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Criminal Tax Evasion - A Brief Overview

Criminal Tax EvasionTax Evasion:
The Basics

Criminal tax evasion is codified under I.R.C. § 7201 as an “attempt to evade or defeat tax.” Here is the exact language in the statute:

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.(1)

There are two types of tax evasion. First, there is the willful attempt to evade or defeat the assessment of a tax. This means that the IRS believes that you filed a false tax return that leaves out income or claims tax deductions that you should not get. Second, there is the willful attempt to evade or defeat the payment of a tax. This means that the IRS believes that you concealed money or assets to avoid paying the amount you reported on your tax return or the amount that the IRS decided you owe.

Tax Evasion: The Danger Zone

The statute of limitations is how far back the IRS can go to prosecute you for criminal (as opposed to civil) tax evasion. There is a 6 year statute of limitations period for willfully attempting to evade or defeat a tax. I.R.C. § 6531(2). This period runs from the date of the last affirmative act that took place or the statutory due date of the return, whichever is later.

Tax Evasion: The Statistics

In 2010, this was the second most common “lead” criminal tax charge.(2) (The first was fraud and false statements under I.R.C. § 7206.) The term “lead” means what the IRS considers to be the primary or most severe violation of the law. Fortunately, if matters are handled correctly and quickly enough, most individuals will not have to face criminal tax evasion charges. However, even if they do, we have experience fighting charges and have had clients who were found not guilty.

If you have been accused of criminal tax evasion, you should seek attorney representation right away. Your freedom and constitutional rights might be at risk.

(1) As amended on 2/1/10.  See

(2) See

Return to Criminal Tax Evasion/Fraud. Learn more about IRS summons, IRS investigation, legal tax avoidance, and frivolous tax return.