You cannot go to jail for making a mistake or filing your tax return incorrectly. However, if your taxes are wrong by design and you intentionally leave off items that should be included, the IRS can look at that action as fraudulent, and a criminal suit can be instituted against you.
A careless mistake on your tax return might tack on a 20% penalty to your tax bill. While not good, this sure beats the cost of tax fraud -- a 75% civil penalty. The line between negligence and fraud is not always clear, however, even to the IRS and the courts.
It is a federal crime to commit tax fraud and you can be fined substantial penalties and face jail time. Lying on your tax return means you committed tax fraud. The consequences of committing tax fraud vary from case to case.
Failure to file tax returns when taxes are already withheld is not a crime involving moral turpitude. UNTIL now, there are still many people who argue that failure to file tax returns is a crime that involves moral turpitude.
Remember that the IRS will catch many errors itself
For example, if the mistake you realize you've made has to do with math, it's no big deal: The IRS will catch and automatically fix simple addition or subtraction errors. And if you forgot to send in a document, the IRS will usually reach out in writing to request it.
In general, no, you cannot go to jail for owing the IRS. Back taxes are a surprisingly common occurrence. In fact, according to 2018 data, 14 million Americans were behind on their taxes, with a combined value of $131 billion!
These red flags may include commingling business and personal income and expenses, claiming unqualified dependents, or trying to hide assets overseas. Lying on your tax returns can result in fines and penalties from the IRS, and can even result in jail time.
The IRS does check each and every tax return that is filed. If there are any discrepancies, you will be notified through the mail.
While the chances of an audit are slim, there are several reasons why your return may get flagged, triggering an IRS notice, tax experts say. Red flags may include excessive write-offs compared with income, unreported earnings, refundable tax credits and more.
If the IRS finds that you were negligent in making a mistake on your tax return, then it can assess a 20% penalty on top of the tax you owe as a result of the audit. This additional penalty is intended to encourage taxpayers to take ordinary care in preparing their tax returns.
You could face civil penalties.
Penalties will vary based on how much your understated your tax. If you made a simple error and the IRS adjusted it, you might not have to pay any penalty.
Criminal Investigations can be initiated from information obtained from within the IRS when a revenue agent (auditor), revenue officer (collection) or investigative analyst detects possible fraud.
There is generally a 10-year time limit on collecting taxes, penalties, and interest for each year you did not file. However, if you do not file taxes, the period of limitations on collections does not begin to run until the IRS makes a deficiency assessment.
The IRS usually starts these audits within a year after you file the return, and wraps them up within three to six months. But expect a delay if you don't provide complete information or if the auditor finds issues and wants to expand the audit into other areas or years.
However, during an investigation, the IRS is putting together a criminal case which means you will be prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney's Office. If convicted, you could be subject to severe consequences, including fines and possible jail time.
The Short Answer: Yes. The IRS probably already knows about many of your financial accounts, and the IRS can get information on how much is there. But, in reality, the IRS rarely digs deeper into your bank and financial accounts unless you're being audited or the IRS is collecting back taxes from you.
If you deliberately fail to file a tax return, pay your taxes or keep proper tax records – and have criminal charges filed against you – you can receive up to one year of jail time. Additionally, you can receive $25,000 in IRS audit fines annually for every year that you don't file.
Failing to report all of your income on your tax return is a top audit trigger. That's because income that goes unreported on your tax return also goes untaxed. The IRS receives copies of your W-2 and 1099 forms and will automatically check to see that your reported income matches up.
Fortunately, you don't need to worry about that happening. According to the IRS, most tax audits are regarding returns filed within the last three years. If they find a substantial error, they may add more years. But even then, they seldom go back more than six years.
Audit trends vary by taxpayer income. In recent years, IRS audited taxpayers with incomes below $25,000 and those with incomes of $500,000 or more at higher-than-average rates. But, audit rates have dropped for all income levels—with audit rates decreasing the most for taxpayers with incomes of $200,000 or more.
Key Takeaways. Your tax returns can be audited even after you've been issued a refund. Only a small percentage of U.S. taxpayers' returns are audited each year. The IRS can audit returns for up to three prior tax years and, in some cases, go back even further.