjects the taxpayer to fines of up to $100,000.00 ($500,000.00 for corporations) and imprisonment of up to 5 years for the willful attempt in any manner to evade or defeat any tax under the Internal Revenue Code. While used sparingly by the U.S. Justice Department, it nevertheless remains a potential trap for even the most innocuous and benign transgressions of the IRC.
FRAUD AND FALSE STATEMENTS
Any person who makes a false or fraudulent statement, or assists another person to make a false or fraudulent statement in connection with documents submitted to the IRS, such as Form 433A or B, or an offer in compromise or a closing agreement, may be prosecuted under this statute and, if convicted, subjected to a fine of up to $100,000.00 ($500,000.00 in the case of a corporation) and imprisoned up to three years. Concealment of property from the IRS, or withholding, falsifying or destroying records, also subjects the person to prosecution under this statute.
FAILURE TO FILE RETURNS, SUPPLY INFORMATION, OR PAY TAX
This is another broad statute that can be used to criminally convict a taxpayer for failing to file a tax return, filing an incomplete one, or not paying the tax that is due. The taxpayer may be fined $25,000.00 ($100,000.00 in the case of a corporation), plus costs of prosecution, and incarcerated up to one year in a federal prison.