It's that time of year again; time to start gathering W2s, collecting documents and putting together your taxes. It's a long and complicated process but, like death, it's one of life's guarantees. Unfortunately, the dizzying array of forms, deductions and credits can make it difficult to do properly. That can lead to an honest mistake that sees you sending Uncle Sam less than he believes you should.
And if there's anyone you don't want to mistakenly slight, it's Uncle Sam. While the IRS looks at hundreds of millions of tax returns every year, the long arm of the law can sometimes catch up to you, even when you didn't even realize you did something wrong.
One of the most common ways this happens is under-reporting. You may forget about some income you got during the year or you may not even know that something was taxable income. You may work in an industry where income is tough to keep track of. Hairdressers, retail store owners and waitresses often give a large portion of their income in cash, which can make it hard to come up with one exact figure.
Then you fill out your tax return as honestly as possible and then get a surprise audit. Even if it was an honest mistake, the IRS may still try to prove that it was done on purpose and prosecute you for tax fraud or tax evasion.
If you do find yourself on the wrong side of the IRS, you may want an attorney on your side to advise you and help you build a strong defense.