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Tax returns: failing to file vs. filing falsely

Tax Day came and went yesterday, which means many in Florida are likely breathing a sigh of relief, having filed their returns. While some are waiting for hefty refunds - or just celebrating being settled up for the year - others may not be so lucky. Sometimes deadlines slip through the cracks and the consequences can be serious.

For example, a former city police chief in a different state was recently indicted on three counts of failing to file tax returns. This is a federal crime that could carry fines, penalties, back taxes and even jail time.

While failing to file a return is against the law, it is still better than filing a false return. In this case, the former chief had allegedly diverted about $70,000 from his department and withdrawn about $30,000 for his own use. While one could file a false tax return to try to hide such activity, filing a false return is a more serious offense than not filing at all.

Failure to file a return is a misdemeanor while filing falsely is a felony. Both carry the risk of prison time but misdemeanor charges are less serious and will likely result in a shorter sentence, if any.

If you missed your tax deadline or if you have other concerns about criminal tax law, do not hesitate. It is wise to get in touch with an attorney as soon as possible to determine the best course of action. The right representation can make the difference between success and failure in a criminal case.

Source: Forbes, "IRS Problems That Land Even Jailers in Jail," Robert Wood, March 29, 2013

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