Is Tax Evasion a Felony or Misdemeanor?
Does Georgia law classify tax evasion as a felony or misdemeanor? Find out what to expect if you are facing tax evasion charges.
While tax evasion and other forms of tax fraud are white-collar crimes, they still carry serious penalties, including jail time. If you have been charged with tax evasion for failing to file tax returns, understating your income, or any other unlawful activity, you need to contact a Norcross white-collar crime attorney to protect your reputation, rights, and freedom.
What are the Elements of Tax Fraud in Georgia?
Since tax evasion is one of the forms of tax fraud in Georgia, you need to understand the elements of this criminal offense. Under Georgia Code § 48-1-6, there are three elements of tax fraud:
- Knowingly making false or fraudulent statements when filing tax returns, reports, or claims for a refund;
- Knowingly and intentionally omitting any facts or conditions in written documentation if the omission is a material misstatement or misrepresentation of fact; or
- Evading or attempting to evade taxes, interests, penalties, or any amounts due to the state of Georgia by any scheme, trick, or plan.
Is Tax Evasion Considered a Misdemeanor or Felony?
Under Georgia law, tax evasion – or any other form of tax fraud, for that matter – is considered a misdemeanor. While a misdemeanor is less serious than a felony, it still carries a severe punishment. Penalties for tax evasion in Georgia include:
- Up to 12 months in jail
- Restitution to repay the amount of taxes the defendant failed to pay to the state
However, if you are charged with any associated crimes, the offense can be elevated to a felony. For example, if the defendant is also guilty of money laundering, their tax fraud charges could be elevated to a felony.
If the defendant fails to pay taxes to the federal government or in any other way deprives the federal government of tax revenue, the case may be considered a federal crime.
According to the Internal Revenue Service’s (IRS) Tax Crimes Handbook, any willful attempt to evade or defeat taxes is considered a felony. If a defendant is convicted of felony tax evasion in a federal court, he/she could be sentenced to up to five years in prison and/or ordered to pay a maximum fine of $100,000.
What are the Potential Defenses to Tax Evasion Charges in Georgia?
One of the defenses to tax evasion charges in Georgia is arguing that you did not intentionally or knowingly deprive the state or federal government of tax revenue. In order to be convicted of tax evasion, the prosecution must prove that you actually evaded or attempted to evade taxes. In other words, you may not be convicted for simply making a mistake on your tax return.
Additionally, since the government must often work with law enforcement agencies to investigate tax evasion cases, you may be able to challenge the evidence against you if it was obtained from an unlawful search and seizure.
Thus, if the law enforcement officials failed to follow specific procedures and protocols or otherwise violated your constitutional rights, any evidence they obtain may be deemed inadmissible.