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Paying taxes: The difference between mistakes and evasion

Tax evasion is a serious crime that can be prosecuted at the federal or state level. Fortunately, there is a distinction between true tax evasion and accidental evasion. For instance, if you pay your taxes but forgot to report a small amount of income, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) wouldn't likely see you as a criminal. You'd be issued a bill, pay it and move on. That's not the case if you refuse to file taxes or don't report the majority of your income.

If the IRS has contacted you, don't panic. Many times, there are mistakes that simply need to be corrected. Mistakes don't make you a criminal.

Is underpaying my tax bill a criminal act?

If you truly believe your taxes are $5,000 and pay the bill in a timely manner, you probably thought you did everything you had to. You didn't try to evade paying taxes and thought you did what you were supposed to. If the IRS contacts you to tell you that the bill should have been $6,000 and that you made a mistake, you can usually pay the difference with penalties.

On the other hand, if your taxes come out to $5,000 and you decide to pay nothing, the IRS may begin to contact you for payment. If you evade taxes by simply not paying or by submitting false documents to reduce your tax liability, then the IRS would have a case against you.

If you're worried about your tax situation, it's a good idea to talk to a professional. The right help can put your mind at ease.

Source: FindLaw, "Tax Evasion," accessed Sep. 19, 2017

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