Orange County Criminal Tax Defense Lawyer
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Criminal Tax Defense in Orange County, CA
Coming under investigation of the IRS or a U.S. State taxing authority for a civil audit or prosecution of a crime can be extremely intimidating and leave you feeling as though you are at the mercy of the government.
Regardless of your tax matter, the Orange County criminal tax defense lawyers at Evolution Tax and Legal have the tax law and criminal defense experience to provide you with the support and confidence you need to make it through such an investigation. If you are under an investigation of the IRS or are facing a criminal charge, proper civil audit and criminal tax defense are necessary and you should have an advisor who has navigated these murky tax audit waters before.
Orange County Criminal Tax Defense Resources
- IRS Civil Investigation Defense
- IRS Criminal Investigation Representation
- What Is the IRS Criminal Investigation Process?
- Defenses to Criminal Tax Investigations
- Common Questions About Criminal Tax Defense
- Contact an Orange County Criminal Tax Defense Lawyer Today
IRS Civil Investigation Defense
A civil audit can be triggered by many things like tax evasion or other types of criminal tax fraud. However, once triggered, you are in for the full ride until its completion. Generally, the IRS auditor assigned to your case will provide you with a notice, otherwise informally known as an Information Document Request (IDR). This IDR will list the items the auditor is questioning and will require you to produce the financial documents and support you used to take the position on your return filed.
Often times, taxpayers no longer have the requested records in their possession and are left reeling without any idea as to how to support their return being audited. You should not face such a large task without a qualified Orange County tax attorney experienced in criminal tax defense on your side.
Our Approach to Civil Tax Audits
In order to provide you the max tax benefit from an audit and bring the IRS auditor onto your side, we take an approach with the IRS on their civil audits that is otherwise known as a “ground-up” approach.
Essentially, our Orange County criminal tax attorneys work with you and your IRS auditor to rebuild a tax return based solely on the financial documents that you can provide us in conjunction with making requests to the IRS themselves. The “ground-up” approach builds good rapport with the IRS and allows us to leverage their subpoena power to obtain documents from banks, past employers, investment firms, etc.
After we have collected all of the necessary documents, we rebuild your return and hand it over to the auditor. With all the support in place, this “audit-proof” return will be subject to minimal change.
When taking this approach, auditors lose their combativeness and are happy to work with you and us as your advisor. Essentially, our goal is to do the job of the auditor for themselves. This transparent atmosphere with the tax auditor builds a healthy working relationship conducive to allowing favorable positions on your audited tax return. This could potentially allow for further deductions if your financial records support them, avoiding massive penalties and interest, and can even avoid the referral of a civil case to a criminal IRS unit.
In our experience, if you work with a skilled criminal tax lawyer with our “ground up” approach, it is very unlikely that your tax fraud case will go criminal even when there are potential “Badges of Fraud” in your fact patters. These “Badges of Fraud” are explained below.
IRS Criminal Investigation Representation
Falling under criminal investigation by either the IRS or a State tax authority can be extremely stressful and make it hard for anyone to sleep at night. While we cannot take all of this emotion out of the picture, the Orange County criminal tax defense attorneys at Evolution Tax and Legal are well-versed in dealing with criminal tax allegations and working with the government to dispel their concerns, thus ending the investigation, or mitigating the potential damage to you through a criminal investigation.
If you or your tax preparer suspect that you may be under criminal investigation, we recommend contacting a criminal tax defense lawyer as soon as possible to engage as your counsel and represent you in any tax litigation proceedings.
A normal tax preparer (CPA, EA, CTEC) does not have the legal authority or wherewithal to properly represent you in court in such an investigation. Additionally, none of the conversations you have with a non-licensed attorney or tax professional are protected under the attorney-client privilege, exposing your sensitive conversations to being subpoenaed by the government and used in their case-in-chief against you.
IRS Criminal Investigation Process
How does a criminal tax investigation begin? Well, it can come from a civil audit, where the auditor sees “badges of fraud” in their dealing and examination of your prior tax filings, a referral from another case, where another taxpayer has disclosed names or information in exchange for leniency in a prosecution, or from the taxing authorities own direct investigation into your tax issues.
However, what is most common amongst all of these potential beginnings is the appearance of “badges of fraud” in your fact pattern.
Common Examples of “Badges of Fraud”
- Maintaining inadequate records or destroying records
- Failing to file tax returns
- Providing implausible or inconsistent explanations during civil examination
- Concealing assets during collection of tax liabilities or examination
- Failing to cooperate with tax authorities
- Displaying belligerent, rude, or disrespectful behavior to an IRS agent
- Excessive dealing in cash
- Filing false returns
- Intentionally underreporting or omitting income
- Overstating deductions or claiming false deductions
- Hiding or transferring income with relatives or related entities
- Keeping false records of your income or “second set of books”
- Falsifying books or records “forgery”
- Claiming fake dependents
- Falsely claiming credits
- Arranging affairs for the sole purpose of tax avoidance in a manner that lacks economic substance
- Prematurely destroying records
- Taking positions on a return that are “more likely than not” to be disallowed if discovered without sufficient disclosure
If the Orange County criminal tax defense attorneys at Evolution Tax and Legal are engaged to represent you or your firm in a criminal tax investigation, our first step is to meet with you to have an open conversation about all details and facts that have lead you to this point. Without an open and honest dialogue as to what actually occurred, we will not be able to fully and honestly represent you. We thereafter work with the investigators to determine what charges they are pursuing and our legal team can best defend you and prevent you from being prosecuted. There are a number of defenses available to best protect you during an IRS audit.
Defenses to Criminal Tax Investigations
- Showing you were not properly entitled to your Fourth Amendment rights to not be subject to unwarranted search and seizures through the deceit of a civil examiner who obtained information from you, ultimately leading to the ongoing investigation;
- Proof of entrapment;
- Block subpoenas of information issued by the investigating government body;
- Raising sound explanations supported by facts during administrative review of criminal investigation such as lack of criminal intent, proving no was tax due, defects in the method of proof, dual prosecution, health, and the improbability of a conviction;
- Prevent the government from proving fraudulent act(s) were intentional;
- Prevent the government’s use of circumstantial evidence;
- Compromise with the government to avoid prosecution;
- Plea deals in the case the evidence against you is overwhelming;
- Passage of the statute of limitations to prosecute on a given crime for a given act; and
- Mitigating potential further prosecution or disclosure of harmful information to the investigating body in the hopes of limiting or eliminating potential criminal tax exposure.
Criminal Tax Defense FAQ
What will the IRS criminally prosecute me for?Usually, tax evasion cases on legal-source income start with an audit of the filed tax return. In the audit, the IRS finds errors that the taxpayer knowingly and willingly committed. The error amounts are usually large and occur for several years – showing a pattern of willful evasion. Here’s more about what the IRS looks for: Unreported income: This is the biggest issue that brings taxpayers under criminal investigation. This includes leaving out specific transactions, like the sale of a business, or entire sources of income, such as income from a side business. This issue has gotten many gig economy workers in trouble with the IRS when they leave out income from their side hustle. Dodgy behavior during an audit: People who make false statements or purposely hide records (such as bank accounts) from an IRS auditor are headed for criminal prosecution. The IRS calls these behaviors “badges of fraud.” They’re hot buttons that indicate tax evasion.
What will I be required to pay if I am found guilty?The simple answer is “restitution”. In a criminal tax case, a court can require a defendant to pay the losses incurred by the government. The amount of the restitution ordered by the court is calculated from evidence submitted at trial or from information contained in the plea agreement and presented to the court at sentencing.
What does the IRS have to prove in a criminal tax case to prosecute?Each element of a tax crime must be proved beyond a reasonable doubt just like other crimes. According to the Ninth Circuit, the evidence must be reviewed “in the light most favorable to the prosecution to determine whether any rational factfinder could have found the essential elements of the offense beyond a reasonable doubt.” U.S. v. Marashi, 913 F.2d 724, 735 (9th Cir. 1990). For example, each of the three elements of tax evasion must be proved beyond a reasonable doubt: that (i) the taxpayer attempted to evade or defeat a tax or the payment of a tax; (ii) the taxpayer had additional tax due and owning, and (iii) he acted willfully in his attempt.
Can I be prosecuted for the failure to file a tax return?Possibly. The answer turns on knowing more about your specific facts and circumstances. Passively failing to file a tax return is not tax evasion. Thus, if you fail to file your tax return, the government can assert that you attempted to evade your taxes (a crime) only if you also engaged in some “affirmative act” to conceal or mislead the government. Thus, two things need to be present: (1) you failed to file your tax return when you should have, and (2) to engaged in some act to affirmatively conceal or mislead the government. You might be guilty of tax evasion if you (1) failed to file your tax return and (2) you also engaged in “any conduct, the likely effect of which would be to mislead or conceal” the government as to your tax liability. Qualified legal counsel can help you answer whether these two elements are present in your case.
What does tax evasion consist of?The IRS recognizes two different forms of tax evasion: evasion of assessment and evasion of payment. If a person transfers assets to prevent the IRS from determining their true tax liability, they have attempted to evade the assessment. If a person hides their assets after a tax becomes due and owing, an attempt to evade payment has occurred. Evasion of Assessment: The taxpayer must perform some action that is focused on defeating the assessment of a tax. Requires more than a proof of negligence. An intentional under-reporting qualifies as an attempt to evade. Evasion of Payment: Affirmative acts to evade payment generally involve concealment of money or assets with which the tax could be paid. Such an act could also take the form of removing the assets from the reach of the IRS, such as in a foreign bank account. Simply failing to pay taxes owed, is not evasion of payment. An example of evasion of payment is concealing assets in a family member’s bank account.
What happens if I’m found guilty of tax evasion?Tax evasion is punishable by up to five years in prison, a fine of as much as $250,000, in addition to the payment of any taxes owing. Here are some common criminal penalties for specific types of tax evasion:
- Not Filing a Return: This offense generally carries civil tax penalties. In extreme cases, there can be up to one year in prison and $100,000 in fines for each tax year not filed.
- Filing a Fraudulent Return: A criminal felony that carries up to 3 years in prison and $100,000 in fines.
- Misrepresent or Conceal Financial Information: A criminal felony with a maximum penalty of 5 years in jail and $100,000 in fines.
- Failing to Pay Taxes: A felony offense with penalties of up to 3 years in prison and $250,000 in fines.
What can land me in jail with respect to my taxes?The following actions will land you in jail for one to three years:
- Tax Evasion: Any action taken to evade the assessment of a tax, such as filing a fraudulent return, can land you in prison for 5 years.
- Failure to File a Return: Failing to file a return can land you in jail for one year, for each year you didn’t file.
- Helping Someone Evade Taxes: Helping someone else get out of paying their taxes can carry a three to 5-year prison sentence depending on what action is alleged.
Will I go to jail if I can’t pay my taxes?If you cant pay your taxes, don’t ignore it. The IRS could find your actions criminal and potentially prosecute you. A better way to approach it is to enter an installment obligation with the IRS and pay your taxes off over time. Here are some options:
- Individual Installment Agreement: If you owe less than $50,000 in tax, interest, and penalties combined, you can set up a plan that allows you to pay down over time, with regular monthly payments. If you owe more than $50,000, you can still arrange an installment agreement, there’s just more paperwork involved. You’ll need to provide the IRS with detailed information on your assets, such as real estate and investment accounts, as well as household expenses.
- Offer In Compromise: This is an agreement between you and the IRS to settle your tax liability for less than the full amount owed. It’s generally not an option when the IRS thinks you are able to pay down your debt through a payment plan. This analysis is known as establishing your “reasonable collection potential.”