Due to its steep rate, the civil fraud penalty is one of the most powerful tools that IRS has. It applies if any part of a tax underpayment is due to fraud, and the penalty equals 75% of that portion of the underpayment attributable to fraud. Although IRS has the burden of proving fraud by clear and convincing evidence, if it shows that any portion of an underpayment is due to fraud, the entire underpayment is treated as attributable to fraud except for any portion that the taxpayer shows (by a preponderance of the evidence) not to be so attributable.
Other adverse results also flow from a civil fraud determination. For example, no time limit exists on the assessment and collection of tax if a fraudulent return is filed. Likewise, a return subject to the civil fraud penalty is treated as fraudulent for bankruptcy purposes. As a result, taxes shown on such a return are not normally discharged in a bankruptcy proceeding.
Although civil fraud is not statutory defined, some courts have defined it as an actual and deliberate, or willful, wrongdoing with specific intent to evade a tax believed to be owed. Fraudulent intent is rarely shown by a single act or by direct proof of a taxpayer’s intent. Instead, it’s usually shown by looking at all of the facts and circumstances.
A separate fraudulent failure to file penalty, imposed at a maximum rate of 75%, may apply to late-filed or non-filed returns.
Certain constitutional defenses to the civil fraud penalty, including double jeopardy, have been rejected because the penalty is civil and not criminal in nature. However, as with many other tax penalties, the civil fraud penalty can be avoided by showing legal reasons. Taxpayers have often been successful in avoiding the civil fraud penalty.
This content is not meant to constitute advice of any kind, including without limitation, legal advice of any kind. If you require advice in relation to any legal matter you should consult an appropriately qualified lawyer
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