How long can you go to jail for owing the IRS?

While the IRS doesn't pursue criminal tax evasion cases for many people, the penalty for those caught is severe. They must reimburse taxes with a costly fraud penalty and possibly face jail sentences of up to five years. If you have unpaid taxes, the IRS can use a wide range of collection actions to get your money. The agency can issue federal tax liens, garnish your assets, garnish your wages, and take other actions.

But you can't put him in jail unless he committed a crime. His case goes to the Criminal Investigation Division of the IRS, he is found guilty of tax fraud and he ends up sharing a cell for four years with someone much less admired than Wesley Snipes. While spending time in jail is a real consequence that some people face for committing tax crimes, you are more likely to face a civil sentence and be imposed fines and interest for not filing your return on time or for not filing it accurately. In cases like these, you won't go to jail as long as you can demonstrate your intentions and circumstances.

In addition to a jail sentence, Jane must pay the taxes she owes to the government, plus a 75 percent fraud penalty on the corrected taxes. It's true that you can go to jail for not paying your taxes just as you can for filing a fraudulent tax return. Of course, the best way to avoid financial penalties, interest and, yes, even jail time is to submit your application correctly and on time. When it comes to criminal penalties, the average jail sentence for tax fraud is in the range of 17 months.

Tax laws apply to everyone, and the Internal Revenue Service has jailed many who aren't tycoons. If you are the subject of an IRS investigation or are facing an audit for tax evasion or tax fraud, there is a chance that you will go to jail. In fact, the IRS can't send you to jail or file criminal charges against you for not paying your taxes. That said, having them sent to jail by the IRS isn't the kind of thing that happens to ordinary Americans who make a mathematical mistake.

It's important to remember that if you make an honest mistake on your tax return, you won't face jail time. As the situation in “The Situation” shows, going to jail for not paying your taxes is a real possibility. They have to pay the government what they owe, including costly penalties for fraud, and they even face jail terms.

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