Income Tax: Fraud vs. Negligence

Disclaimer: This article should not be treated as legal advice. It’s recommended that readers still consult legal counsel and contact a lawyer should they have any concerns regarding negligence or fraud when it comes to income tax.

Tax is one of the many things that help us be able to get services from the government, as our taxes are being used in government spending. This means we’re going to be giving the government a small sum of what we earn in order for them to have government funding for services we can get as their citizens. It’s a system that has worked since the formation of ancient societies, and a system that is intact today. As such, it’s important to know not just how taxes work, but how we can record and submit our income tax to avoid instances of fraud and negligence.Fraud vs. Negligence

In terms of income tax reports, there are certain situations where missing these submissions can merit certain penalties. This is why a lot of people try to maintain a healthy habit of submitting these reports on time as these can have an effect on their credit as well. When people don’t get to do this, they may suffer penalties for negligence, or worse, fraud.

The information you’ll read below will give you a rough idea on the difference between fraud and negligence in terms of income tax, and what you need to know to get you started. Do remember however that the information below is not everything you need to know about the subject matter, and it’s still better to get the advice of a lawyer or a financial professional on specific situations that you might be wondering about.

Income Tax Fraud: The Basics

Before we proceed with the difference between income tax fraud and negligence, it’s first important to define what exactly income tax fraud is. When we talk of income tax fraud, this is the conscious attempt to try and evade the law in terms of taxes and the IRS. A company or a person commits tax fraud when any of these things happen:

  • If a person intentionally misses to report all the incomes they have received, and/or if they make false claims on their accounts.
  • If a person intentionally misses an income tax return or intentionally fails to pay taxes that are due.

Of course, sometimes it can get worrying for others because these qualifications can occur even if we do have the intention of paying our dues or filing our reports but we miss them because of other circumstances. This means if errors due to carelessness occurs, then the signs of fraud may not be present at all. The IRS in this case can give the benefit of the doubt that there’s been some form of mistake rather than the signs stated above. Normally, the IRS will be able to determine if the error can be considered negligence or tax fraud.

According to FindLaw, auditors who work for the IRS have a few mistakes and inconsistencies to take note of that can be signs of suspicious activity. These include:

  • If the Social Security Number used is fake or false.
  • If expenses that are personal are falsified as business expenditures.
  • If income is intentionally underreported.
  • Falsifying documents or even two financial ledger sets have been included.
  • If an income transfer has been concealed, or if exemptions and deductions were overstated.

Other workers such as doctors, accountants, lawyers, hairdressers, salespeople, store owners, and dealers are also likely to commit these mistakes as well. Cash-based businesses or workers such as service workers and self-employed people have the highest chances of commiting tax fraud since it is easy for them to underreport the income they receive.

Income Tax Fraud: Consequences

Should you want to have an idea on the kind of penalties involved with income tax fraud, then it’s important to read along and review the following with your lawyer. Potential punishments for tax fraud can include the following:

  • If there’s an intention to withdraw the supply of information, tax payments, or returns, the taxpayer can be labeled guilty. This case will be classified as a misdemeanor, they can be made to suffer kinds of penalties including (1) imprisonment that wouldn’t go up to a year, (2) a fine that can reach $100,000 for persons, or $200,000 for a business.
  • If there’s an attempt to falsify statements, the taxpayer can be labeled guilty, with the incident classified as a felony. They may have a penalty that involves (1) being imprisoned for no more than three years, (2) have a fine of $500,000 if they’re a corporation or $250,000 if they’re an individual.
  • If there’s an attempt to evade paying taxes, the taxpayer may be sentenced to (1) go to prison without exceeding five years, with (2) a fine that will not exceed $250,000 for persons and $500,000 for businesses.


If there’s anything the above could tell, it’s that income tax isn’t a walk in the park but it’s not something to be afraid of either. It’s entirely possible to be able to understand how income tax works, but it takes a lot of time and effort in order to seamlessly understand the way it can affect us and the things we receive as citizens. As such, it’s important not only to know how income tax works, but how it works alongside fraud and negligence when income tax is not filed correctly.

Anne McGee

Anne McGeeAnne McGee has over 20 years of experience writing about law subjects where she hopes her knowledge can help the common reader understand law topics that may be of relevance to their daily lives. If she’s not reading a good book, then chances are Anne is jogging during her free time.