The Franchise Tax Board (FTB) announced that it has filed tax evasion charges against a Diamond Springs, California couple who failed to file income tax returns, and failed to report all of their income from their painting businesses on their California State income tax returns for four years running. According to the press release issued by the FTB the total tax, penalty and interest due is relatively small– $29,000. Nevertheless it is possible that they could be sentenced up to 12 years in jail. The couple was booked into the El Dorado County, California jail.
Clients sometimes ask me whether failing to file tax returns is tax fraud or tax evasion. There is a common belief that it is better not file a tax return at all rather than file an incorrect one. While it is true that at the federal level the IRS Criminal Investigation unit generally prosecutes failure to file cases as misdemeanors that is not always the case. Furthermore, as this press release illustrates the FTB can and does prosecute failure to file a tax return as a felony.
Some clients, and their CPAs also sometimes believe that because the amount of tax owed is small they don’t have to worry about tax fraud charges. While it is certainly true that the larger the amount owed the more likely criminal tax evasion charges become this prosecution demonstrates that even small amounts of tax can result in tax fraud charges being filed by the FTB.
It also illustrates that taxpayers who have not filed in the past or who have filed improper tax returns should consult with a tax attorney to determine whether a voluntary disclosure of the previous problems should be made to the IRS and/or the FTB.