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Couple facing federal charges for allegedly defrauding government

Federal authorities and the Internal Revenue Service take tax fraud and tax evasion incredibly seriously. Individuals convicted of a federal offense for tax fraud or tax evasion can face stiff fines, the forfeiture of property and even long sentences in federal prison.

A couple from Manteca, California, is facing charges for federal crimes stemming from allegedly filing false tax returns for nearly $400,000. According to the Internal Revenue Service, the couple filed fraudulent tax returns in 2005 and 2007. For the tax year 2005, the couple allegedly claimed $90,538 in false refunds and then $313,248 in 2007. Federal prosecutors also allege that the couple filed fraudulent liens against property belonging to the IRS commissioner.

According to a federal indictment, the couple sent the IRS a fake international promissory note asking the IRS to apply the face value of the note to outstanding tax liabilities. The IRS also reported receiving a letter requesting that the agency pay $20,000 in credit card bills belonging to the couple. If convicted, the couple could face five years in prison for each fraudulent tax return claim, three years for obstruction and 10 years for filing the false liens against IRS property.

Taxes are notoriously complex. As a result, sometimes the line between aggressive tax planning and tax fraud is unclear. Determining whether a mistake is the result of intentional fraud or negligence, however, is important. For example, generally the IRS has three years to audit an individual after they file. If a filer willfully fails to file or underreports income, the stakes go up significantly and the IRS gets six years. In addition to more time, intentional tax fraud is a federal offense, and authorities view such federal cases seriously.

Source: Record Net, "Couple indicted on charges of tax fraud," Nov. 16, 2013

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