If someone ever tells you that they’re nervous to do their taxes, what they’re really telling you is that they’re worried they might make a mistake. Unlike many other developed countries, the United States still makes its citizens do their own taxes, rather than simply telling them what they owe or taking the money out of their paychecks upfront, and that leaves the door open for untrained professionals to make some serious inadvertent errors.
However, you do not need to worry about criminal ramifications if you make a mistake. An error is not the same as a tax crime.
You must have the intent to defraud the government for your actions to be criminal
The biggest key is intent. For something to be a criminal action in a tax setting, there has to be an intent to report the taxes improperly and avoiding paying. If you make the same error and pay too little in taxes, but without any intent to deceive, it’s not a crime.
Think of it this way: Your records show that you made $100,000 last year. You report earnings of $50,000 because you want to be in a lower tax bracket. That’s potentially a criminal act. On the other hand, if you misplace some of your paperwork and accidentally leave out $10,000 in earnings, that’s just a mistake. You thought you had everything accounted for, but the process was complex and some of the documents slipped through the cracks.
When you’re facing criminal charges over a simple mistake, get help
If you do find yourself facing criminal charges over your taxes, you need help. An attorney with experience in tax evasion defense can guide you.