The idea of being sent to prison for making a mistake on your tax return may seem ridiculous — and also scary — to the average taxpayer. With so many regulations to follow that even IRS employees can become confused, how can a lay person with no tax expertise be charged criminally for messing up their taxes?
Actually, they cannot be charged criminally if an honest mistake was made. While tax fraud can results in both civil and criminal penalties, there is a higher standard of proof for criminal charges. The IRS must prove criminal tax fraud “beyond a reasonable doubt”, whereas a civl tax fraud penalty can be imposed if there is “clear and convincing evidence”.
The IRS Must Prove You Intended to Commit Tax Fraud