Federal Tax Perjury
A person may be charged with federal tax perjury, codified at 26 USC 7206(1), if they prepare a tax return that they know to be false with respect to at least one important matter. The maximum penalty is $100,000 for an individual, $500,000 for a corporation, and a 3-year prison sentence. Losses from tax perjury are usually not deductible.
If you or a loved on have been accused of federal tax perjury call our New York Federal criminal defense attorneys today.
The elements of tax perjury are as follows: 1) The defendant executed a tax document wherein lies were told about important matters. 2) The document had a writing therein which was sworn under the penalty of perjury. 3) The defendant did not actually believe that the content of the document was in fact true about every important matter. 4) The defendant transgressed a known duty at law. Defenses against this charge include disproving intent; relying on a third person (usually a tax professional) to fill out tax forms, telling the truth, or filling out the wrong form mistakenly but still telling the truth.
The criminal intent required to prove tax perjury is willfulness. Mistakes that are made in good faith are not willful. Tax forms are complex and trained professional take years to learn to prepare them correctly. The average lay person can easily make a mistake, which, to an overzealous IRS agent or federal prosecutor can look bad. The important thing to remember is that intent is something that may always be litigated. It is a steep hill for the prosecutor to climb to prove that someone willfully did something wrong. It is often easier to explain conduct by showing that it was a mistake, rather proving than that it was intentionally done. Additionally, a prosecutor needs to prove that the proscribed conduct was not only done willfully, but they must prove that it was done willfully beyond a reasonable doubt. Our trial attorneys are experienced at introducing doubt to damage the prosecutor’s case. Once a jury has been persuaded that reasonable doubt exists as to an element of intent, the prosecution can no longer prove their case. In criminal court every element must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt, not only the elements of the crime that form the criminal act.
One may think that they are better off allowing a tax professional to prepare their taxes for them, like an accountant, internal auditor, trust officer from a bank, or other tax expert. This is correct in one sense, but, does not entirely shield one from arrest for mistakes of the tax preparer. Tax professionals can, and do make mistakes, but, if their mistake contributes to a defendant being charged with tax perjury, that defendant’s good faith reliance on the tax professional’s expertise will shield them from criminal liability under only one circumstance. That circumstance is that the defendant gave the tax professional the truth and did not conceal anything to the professional who prepared their taxes. This is an issue of fact for the jury to decide. It is therefore exceptionally important to have a tax perjury lawyer who is confident in front of a jury. Our trial attorneys are experienced at convincing juries.
Federal tax perjury charges are intimidating and anxiety provoking. Our New York federal criminal lawyers may be able to get your charges reduced or dropped. Call our offices for a free consultation today.