Cincinnati, OH asked in Tax Law for Ohio

Q: Can you go to jail for filing an incorrect number on your business's tax returns if it was an honest mistake?

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3 Lawyer Answers
Linda Simmons Campbell
Linda Simmons Campbell
Answered
  • Tax Law Lawyer
  • Burlington, CT

A: File an amended return. The IRS does not criminally prosecute for honest mistakes. They are looking for cases of fraud or tax evasion. If you file and amend your return, you can request a one-time penalty abatement if you end up owing. It is a one-time abatement so I would not use it for a small amount. If you wait until you are audited you will get hit with higher penalties and it is more difficult to get the abatement.

J. Timothy Bender
J. Timothy Bender
Answered
  • Tax Law Lawyer
  • Cleveland, OH

A: In order to be prosecuted for either tax evasion, or filing a false return, there has to be evidence of an intent to evade tax. If it is an honest mistake, there is little chance of being prosecuted as the intent to defraud the government is not present. The IRS usually will not refer a case for prosecution unless there are at least two years successive years in which the tax liability is understated so that mistake cannot be raised as a defense. If it is truly an honest mistake and it only occurs in one year, there is little chance of taxpayer being prosecuted unless it is a large mistake that is apparent on the face of the return from which intent can be inferred.

If you are concerned, why don't you file an amended tax return correcting the mistake? If you file an amended return prior to being contacted by IRS, there is almost no chance you could be prosecuted.

Eric Steven Day
Eric Steven Day
Answered
  • Tax Law Lawyer
  • Henderson, NV

A: You will not go to jail for filing your tax returns with an "honest" mistake on them. In order for you to serve time in prison for an incorrect tax return, the IRS would have to prove that you committed tax fraud. Tax fraud is only proven when the IRS can show that you INTENDED to defraud the government. Therefore, an "honest" mistake would likely not rise to INTENT.

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