Average Jail Time For Tax Evasion - Conviction & Prison Sentence (Golding & Golding)

Average Jail Time For Tax Evasion – Conviction & Prison Sentence (Golding & Golding, Board Certified Tax Specialist)

Average Jail Time For Tax Evasion – Conviction & Prison Sentence

Despite the fact that there are thousands of websites online designed to scare you into believing that every little mistake you make with the IRS is going to result in you going to jail, or face “draconian penalties,” when it comes to Tax Evasion — Jail may be a very real possibility, due to the nature and circumstances of a criminal tax prosecution.

Average Jail Time For Tax Evasion

The average jail time for tax evasion is about 3-5 years. There are various facts and circumstances that will help determine what a person’s sentence may be — and no two cases are identical.

Common Questions involving Tax Evasion:

  • Is tax evasion criminal?
  • Will the IRS prosecute me?
  • Will I go to jail or prison?
  • Will I lose my house?
  • How long is the jail sentence?

Tax Evasion is Criminal

Tax Evasion is a criminal offense. This is unlike other types of tax violations, such as Civil Tax Fraud or Civil FBAR violations. When a person is charged with Tax Evasion, they are being charged with a crime in a criminal court of law.  As a result, the government most prove the case against the person Beyond a Reasonable Doubt.

International Tax Evasion

At Golding & Golding, we focus our practice almost exclusively in international tax.  We have spoken with thousands of clients over our career, and more often than people want to believe, there are lingering issues of intent and willfulness.  That does not mean the person will be subject to criminal prosecution, but it is a concern. 

Over the past 5 to 10 years, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), Department of Justice (DOJ) and US government as a whole has made the enforcement of offshore, foreign, and international tax related matters a key priority.

In addition, if a person commits offshore evasion involving more complex international tax issues such as Cryptocurrency fraud, utilizing offshore tax havens, and/or FBAR and FATCA violations – the U.S. government may pursue criminal sanctions.

Just Because the IRS Can Pursue a Criminal Action…

…Doesn’t mean they will. The IRS is low on staff and resources. Therefore, oftentimes the IRS can achieve its desired result (getting your money) without having to pursue a criminal investigation against (which cuts into the government’s limited time and resources)

Sometimes Civil, Sometimes Criminal – Or Both

Unlike Tax Evasion which is a crime, there are other types of violations in which the IRS — using the same nucleus of fact — may pursue either a civil or criminal action (or both).

Oftentimes, the IRS may choose to pursue a civil investigation instead (at least preliminarily) of a criminal investigation to see how far it can get,

Depending on the outcome, the IRS may decide to pursue a criminal investigation on the same facts, or refer it to other government agencies for additional prosecution.

Willful Civil FBAR Penalties

Here’s an example:  If a person knowingly or intentionally failed to report their foreign accounts (see Manafort), the IRS may be able to obtain a CIVIL penalty valued at hundred percent of the maximum balance of the accounts. The way the IRS achieves this is by issuing multiple 50% max balance penalties over several years.

*In years prior, the IRS could collect up to 300% (6 years, 50% Penalty) of the maximum value of the unreported accounts, but in recent years this is been capped at 100%.

In addition to these civil penalties, the IRS can also pursue criminal penalties which may result in monetary penalties upwards up $500,000 — as well as potential jail time, which tends the average from 3 to 5 years.

Tax Fraud

For example, a person may have committed tax fraud, and depending on the facts and circumstances of their situation may result in significant civil fines or penalties — but no referral for criminal investigation

On the other hand, or in addition to a civil investigation, if the IRS determines that the facts are so egregious as to require the government to pursue a criminal investigation, then typically the IRS will refer the matter to the IRS Special Agents for them to conduct a criminal investigation and determine whether the government should recommend criminal charges be filed.

Tax Evasion

Tax Evasion is a crime. In order to be found guilty, you must be charged with a crime, and afforded an opportunity to a trial before a jury of your peers.

As provided by the IRS (IRM):

“Evasion involves some affirmative act to evade or defeat a tax, or payment of tax. Examples of affirmative acts are deceit, subterfuge, camouflage, concealment, attempts to color or obscure events, or make things seem other than they are.

Common evasion schemes include:

  • Intentional understatement or omission of income;
  • Claiming fictitious or improper deductions;
  • False allocation of income;
  • Improper claims, credits, or exemptions; and/or
  • Concealment of assets.”

I.R.C. § 7201 – ATTEMPT TO EVADE OR DEFEAT TAX

As provided the by the IRS: 

“Any person who willfully attempts in any manner to evade or defeat any tax imposed by this title or the payment thereof shall, in addition to other penalties provided by law, be guilty of a felony and, upon conviction thereof, shall be fined* not more than $100,000 ($500,000 in the case of a corporation), or imprisoned not more than 5 years, or both, together with the costs of prosecution. * As to offenses committed after December 31, 1984, the Criminal Fine Enforcement Act of 1984 (P.L. 92-596) enacted as 18 U.S.C. § 3571, increased the maximum permissible fines for felony offenses set forth in section 7201.

The maximum permissible fine is $250,000 for individuals and $500,000 for corporations. 1-1.02 Generally [1] Two kinds of tax evasion. Section 7201 creates two offenses: (a) the willful attempt to evade or defeat the assessment of a tax, and (b) the willful attempt to evade or defeat the payment of a tax. Sansone v. United States, 380 U.S. 343, 354 (1965). See also, United States v. Shoppert, 362 F.3d 451, 454 (8th Cir.), cert. denied, 543 U.S. 911 (2004); United States v. Mal, 942 F. 2d 682, 687-88 (9th Cir. 1991) (if a defendant transfers assets to prevent the I.R.S. from determining his true tax liability, he has attempted to evade assessment; if he does so after a tax liability has become due and owing, he has attempted to evade payment). [a] Evasion of assessment.

The most common attempt to evade or defeat a tax is the affirmative act of filing a false return that omits income and/or claims deductions to which the taxpayer is not entitled. The tax reported on the return is falsely understated and creates a deficiency. Consequently, such willful under reporting constitutes an attempt to evade or defeat tax by evading the correct assessment of the tax. [b] Evasion of payment.

This offense generally occurs after the existence of a tax due and owing has been established (either by the taxpayer reporting the amount of tax or by the I.R.S. assessing the amount of tax deemed to be due and owing) and almost always involves an affirmative act of concealment of money or assets from which the tax could be paid. As discussed in Section 1-1.04 below, it is not essential that the I.R.S. have made a formal assessment of taxes owed and a demand for payment in order for tax evasion charges to be brought. Tax deficiency can arise by operation of law when there is a failure to file and the government later determines the tax liability. United States v. Daniel, 956 F.2d 540, 542 (6th Cir. 1992).

What Can You Do?

Presuming the money was from legal sources, your best options are either the Traditional IRS Voluntary Disclosure Program, or one of the Streamlined Offshore Disclosure Programs.

We Specialize in Safely Disclosing Foreign Money

We have successfully handled a diverse range of IRS Voluntary Disclosure and International Tax Investigation/Examination cases involving FBAR, FATCA, and high-stakes matters for clients around the globe (In over 65 countries!)

Whether it is a simple or complex case, safely getting clients into compliance is our passion, and we take it very seriously.

Examples of areas of tax we handle

Who Decides to Disclose Unreported Money?

What Types of Clients Do we Represent?

We represent Attorneys, CPAs, Doctors, Investors, Engineers, Business Owners, Entrepreneurs, Professors, Athletes, Actors, Entry-Level staff, Students, Former/Current IRS Agents and more.

You are not alone, and you are not the only one to find himself or herself in this situation.

Sean M. Golding, JD, LL.M., EA – Board Certified Tax Law Specialist

Our Managing Partner, Sean M. Golding, JD, LLM, EA  holds an LL.M. (Master’s in Tax Law) from the University of Denver and is also an Enrolled Agent (the highest credential awarded by the IRS, and authorizes him to represent clients nationwide.)

He is frequently called upon to lecture and write on issues involving IRS Voluntary Disclosure.

*Recent cases we had to fix after taking over from less experienced counsel that flubbed the case can be found by Clicking Here (Case 1) and Clicking Here (Case 2).

*Click here to learn the benefits of retaining a Board Certified Tax Law Specialist with advanced tax credentials.

Less than 1% of Tax Attorneys Nationwide

Out of more than 200,000 practicing attorneys in California, less than 400 attorneys have achieved this Certified Tax Law Specialist designation.

The exam is widely regarded as one of (if not) the hardest tax exam given in the United States for practicing Attorneys. It is a designation earned by less than 1% of attorneys.

IRS Penalty List

The following is a list of potential IRS penalties for unreported and undisclosed foreign accounts and assets:

Failure to File

If you do not file by the deadline, you might face a failure-to-file penalty. If you do not pay by the due date, you could face a failure-to-pay penalty. The failure-to-file penalty is generally more than the failure-to-pay penalty.

The penalty for filing late is usually 5 percent of the unpaid taxes for each month or part of a month that a return is late. This penalty will not exceed 25 percent of your unpaid taxes. If you file your return more than 60 days after the due date or extended due date, the minimum penalty is the smaller of $135 or 100 percent of the unpaid tax.

Failure to Pay

f you do not pay your taxes by the due date, you will generally have to pay a failure-to-pay penalty of ½ of 1 percent of your unpaid taxes for each month or part of a month after the due date that the taxes are not paid. This penalty can be as much as 25 percent of your unpaid taxes. If both the failure-to-file penalty and the failure-to-pay penalty apply in any month, the 5 percent failure-to-file penalty is reduced by the failure-to-pay penalty.

However, if you file your return more than 60 days after the due date or extended due date, the minimum penalty is the smaller of $135 or 100 percent of the unpaid tax. You will not have to pay a failure-to-file or failure-to-pay penalty if you can show that you failed to file or pay on time because of reasonable cause and not because of willful neglect.

Civil Tax Fraud

If any part of any underpayment of tax required to be shown on a return is due to fraud, there shall be added to the tax an amount equal to 75 percent of the portion of the underpayment which is attributable to fraud.

A Penalty for failing to file FBARs

The civil penalty for willfully failing to file an FBAR can be as high as the greater of $100,000 or 50 percent of the total balance of the foreign financial account per violation. See 31 U.S.C. § 5321(a)(5). Non-willful violations that the IRS determines were not due to reasonable cause are subject to a $10,000 penalty per violation.

A Penalty for failing to file Form 8938

The penalty for failing to file each one of these information returns is $10,000, with an additional $10,000 added for each month the failure continues beginning 90 days after the taxpayer is notified of the delinquency, up to a maximum of $50,000 per return.

A Penalty for failing to file Form 3520

The penalty for failing to file each one of these information returns, or for filing an incomplete return, is the greater of $10,000 or 35 percent of the gross reportable amount, except for returns reporting gifts, where the penalty is five percent of the gift per month, up to a maximum penalty of 25 percent of the gift.

A Penalty for failing to file Form 3520-A

The penalty for failing to file each one of these information returns or for filing an incomplete return, is the greater of $10,000 or 5 percent of the gross value of trust assets determined to be owned by the United States person.

A Penalty for failing to file Form 5471

The penalty for failing to file each one of these information returns is $10,000, with an additional $10,000 added for each month the failure continues beginning 90 days after the taxpayer is notified of the delinquency, up to a maximum of $50,000 per return.

A Penalty for failing to file Form 5472

The penalty for failing to file each one of these information returns, or to keep certain records regarding reportable transactions, is $10,000, with an additional $10,000 added for each month the failure continues beginning 90 days after the taxpayer is notified of the delinquency.

A Penalty for failing to file Form 926

The penalty for failing to file each one of these information returns is ten percent of the value of the property transferred, up to a maximum of $100,000 per return, with no limit if the failure to report the transfer was intentional.

A Penalty for failing to file Form 8865

Penalties include $10,000 for failure to file each return, with an additional $10,000 added for each month the failure continues beginning 90 days after the taxpayer is notified of the delinquency, up to a maximum of $50,000 per return, and ten percent of the value of any transferred property that is not reported, subject to a $100,000 limit.

Fraud penalties imposed under IRC §§ 6651(f) or 6663

Where an underpayment of tax, or a failure to file a tax return, is due to fraud, the taxpayer is liable for penalties that, although calculated differently, essentially amount to 75 percent of the unpaid tax.

A Penalty for failing to file a tax return imposed under IRC § 6651(a)(1)

Generally, taxpayers are required to file income tax returns. If a taxpayer fails to do so, a penalty of 5 percent of the balance due, plus an additional 5 percent for each month or fraction thereof during which the failure continues may be imposed. The penalty shall not exceed 25 percent.

A Penalty for failing to pay the amount of tax shown on the return under IRC § 6651(a)(2)

If a taxpayer fails to pay the amount of tax shown on the return, he or she may be liable for a penalty of .5 percent of the amount of tax shown on the return, plus an additional .5 percent for each additional month or fraction thereof that the amount remains unpaid, not exceeding 25 percent.

An Accuracy-Related Penalty on underpayments imposed under IRC § 6662

Depending upon which component of the accuracy-related penalty is applicable, a taxpayer may be liable for a 20 percent or 40 percent penalty

Possible Criminal Charges related to tax matters include tax evasion (IRC § 7201)

Filing a false return (IRC § 7206(1)) and failure to file an income tax return (IRC § 7203). Willfully failing to file an FBAR and willfully filing a false FBAR are both violations that are subject to criminal penalties under 31 U.S.C. § 5322.  Additional possible criminal charges include conspiracy to defraud the government with respect to claims (18 U.S.C. § 286) and conspiracy to commit offense or to defraud the United States (18 U.S.C. § 371).

A person convicted of tax evasion

Filing a false return subjects a person to a prison term of up to three years and a fine of up to $250,000. A person who fails to file a tax return is subject to a prison term of up to one year and a fine of up to $100,000. Failing to file an FBAR subjects a person to a prison term of up to ten years and criminal penalties of up to $500,000.  A person convicted of conspiracy to defraud the government with respect to claims is subject to a prison term of up to not more than 10 years or a fine of up to $250,000.  A person convicted of conspiracy to commit offense or to defraud the United States is subject to a prison term of not more than five years and a fine of up to $250,000.

What Should You Do?

Everyone makes mistakes. If at some point that you should have been reporting your foreign income, accounts, assets or investments the prudent and least costly (but most effective) method for getting compliance is through one of the approved IRS offshore voluntary disclosure program.

Be Careful of the IRS

With the introduction and enforcement of FATCA for both Civil and Criminal Penalties, renewed interest in the IRS issuing FBAR Penalties, crackdown on Cryptocurrency (and IRS joining J5), the termination of OVDP, and recent foreign bank settlements with the IRS…there are not many places left to hide.

4 Types of IRS Voluntary Disclosure Programs

There are typically four types of IRS Voluntary Disclosure programs, and they include:

Contact Us Today; Let us Help You.