Running a business can be hard work, and you likely want to spend as much time as possible on your core strategies. That could mean hiring someone to help you file all your tax reports—for the business, your employees and yourself. But what if that person steers you wrong?
The District of New Jersey recently arrested a Linden tax preparer for charges of tax fraud and tax evasion. The press release suggests that in addition to hiding his own profits, the man had helped his clients cheat their taxes. On their behalf, he listed fake charitable contributions, claimed fraudulent business expenses and invented business losses.
First comes the audit
The charges against the Linden man included 11 counts of aiding and abetting the preparation of false tax returns. Almost certainly, that means the IRS also conducted 11 related audits—for the people whose tax returns had been falsified. The audit is generally the first step toward any charge of tax fraud or tax evasion, but it doesn’t necessarily lead there.
There’s a big difference between filing a bad return by mistake and trying to defraud the government. Intent matters. If the IRS suspected the taxpayers were committing tax fraud, its investigators would want to find proof the errors were intentional, such as:
- One or more omitted sources of income
- Disguised or hidden accounts
- False statements offered during an interview
- Attempts to stall or derail the investigation
If they don’t find intent, the IRS is likely to demand the repayment of the funds plus a 20% penalty. If they do find intent, however, a trial for tax fraud could lead to heavier fines and possible jail time.
When you face an investigation
The stakes for tax fraud and tax evasion are high, so if you ever find yourself investigated, you’ll want the advice of an experienced attorney. While the government looks for proof that you were intentionally cheating, your attorney can help you comply with the investigation and stop you from making mistakes that could help a case against you.