Tax fraud is a felony offense that costs the United States government billions of dollars every year. In fact, the Internal Revenue Service estimates that the government loses approximately $458 billion annually.
However, not everyone gets away with it. When looking at an instance of tax fraud, the IRS needs to consider if the person intentionally attempted to commit fraud or if it was merely negligence. Simple negligence typically results with a slap on the wrist, so the difference in the penalties between the two is extreme.
Differences between fraud and negligence
It is often relatively easy for the IRS to tell the difference between fraud and negligence. Some examples of intentional fraud include:
- Preparing false returns
- Making false claims on tax returns
- Failing to report all earned income
- Avoiding submission of taxes entirely.
On the other hand, negligence is frequently a simple mistake on a person's tax forms. For instance, a person may have done the math wrong on the certain part and ended up paying less than he should have. IRS workers receive training to maintain a vigilant eye, and they generally know when someone made an honest mistake.
Penalties for either
When a person makes a mistake on his or her tax forms, the IRS will get in touch. Occasionally, the organization simply points out the error. Other times, they will inflict a 20 percent penalty on the person's overall tax bill.
For tax fraud, the penalty depends on what exactly the fraud was. When a person evades paying taxes entirely, the punishment includes a fine of up to $250,000 and up to five years in prison. In the event a person submitted a fraudulent statement, then he or she will face a similar fine as well as up to three years in prison.
In either situation, the tax filer faces detrimental consequences. To avoid such trouble, it is best to keep tax records in order.