Signing Your Tax Return – Under Perjury

Michael Lodge

by Michael Lodge

When you go into your tax accountants office to have your tax return prepared have you ever read the document at the bottom of the return or on the e-file document you sign to have your return e-filed?  It is important to read it because you are signing a very real legal document that can affect your life in many legal ways.  Read below what you are signing:

Under penalties or perjury, I declare that I have examined this return, including accompanying schedules and statements, and to the best of my knowledge and belief, it is true, correct, and complete“.

Thus, when you sign that line on the tax return you are saying you have read the return, you have examined the return and all of the backup schedules, and that it is true – correct and complete.  You have now told the United States IRS that you are open to examination of that statement and if they find that you have not told the truth you are subject to legal recourse against you.  And it is not a pretty place to be if you have over-exaggerated your expenses and under-reported your income, or just plain lied.

Tax perjury can be one or two distinct crimes:  the act itself and aiding or assisting in it.  Someone commits the crime by filing or assisting in the filing of a tax return without believing that every “material” representation in it is accurate.  Material misrepresentations include wrongly identifying an income source and misstating or omitting any figure that affects the amount of tax due.  Supplying correct but incomplete information is enough to violate the law.  Tell your tax accountant the true facts – don’t make them up.  By signing a falsely stated tax return you are subject to a maximum fine of $100,000.  If the tax payer is a corporation, a maximum is $500,000.  The taxpayer is also subject to a prison sentence of up to three years.  The sentence depends on a variety of factors, not least of which is the amount of money the taxpayer attempted to illegally retain or obtain.

When you sign your tax return it is a very serious business.  If you get charged with a tax crime, or are simply being investigated for one, contact an experienced criminal defense attorney immediately.  Look for someone who regularly handles federal tax cases.  You will need an experienced attorney that can explore any possible defenses.  If the IRS is charging you with tax fraud, you must be prepared for a long, difficult and humiliating process.

If you signed a tax return one time or on a consistent basis over the years that you know is not correct – you have just crossed the line.   You have just opened yourself up to examination.

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