As you do your taxes, you may be very concerned about making mistakes. You know that the ramifications can be severe, and many people believe that IRS agents are going to come knocking on their door and threatening them with jail time or heavy fines over these errors. It can cause a lot of anxiety as you fill out and then file your paperwork, even when a computer program is checking it for you.
If you find yourself in this position, it’s important to note that making mistakes is not illegal on its own. What is illegal is intentionally altering your taxes so that they do not reflect your actual earnings. But you have to do this intentionally, and making an accidental mistake is very different.
Will it look the same?
That doesn’t mean that the IRS isn’t going to ask questions. In a lot of cases, mistakes and fraud will look similar. For example, perhaps you have two different employers. If you report the income from one employer and not the other, the IRS may believe that you are trying to artificially reduce how much you earned so that you can pay less in taxes.
But the truth may be that you simply forgot to gather half of your paperwork before you did your taxes in the first place. Maybe your tax documents for your second employer never arrived, so you didn’t realize you’d left those details out.
No matter how it happened, the key is that you haven’t committed a crime if there was no intent. If you do find yourself accused of tax fraud when you know it was an honest mistake, it is important to understand exactly what legal options you have.