When Does The IRS Pursue Criminal Charges

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) in the United States is tasked with upholding tax laws. While most tax matters are resolved civilly through audits and payment arrangements, the IRS may resort to criminal charges for severe violations. Knowing when the IRS pursues criminal charges is vital to maintaining compliance and avoiding legal entanglements. From tax evasion to fraudulent filings and failure to file, various offenses can lead to significant penalties if not addressed correctly.

During challenging times like these, seeking professional guidance from experts can be immensely beneficial. There is one of the best tax relief companies that can provide tailored tax resolution services, including IRS audit assistance, negotiation for settlements, and representation in criminal tax investigations.

Understanding Types of IRS Tax Crimes:

Tax crimes encompass a broad range of illegal activities related to taxes, each carrying its own legal consequences.

Common types include tax evasion, filing false returns, failure to file, employee tax fraud, and tax preparer fraud. Let’s explore one by one:

Tax Evasion:

Tax evasion involves deliberately underreporting income, overstating deductions, or hiding assets to avoid paying owed taxes. It can manifest in various forms, such as using offshore accounts, shell companies, or unreported cash transactions. Tax evasion is a significant trigger for IRS criminal investigations, and individuals or businesses engaging in such activities risk substantial penalties and potential imprisonment.

Filing False Returns:

Filing false returns occurs when taxpayers fabricate income, claim fictitious deductions, or misrepresent expenses to inflate refunds or reduce tax liabilities. This deceitful practice not only violates tax laws but also undermines the integrity of the tax system. Taxpayers submitting fraudulent returns face civil penalties and criminal prosecution, with potential fines and imprisonment.

Failure to File:

Failure to file tax returns is a serious offense that can result in both civil and criminal penalties. Taxpayers who fail to fulfill their filing obligations may face criminal charges if the IRS deems the failure willful. Even without intent to evade taxes, repeated failure to file can lead to significant penalties and interest accruing on unpaid taxes. The IRS may initiate criminal investigations against individuals who repeatedly fail to file returns despite receiving notices and warnings.

Employee Tax Fraud:

Employee tax fraud occurs when employees engage in illegal activities to evade taxes, such as underreporting income, falsifying deductions, or failing to report taxable earnings. Employers are responsible for withholding and remitting payroll taxes on behalf of their employees, and any fraudulent actions can lead to severe consequences for both employees and employers.

Tax Preparer Fraud:

Tax preparer fraud involves tax professionals engaging in deceitful practices to unlawfully obtain refunds or reduce clients’ tax liabilities. This may include fabricating deductions, inflating expenses, or falsifying information on tax returns. Taxpayers who enlist the services of fraudulent tax preparers risk legal repercussions and may face civil penalties or criminal charges.

Understanding Business Tax Evasion:

Business tax evasion encompasses a range of deceptive practices aimed at evading taxes owed to the government. This illicit behavior can manifest in various forms, including underreporting income, inflating deductions, or participating in fraudulent transactions to minimize tax liabilities. These practices often involve manipulation of financial records, such as falsifying sales figures or overstating expenses, to inaccurately reflect the company’s financial status. Additionally, businesses may engage in underreporting sales or revenues to reduce taxable income, or misuse business expenses by claiming personal expenses as legitimate business costs. Another common tactic is the failure to withhold or remit payroll taxes on behalf of employees, diverting these funds for other purposes instead of fulfilling tax obligations. Overall, business tax evasion undermines the integrity of the tax system and places an unfair burden on honest taxpayers, highlighting the importance of effective enforcement and compliance measures.

Factors Leading to IRS Pursuing Criminal Charges:

Several factors may prompt the IRS to pursue criminal charges against taxpayers for serious tax violations. These factors serve as red flags indicating potential illegal activity and warrant further investigation by the IRS’s Criminal Investigation Division (CID). 

Some of the key factors include:

  • Significant disparities between reported income and lifestyle.
  • Persistent underreporting of income or exaggeration of deductions.
  • Involvement in intricate transactions aimed at hiding income or assets.
  • Failure to submit tax returns for consecutive years.
  • Presence of forged documents or records.
  • Non-compliance with IRS audits or investigations.

When these indicators are present, the IRS may initiate criminal investigations. The purpose is to determine the extent of the wrongdoing and hold the taxpayer accountable for their actions. It’s essential for taxpayers to understand these factors to avoid unintentionally raising suspicions. They should also address any potential issues promptly and appropriately.

When Does the IRS Pursue Criminal Charges:

The decision by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to pursue criminal charges against taxpayers is not taken lightly and depends on various factors. These factors are crucial in determining the severity of the offense and its impact on tax administration and compliance. 

Some key considerations include:

  • Nature and Gravity of the Offense: The IRS assesses the seriousness of the offense. This assessment considers factors such as the amount of taxes evaded or the extent of fraudulent activity.
  • Duration of Non-Compliance: The length of time during which the taxpayer has been non-compliant with tax laws plays a significant role. Persistent and deliberate non-compliance is more likely to result in criminal charges.
  • Aggravating Circumstances: Aggravating factors, such as deliberate attempts to conceal income or assets, can escalate the severity of the offense. They also increase the likelihood of criminal prosecution.
  • Impact on Tax Administration: The IRS evaluates how the taxpayer’s actions affect tax administration and the integrity of the tax system. Activities that undermine tax compliance or erode public trust may lead to criminal charges.
  • Taxpayer’s Compliance History: The taxpayer’s past compliance history, including any previous instances of non-compliance or cooperation with IRS investigations, is taken into account.
  • Willingness to Cooperate: Cooperation with the IRS during audits or investigations can influence the decision on whether to pursue criminal charges. Refusal to cooperate or obstructing IRS procedures may exacerbate the situation.

The IRS pursues criminal charges when there is evidence of serious tax evasion, fraud, or willful non-compliance with tax laws. The decision is carefully based on various factors to maintain tax system integrity and encourage taxpayer compliance. Taxpayers must grasp these factors and promptly address tax issues cooperatively to evade legal repercussions.

Understanding IRS Criminal Investigations:

When the IRS suspects criminal activity, it typically initiates criminal investigations through its specialized division known as the Criminal Investigation Division (CID). IRS special agents are tasked with gathering evidence, conducting interviews, and collaborating with other law enforcement agencies if necessary. These investigations employ various sophisticated techniques, including surveillance, data analysis, and forensic accounting, to uncover financial wrongdoing. Moreover, the CID often collaborates with agencies like the Department of Justice or FBI to access additional resources, especially in complex cases that require extensive expertise and manpower. Through diligent investigative efforts, the IRS aims to uphold tax laws and ensure compliance while holding individuals or entities accountable for fraudulent or illegal activities related to taxes.

Potential Penalties for Tax Crimes:

When individuals are convicted of tax crimes, they may encounter severe repercussions, ranging from substantial fines to potential imprisonment. The severity of these penalties hinges on various factors, including the nature and scope of the offense, as well as any mitigating or aggravating circumstances involved. For instance, tax evasion can lead to fines reaching up to $250,000 for individuals and $500,000 for corporations, alongside the risk of imprisonment for up to five years. Additionally, the IRS may impose further penalties such as restitution for unpaid taxes, accrued interest, and penalties, amplifying the financial burden on convicted taxpayers. 

Common Legal Defenses:

Taxpayers facing criminal charges have the right to defend themselves and seek mitigation of penalties through various legal avenues. These include demonstrating lack of intent or good faith reliance on professional advice, negotiating plea agreements with the IRS, voluntary disclosure programs, asserting substantial compliance, and challenging procedural errors or evidence validity. By understanding their rights and consulting with legal counsel, taxpayers can effectively navigate the legal process and protect their interests when facing IRS prosecution.


In conclusion, navigating IRS criminal charges requires understanding the triggers for investigations and available legal defenses. While the IRS primarily resolves tax matters civilly, serious violations can lead to criminal charges. It’s crucial to recognize when the IRS may pursue criminal action and take proactive steps to address any issues. Seeking professional guidance from reputable tax relief companies can provide essential support during these times. Understanding IRS criminal investigations highlights the gravity of tax crimes and the IRS’s rigorous efforts to uphold tax laws. Knowing potential penalties for tax crimes, including business tax evasion, emphasizes the importance of compliance. Additionally, familiarizing oneself with common legal defenses empowers taxpayers to protect their rights effectively. With diligence and expert assistance, individuals can mitigate risks associated with IRS prosecution and resolve tax issues confidently.