The United States employs a self-assessment tax system which requires the accurate reporting of information by tax payers and tax preparers. The Government seeks to preserve the integrity of the U.S. tax system through criminal prosecutions that punish tax law violators and deter other persons who would violate those laws. The Government’s goal is to achieve maximum deterrence through broad, balanced, and uniform criminal tax enforcement. Unlike the prosecution of more common criminal offenses, the target of a tax investigation faces not just the potential loss of liberty, but significant financial penalties.
Tax offenses are not limited to filing a false or fictitious tax return or failing to report income. Although conduct arising under the internal revenue laws is triggered by a defendant’s submission of a document or information, tax cases are often accompanied by mail, wire, or bank fraud charges, either alone or as the predicate to RICO or money laundering charges.
Tax offenses can be committed by individuals and businesses and are investigated by Federal and State Authorities. Any Government entity which collects taxes has a means by which to prosecute violations of tax laws. In the Federal system, the Attorney General has authorized the Tax Division to oversee all federal criminal tax enforcement and to authorize or decline investigations and prosecutions in tax matters. The special agents of the IRS Criminal Investigation conduct the administrative investigations into allegations of criminal violations arising under the internal revenue laws and related provisions and refer those cases to the Department of Justice or individual U.S. Attorneys for prosecution.
Violations of the State and Federal tax codes can be pursued civilly, criminally, or both. Tax investigations can often be complicated and layered and no individual or business should go through such an investigation without experienced and capable counsel.