Rosenblum Schwartz & Fry

Tax-filing errors: often less than purposeful

The "average" man or woman residing in a St. Louis household or elsewhere across the country who works and pays taxes knows a thing or two about the federal tax system, of course.

Including this: It's not simple.

In fact, the American tax regime is known globally for its incomparable complexity, with filers annually doing battle with technical data encapsulated in fine print that couldn't be contained in a large city's phone book.

It's easy to make mistakes, right?

Filers know that with certainty, and legions of them in Missouri and nationally both figuratively and literally sweat the details each year, worrying whether they got things exactly right.

They likely didn't. As one media source addressing the distinctions between filing negligence versus tax fraud states, about "17 percent of taxpayers fail to comply with the tax code in some way."

Should they be punished for that, being held criminally and/or civilly liable for one or more alleged material errors of the type and magnitude that scores of thousands of other filers make each year?

Here's a quick IRS response to that query: maybe. As the above-cited article stresses, tax authorities often forgive error, but nonetheless still punish it.

That is, an innocent mistake can still yield a fine or other penalty.

And in cases where the IRS suspects willful filer misconduct, the gloves are off. In alleged instances of tax fraud or evasion, it is standard procedure for the government to move hard against a perceived wrongdoer.

As noted in the above media report, "the IRS attempts to discourage violations by publicizing convictions, seeking prison time for offenders, and by assessing fines, civil taxes and penalties."

Tax probes are most often federal affairs underscored by plenary government resources and a firm resolve to secure convictions and, frequently, lengthy prison terms.

Any individual targeted in a tax-crimes case or other federal investigation focused upon financial impropriety will likely want to reach out immediately to a legal advocate who has years of experience defending individuals against criminal charges in the white collar crime realm.

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Rosenblum Schwartz & Fry

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