We represent clients from all U.S. and International locations regarding Federal Tax and California Issues.
When our tax defense attorneys discuss tax evasion, we often focus on scenarios in which IRS audits and subsequent (or simultaneous) criminal investigations were triggered by “badges” or indicators of fraud, such as unfiled returns or unreported sources of income. But while most taxpayers are already wary of auditors, there is also another danger that many taxpayers are unaware of: IRS whistleblowers. Not only does the Internal Revenue Service allow taxpayers to report suspected tax cheats; federal tax laws incentivize taxpayers to do so. Under 26 U.S. Code § 7623(b)(1), the Internal Revenue Code establishes substantial rewards for IRS informants who provide the government with fruitful information, with payments ranging anywhere from 15% to 30% of any proceeds collected by the government. Even “less substantial contributions” may be rewarded, under 26 U.S. Code § 7623(b)(2), with payments as large as 10% of the proceeds collected. These rules actively encourage taxpayers to report suspected fraud, creating a risk for individuals and businesses that have been willfully noncompliant. If you have concerns about a potential state or federal tax compliance issue, it is in your best interests to contact an experienced tax attorney for immediate guidance.
Perhaps the most common type of tax fraud that someone might report to the IRS is the commission of tax evasion. Tax evasion can be separated into two subclasses: evasion of tax assessment and evasion of tax payment. Evasion of tax assessment is, for example, deliberately underreporting income to avoid being assessed taxes in the first place, while evasion of payment might involve failing to disclose all your assets or income to avoid having to pay a tax bill that has already been assessed.
Aside from tax evasion, there are a multitude of other actions that might constitute tax fraud, including but not limited to filing a tax return in someone else’s name without their permission, claiming deductions to which you are not actually entitled, filing false documents in connection with a return, failure to collect & remit employment taxes, and failing to file a tax return entirely. In order for tax fraud to be charged and proven, your behavior must have been “willfully” designed to defraud the IRS, rather than an honest mistake. In certain areas, “willful blindness,” or being deliberately ignorant to what is happening, has been found to meet this standard. Of course, tax fraud can also be charged at the state and local levels, such as through the California Franchise Tax Board, which collects state income taxes in California.
Sometimes, you may have no idea that someone has decided to take the initiative to report your alleged tax fraud to the IRS or to a state or local agency, especially due to the lengths the anciencies go to protect the identities of whistleblowers. However, it is possible that the person who turns you in may actually tell you that they did so, or that you may be able to infer from their words or actions that they might have done so. Even if you have only the slightest suspicion that this has occurred, you should take it very seriously, especially if you did in fact commit tax fraud that this person would know a lot about. The IRS for example offer’s whistleblower awards of up to 25% of whatever the IRS recovers from you. That is a lot of financial incentive to turn you in!
The best thing you can do if you believe that someone has reported you for tax fraud or is planning on doing so is to contact an experienced tax defense attorney like those at the Tax Law Offices of David W. Klasing as soon as possible. If the fraud occurred very recently, we may be able to simply amend your returns. In other situations, so long as the agency has yet to open a formal audit or investigation into your actions, you may be eligible for a voluntary disclosure or streamlined disclosure program. These programs allow you to disclose your past misdeeds in exchange for a near-guaranteed pass on criminal prosecution as well as less harsh fines and other financial penalties.
If the investigation into your conduct has already begun, and it is too late for a voluntary or streamlined disclosure program, we can work to try and explain your behavior in terms of negligence rather than willful criminal behavior to attempt to prevent criminal charges from being filed against you. This may include you paying what you owe, plus large fines, and having to face increased oversight by the IRS in the coming years. We can also parallel the investigation coupled with cooperating with the investigation or attempting through law and motion to prevent a taxing authority with gathering the evidence they need to prosecute you. We can also utilize affirmative defenses to criminal charges where they are available.
Many taxpayers are afraid of being “caught” by the IRS. However, due to IRS whistleblower laws, other taxpayers may pose an even greater danger. Taxpayers can reap generous financial rewards in exchange for providing the IRS with useful information about criminal tax activity, such as legitimate tips about tax evasion (26 U.S. Code § 7201), failure to file returns (26 U.S. Code § 7203), or filing false returns (26 U.S. Code § 7206(1)). In fact, the IRS has gone out of its way to make reporting suspicious activity simple for taxpayers, who need only file the appropriate form, as follows:
One stipulation of the tax whistleblower program is of particular cause for concern: the IRS states that only “specific and credible information” will be rewarded, and that furthermore, an award may be given only if the data provided actually leads to “the collection of taxes, penalties, interest or other amounts from the noncompliant taxpayer.” Therefore, if a whistleblower has already stepped forward to the IRS, it suggests that he or she possesses (or believes that he or she possesses) valuable, detailed information – otherwise, there would be no possibility of an award.
As a warning to whistleblowers that have dirty hands themselves, the IRS would rather prosecute you for your own crimes than reward you for turning others, especially where you participated in the crimes you are attempting to blow the whistle on. I.E. an employee that “cooks the books” of his or her employer and then turns in the employer.
In order for a tax whistleblower to receive financial rewards, he or she must provide the IRS with comprehensive and useful information about your activities. It is therefore absolutely critical to shield yourself and limit your criminal tax exposure as early and aggressively as possible.
When the stakes are this high, there is no margin for error. Give yourself the strongest defense by selecting an award-winning, nationally recognized tax evasion defense attorney with three decades of experience dealing with the IRS. Contact the Tax Law Office of David W. Klasing online to schedule an appointment or call our main tax office at (800) 681-1295 for a reduced-rate consultation.
Also, we’ve expanded our offices! In addition to our offices in Irvine and Los Angeles, the Tax Law Offices of David W. Klasing now have offices San Bernardino, Santa Barbara, Panorama City, Oxnard, San Diego, Bakersfield, San Jose, San Francisco, Oakland and Sacramento.
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Will it cost me more to hire the Tax Law Offices of David W. Klasing, who’s main office and the vast majority of the firm’s staff is located in Irvine California, but an appointment only Satellite office is close to my location, as opposed to a local company? Absolutely not! See our policies that address this issue here:
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Questions and Answers for Criminal Tax Representation