Florida Liquor Store Owner Faces Jail Time For Concealing Cash Receipts From IRS
It is not uncommon for people to fall behind on their taxes or inadvertently miss a filing deadline. These are not crimes as such. But if the government believes that you have “willfully” attempted to “evade or defeat any tax” that you lawfully owe, you can be prosecuted–and if convicted, you could face up to 5 years in prison and a fine of $100,000.
Federal prosecutors are especially keen on going after small business owners who deliberately understate their income by keeping certain sales “off the books.” For example, the United States Attorney’s office in Miami recently secured a guilty plea from a Florida liquor store owner who admitted to tax evasion. A federal judge subsequently will impose a sentence later this year.
According to the plea agreement, two undercover Internal Revenue Service (IRS) agents met with the defendant in December 2019. The agents told the defendant they were interested in buying his liquor store. During this meeting, the defendant told the undercover agents that he maintained two separate retail point of sale (POS) systems for the business. One of these registers was for cash sales. He said that he did not report the sales from this register to the accountant who prepared his tax returns.
A few months later, the IRS executed a search warrant for the defendant’s home. The agents found a number of paper register tapes purportedly from the cash-only register. Based on an analysis of the tapes, the IRS determined the defendant had failed to report approximately $557,000 in cash receipts on his 2017 federal income tax return. (The defendant organized his business as an S Corporation, meaning any profits or losses were reported on his personal returns.) This worked out to a “tax deficiency” of about $190,000.
Contact an Orlando, Florida, Tax Evasion Lawyer Today
It is important to emphasize that tax evasion requires proof of a “willful” act to avoid filing or paying taxes. Paying your taxes later because you are short on cash is not a crime, although you may be subject to civil penalties and interest. Nor is an honest mistake proof of tax evasion. But keep in mind that any tax return you sign is done under the “penalty of perjury.” So if the IRS believes that you have intentionally under-reported or concealed your income to get out of paying a lawful tax, then you become a target for prosecutors.
The important thing to remember if you are a target is not to panic. Even when dealing with the IRS you have certain constitutional and legal rights. Of course, you should never lie or make any deliberately false statements. But you should get in touch with a qualified Orlando white collar crime lawyer as soon as possible. Do not assume the IRS or law enforcement will simply let the matter drop.
Contact the Baez Law Firm today to schedule a free consultation with a member of our experienced Florida criminal defense team.