False Statements on Tax Returns
Defense from an Orlando Tax Crime Lawyer
Tax crimes potentially affect everyone because of the requirement that all citizens and residents are subject to the tax laws of this country.
Tax evasion is a serious crime that carries with it a maximum term of imprisonment of five years and a fine of $100,000. Special agents of the IRS Criminal Investigations Division enforce the criminal laws relating to taxes through extensive financial investigations that are presented to the Department of Justice for prosecution.
Protecting Your Rights In Criminal Tax Cases
Very few lawyers have actually tried a criminal tax case and represented an individual under criminal tax investigation. The issues can be complex and often involve investigations that take three to five years to complete.
There are unique aspects to a criminal tax investigation that are not present in most crimes. For example, anyone under investigation for tax evasion or other crimes involving violation of the tax laws has specific rights that are waived unless requested. These rights include an opportunity to have a conference with the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigations special agent in charge. In addition, if requested, a person has a right to meet with the U.S. Department of Justice, Tax Division, to present facts or legal theories as to why criminal charges should not be filed. A meeting for the same purpose may be requested with the United States attorney's office. All of these meetings are designed to give a tax payer an opportunity through counsel, to show the government that criminal charges are not warranted.
Criminal vs. Civil Tax Evasion Cases
Many people think that disputes with the Internal Revenue Service are civil in nature and the only consequence will be the requirement to pay additional tax, plus interest and civil penalty. While this happens in many cases, if the IRS opens a criminal investigation, the stakes are much higher because the criminal investigator is concerned with investigating, prosecuting, and incarcerating an individual who the investigator believes committed a violation of the criminal tax laws.
Tax evasion has several different elements, which the government must prove. These include that there must be a tax deficiency, as well as an affirmative act or attempted act of evasion and finally that the person acted willfully. Each of these three elements can be disputed.
A major difference between a civil tax matter and a criminal tax matter often revolves around the issue of willfulness. Willfulness in a criminal tax case means that a person understood his or her legal duty, that is, the requirements of the tax laws, and intentionally chose to disregard or disobey the legal requirements. Willfulness is often hotly contested since the tax laws are complex and often subject to different interpretation.
Experienced Orlando Litigators
Mark Horwitz and Vince Citro have decades of experience in the area of criminal tax litigation. As an assistant United States attorney, both prosecuted criminal tax cases and as criminal defense attorneys, they have defended people under investigation, as well as those who have been charged.
Over the years it has been Mr. Horwitz's experience that a thorough and careful defense investigation, beginning as soon as it is learned that an individual is the subject of a criminal investigation, is crucial to successfully resolving the matter. Mark Horwitz has been able to prevent criminal tax charges from being filed in some cases by convincing the government that it should not proceed to prosecution. Mr. Horwitz has defended criminal tax cases at trial and has had successful results in several cases.
The Hazards in IRS Interviews
One of the common practices of the criminal investigators of the Internal Revenue Service is to attempt to have an interview with the subject of the investigation. It is often the practice of IRS criminal agents to drop by a person's home unannounced, in the hopes that they will be invited in and given an opportunity to talk to the person so as to elicit information that will be crucial in the government proving willfulness. This fact interview is very important. The investigators have already conducted a preliminary investigation and have planned for the interview. A person, by talking, is put in extreme danger of providing the government with sufficient proof to later be convicted of the crime.
The dangers arising from consenting to talk with the criminal investigator from the Internal Revenue Service include the following:
- Agents will pose questions about conduct, records, and financial dealings that occurred years earlier. If the person's memory is incorrect about documents or actions, the agents will consider mistakes as intentional lies. Lying to the agents will then later be argued as proof that the person knew that he or she had willfully violated the law.
- The person may not understand the question or the investigator may not understand the answer, again leading the investigators to assume that they have been provided with false information, which greatly increases the chance of conviction.
- The agents may make a mistake in preparing the report, which they will do at some time following the interview. This mistake will then become memorialized in a document that will be used by the agents, years later in the event of a trial and they will testify to the comments attributed to the defendant even though it was originally written down in error.
- Finally, there is the possibility the agent will intentionally misrepresent what the person said or choose to ignore information that is helpful to the person and thereby not put it into the report.
Speak with an Orlando Tax Crime Lawyer Before Your Interview
It is the current practice of the Internal Revenue Service and criminal investigators that they do not record the interviews with those that they are investigating. One may ask why not, since obviously the federal government has the financial resources to provide an investigator with a recorder; indeed many smartphones today have that function. In spite of the easy ability to record such statements, the criminal agents prefer not to do so. This failure results in the person being interviewed, having to live with what the criminal investigators say was said, rather than what was really said. Taken in its entirety, it is clear that an individual should not agree to an interview with a criminal investigator from the Internal Revenue Service without consulting with a lawyer experienced in defending criminal tax investigations.
Backed by decades of legal experience, the Orlando criminal defense attorneys at the Law Offices of Horwitz & Citro, P.A., are prepared to assist you with any legal issues associated with tax evasion in Florida. To schedule a consultation at our Orlando office, contact us online or call (407) 901-5852.
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