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Old 08-15-2019, 10:07 AM
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Would this be considered tax evasion?


Mainly interested in responses about United States law.....What if somebody just up and said

ďi hate paperwork, Iím never filing a return again, Iíll just wait until the IRS sends me a letter saying what I owe and pay that.Ē

Technically they arenít evading taxes, just making the IRS do all the work.
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Old 08-15-2019, 10:22 AM
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You'll owe your tax AND a penalty. I like to keep my extra cash.
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Old 08-15-2019, 10:30 AM
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I suspect, if US law is anything like UK law, that your obligation is not just to pay taxes, it's to file tax returns at their request. So if you don't fill one in, you are breaking the law, and subject to penalties as a result.

I often hear about US citizens being obliged to file tax returns even if they no longer live in the States, and don't owe them money.

So whilst you aren't necessarily going to be charged with tax evasion (which is a deliberate attempt to avoid tax by hiding taxable earnings), you will be charged with failing to comply with tax law.
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Old 08-15-2019, 10:31 AM
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IANAL, but
Quote:
Penalties for Tax Evasion

Tax evasion is punishable by up to five years in prison, a fine of as much as $250,000, in addition to the payment of any taxes owing. Here are some common criminal penalties for specific types of tax evasion:

Not Filing a Return: This offense that generally carries civil tax penalties. In extreme cases, there can be up to one year in prison and $100,000 in fines for each tax year not filed.
Cite.

SO AFAICT yes, not filing is tax evasion if you owe taxes. If you don't owe, you don't have to file although it is usually a bad idea.

Kind of an expensive way to avoid paperwork.

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Shodan
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Old 08-15-2019, 10:49 AM
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If you don’t owe, there’s no penalty. My now-wife hadn’t bothered to file for several years before we met. I helped her catch up with the paperwork, and she received several hundred dollars in refunds, since withholding had been more than enough.
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Old 08-15-2019, 12:12 PM
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Even if you don't owe it is an offense not to file (if your income is above a statutory minimum). As a taxpaying Canadian, I still have to file every year even though I am nowhere near owing anything. One thing I do that is probably illegal is report all capital gains as ordinary income since I cannot be bothered to fill in the capital gains form. The worst part of this is the FOOBAR report since it has to filled out online and is highly repetitive. Exact same info appears many times on the form and has to be typed in every time. It takes the better part of a day and for what? I am sure no one ever looks at it.
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Old 08-15-2019, 12:46 PM
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Originally Posted by Hari Seldon View Post
Even if you don't owe it is an offense not to file (if your income is above a statutory minimum). As a taxpaying Canadian, I still have to file every year even though I am nowhere near owing anything. One thing I do that is probably illegal is report all capital gains as ordinary income since I cannot be bothered to fill in the capital gains form. The worst part of this is the FOOBAR report since it has to filled out online and is highly repetitive. Exact same info appears many times on the form and has to be typed in every time. It takes the better part of a day and for what? I am sure no one ever looks at it.
Since you're in Canada, I assume indefinitely, why bother? I am asking out of ignorance not snark.

Last edited by KarlGauss; 08-15-2019 at 12:47 PM.
  #8  
Old 08-15-2019, 01:10 PM
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Originally Posted by Shodan View Post
IANAL, but Cite.

SO AFAICT yes, not filing is tax evasion if you owe taxes. If you don't owe, you don't have to file although it is usually a bad idea.

Kind of an expensive way to avoid paperwork.

Regards,
Shodan
This is true, but the IRS--in practice--doesn't go through the motion of making criminal charges unless there is a clear indication that someone is making a determined effort to never pay money they otherwise owe--that is, to defraud the government. If someone is just overdue, it's easier for them, and better ROI, to assess penalties and leave it at that.
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Old 08-15-2019, 01:12 PM
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As I understand it from previous discussions, the actual punishable offense is not paying taxes. I'm trying toimagine a court case where the prosecutor says "your honor, this person failed to file for refunds and has left the IRS holding the bag for hundreds of dollars, most of which he can no longer claim."

The problem with letting the tax department tell you what you owe is that they probably do the minimum calculations - ignore any deductions that they don't know about (i.e. charitable, and mortgage deductions, etc.) So you will end up leaving money on the table. This probably also applies to capital losses that can be applied against other deductions. And the risk is that the IRS in their calculations may not be aware of income, such as if you sold your house (which I understand is taxable in the USA), or if you have unusual sources of income. Miss those, end up with the IRS owed money, and now penalties and criminal charges may apply.

Plus - do they normally send you a bill? AFAIK, for us standard wage slaves, the tax department gets your pay slip deductions. Thus, you've paid your taxes. It would only be if you came to their attention, if your name pops up on the computer as being in arrears, that they would be doing a calculation and sending a bill. By then, you have at least missed the deadline (by definition, no bill until the deadline is passed?) If you are late, you owe penalties. Presumably the IRS has better things to do that try to prosecute criminally people too lazy to do their taxes. If you are someone who can afford to pay twice the normal taxes then maybe penalties will be OK.

I assume too the IRS is like Revenue Canada - if you end up owing at the end of the year too much, they will then demand you do quarterly (or if large enough, monthly) personal assessments an payments. This is typically for self-employed and others whose income is not normally pre-deducted.
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Old 08-15-2019, 01:43 PM
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Originally Posted by md2000 View Post
As I understand it from previous discussions, the actual punishable offense is not paying taxes. I'm trying toimagine a court case where the prosecutor says "your honor, this person failed to file for refunds and has left the IRS holding the bag for hundreds of dollars, most of which he can no longer claim."
U.S. v. Hairston, 819 F.2d 971 (10th Cir. 1987).

Richard P. Hairston wanted to produce evidence at his trial that he would have received a refund had he filed. The trial judge disallowed it. The appeals court said the trial judge acted properly.

Quote:
However, in a failure to file action under 26 U.S.C. ß 7203, the Government is not required to show that a tax is due nor must it show an intent to evade taxes. Willful tax evasion is a distinct violation under 26 U.S.C. ß 7201 (1982). Cf. United States v. Afflerbach, 547 F.2d 522, 524 (10th Cir. 1976) (Government must prove substantial income tax deficiency in tax evasion case), cert. denied, 429 U.S. 1098, 97 S.Ct. 1118, 51 L.Ed.2d 546 (1977). The willfulness under section 7203, is a willful failure to file a return, not a willful evasion of income taxes.... The trial court did not abuse its discretion in ruling that evidence of a possible tax refund was irrelevant in a failure-to-file case. See Beacham, 714 F.2d at 1014; Texas E. Transmission Corp., 579 F.2d at 566.
  #11  
Old 08-15-2019, 02:31 PM
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There is a movement to have the IRS just bill you or send a refund. For most people, they have all the information they need, so tax forms are unnecessary.

Tax preparer companies have done everything they can to prevent this.
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  #12  
Old 08-15-2019, 05:20 PM
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Originally Posted by KarlGauss View Post
Since you're in Canada, I assume indefinitely, why bother? I am asking out of ignorance not snark.
All three of my children live in the US, so I don't want to possibly be arrested or something. I also find it convenient to have a bank account there and don't want to see it confiscated.
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Old 08-15-2019, 07:06 PM
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Originally Posted by Hari Seldon View Post
All three of my children live in the US, so I don't want to possibly be arrested or something. I also find it convenient to have a bank account there and don't want to see it confiscated.
Also note a recent CNBC article that the USA is planning to implement a policy to deny/revoke passports of tax delinquents. Considering that to enter the USA, as I understand, you must present your American passport, even if you are also a citizen of another country, this alone would pretty much rule out a lot of travel. (And often the best deals to fly anywhere involve a USA stopover from Canada)
  #14  
Old 08-15-2019, 09:54 PM
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In the United States at least, failure to file a tax return (assuming that you have taxable income) is a misdemeanor whether you owe tax or not. In practical terms, obviously, it's uncommon for prosecutors to go after people whom they have no reason to believe owe anything, but it could happen.

In one heavily publicized case in Illinois in 1972, Harold Washington, then a state Representative, was prosecuted for failure to file tax returns for four years and served a month in jail, even though he owed only trivial amounts of tax in total and for at least some of the years I believe owed nothing. Washington's case wasn't exactly typical--he was a politician, there was a lot of outrage over newspaper stories about how state legislators who write our (state) tax laws couldn't be bothered to file their own returns, he was a Democrat facing a Republican prosecutor looking to score political points, and he had been an especially egregious offender who didn't file for at least 19 years although most of them were beyond the statute of limitations. But the point is, it can happen.

The actor Wesley Snipes was also convicted of, and served prison time, for failure to file. His case was more typical in that he also owed money, but he was only convicted of failure to file and served time on that charge alone.
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Old 08-16-2019, 02:59 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mrdeals View Post
Mainly interested in responses about United States law.....What if somebody just up and said

ďi hate paperwork, Iím never filing a return again, Iíll just wait until the IRS sends me a letter saying what I owe and pay that.Ē

Technically they arenít evading taxes, just making the IRS do all the work.
Really all they should do in that case is to take the form, sign and date it with nothing else filled in and send it in. From that point on, you have filed.
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Old 08-16-2019, 03:31 PM
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Originally Posted by Declan View Post
Really all they should do in that case is to take the form, sign and date it with nothing else filled in and send it in. From that point on, you have filed.
Are you a tax attorney?
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Old 08-16-2019, 03:51 PM
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Are you a tax attorney?
I'm not a tax *attorney*, but I am a CPA. And I have taken a course not normally taken by CPAs in IRS practice and procedure.

The technique of filing a return with zeros everywhere has been determined to be a legitimate return. However, it has an extremely high likelihood of being audited, because the person filed the return for no good reason since their income did not meet the statutory minimum to file and they had no withholding to claim. But in these days of IRS budget cuts, it's always possible they'll decide people who filed actual returns with numbers on them will likely have more to go after than someone who filed a zero return.

As to the actual question in the OP, if you know you should file a tax return and you don't, then that's willful failure and tax evasion, which is a crime punishable by jail, not just civil penalties. However, in order to be convicted for tax evasion, the government needs very good proof that you knew you owed money and took steps to prevent paying it. If you simply claimed you didn't know that you needed to file your taxes, and stuck to that story with enough conviction, you might get away without criminal penalty.

Keep in mind that there are plenty of civil penalties associated with failure to file your taxes (though they are based on the amounts you owe), and the statute of limitations does not start until you file your return. Thus, people trying to evade will file returns with all zeros and hope the IRS doesn't have time to come after them and in a few years, the tax debt will be wiped out (6 I believe, assuming a zero return grossly understates your income, as the statute of limitations is normally 3).

If you're not filing your taxes because you can't be arsed, and you have a regular job in a one-income household and no outside income, you're being generous to the rest of the taxpayers by paying more than your share. At least, up until last year. See, it used to be that the tax withholding guidelines were designed to slightly overwithhold so that more people would be due refunds than owe money assuming their withholdings were accurate, which encouraged people to file returns. With the overhaul of the tax law, it was decided to end this practice, and instead aim for equal numbers of people being over- and underwithheld. What this meant was that a lot of people who always got refunds ended up owing, and they weren't happy even though they received more money in their paychecks throughout the year.
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Old 08-16-2019, 05:43 PM
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Originally Posted by Beckdawrek View Post
You'll owe your tax AND a penalty. I like to keep my extra cash.

What is this "extra cash" thing of which you speak and how do I sign up for some?




I don't think the IRS will ever send a letter saying how much you owe to start the discussion.. I think you will get a letter telling you you may be delinquent and inviting you to prove otherwise or possibly come in for a visit.

Last edited by Lare; 08-16-2019 at 05:44 PM.
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Old 08-17-2019, 12:08 AM
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I believe all first world countries will have similar tax laws. If you don’t file a return, even if you owe nothing or would be owed a refund, that negligent act alone is a crime.
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Old 08-17-2019, 10:38 AM
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I believe all first world countries will have similar tax laws. If you donít file a return, even if you owe nothing or would be owed a refund, that negligent act alone is a crime.
In my 20 plus years of filing taxes Norway moved from:

All paper
Electronic filing
Electronic filing mostly pre-filled (I stopped a brief stock trading hobby because of the hassle of having to figure out my tax liabilities, which were not pre-filled at the time)
Electronic filing, 99 percent pre-filled for your average wage earner and, relevant to this post, implied filing.

So today, if you don't file any changes, you've given implied acceptance of the pre-filled version.
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Old 08-17-2019, 08:45 PM
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I believe all first world countries will have similar tax laws. If you donít file a return, even if you owe nothing or would be owed a refund, that negligent act alone is a crime.
I know that back in the 80's, my English friends were annoyed at the Aus practice of requiring Income Tax returns. They were used to an English practice where you didn't have to do anything. (Or perhaps an parctice where you only had to sign a statement?)

At the time I found it pretty annoying too, because Aus was moving from a system where you filled out one side of a large piece of paper, to a new "easy" system that lead to an incredible massive boom in the number of comercial tax return preparation businesses.
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Old Yesterday, 05:55 AM
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I believe all first world countries will have similar tax laws. If you don’t file a return, even if you owe nothing or would be owed a refund, that negligent act alone is a crime.
Japan does not. If you don’t owe any taxes, you are not required to file.
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Old Yesterday, 09:36 PM
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Originally Posted by Mrdeals View Post
Mainly interested in responses about United States law.....What if somebody just up and said

ďi hate paperwork, Iím never filing a return again, Iíll just wait until the IRS sends me a letter saying what I owe and pay that.Ē

Technically they arenít evading taxes, just making the IRS do all the work.
The IRS can issue a substitute return, and then they get a tax bill with penalties and interest. Bad move.
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Old Yesterday, 10:43 PM
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...I don't think the IRS will ever send a letter saying how much you owe to start the discussion....
Wrong.

Primary source here.
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Old Yesterday, 10:58 PM
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Wrong.

Primary source here.
So they sent you a letter saying how much you owed, but this wasn't based on any previous filing you had done? (Even from a previous year?) IOW, they calculated your taxes for you out of the blue?
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Old Yesterday, 11:43 PM
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In Canada, most people with standard single jobs with the standard payroll deductions typically overpay. You can file a form at the beginning of the year specifying how much to deduct more or less (i.e "I have several dependants, take off $X less" or "This is a second job, take of $X more" - the latter I do with my pension which is a second income.)
  #27  
Old Today, 07:11 AM
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So they sent you a letter saying how much you owed, but this wasn't based on any previous filing you had done? (Even from a previous year?) IOW, they calculated your taxes for you out of the blue?
They base it on your W2, 1099s etc. They might use previous info if they have it to determine if the status is single or married filing separately, but that's it. It's not out of the blue - they are using the information they have that was sent to them by your employer, banks, state lotteries. But since you didn't file a return and tell them about any credits, deductions or dependents, there aren't any of those on the substitute return. It's not about whether you've filed in the past- it's about whether they've been notified that you have taxable income. There will not be a substitute return without a W2, 1099 etc, even if a person has filed in the past- lots of people have taxable income in 2018 but not 2019.

Last edited by doreen; Today at 07:11 AM.
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Old Today, 07:21 AM
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So they sent you a letter saying how much you owed, but this wasn't based on any previous filing you had done? (Even from a previous year?) IOW, they calculated your taxes for you out of the blue?
They base it on your W2, 1099s etc. They might use previous info if they have it to determine if the statues is single or married filing separately, but that's it. It's not out of the blue - they are using the information they have that was sent to them by your employer, banks, state lotteries. But since you didn't file a return and tell them about any credits, deductions or dependents, there aren't any of those on the substitute return. It's not about whether you've filed in the past- it's about whether they've been notified that you have taxable income. There will not be a substitute return without W2, 1099 etc, even if a person has filed in the past- lots of people have taxable income in 2018 but not 2019.
  #29  
Old Today, 07:38 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mrdeals View Post
Mainly interested in responses about United States law.....What if somebody just up and said

“i hate paperwork, I’m never filing a return again, I’ll just wait until the IRS sends me a letter saying what I owe and pay that.”
Since you started with "mainly": in Spain Hacienda actually does that unless you've told them to keep their paws off your filing. It was initially done only for yearly income tax, but has been extended to quarterly fillings for those of us who must do these (1). I don't use "autofilling" as it's called (2); my brothers both use it; my mother's data includes one item that the government doesn't get from other sources, so Littlebro adds it to the form she's gotten and sends it back corrected.

Also, in Spain you're only required to file if you make above a certain amount (note that this includes Hacienda doing your autofilling).




1: self-employed people, which due to a quirk of our laws includes every CEO, plus partners in any kind of professional firms, plus the trades… so it's more people than one would think.

2: but when I go to Hacienda to file in person most of it consists of confirming the data the computer already has, I go in person because that way if the Nice Civil Servant has any questions they can ask them and we all avoid an audit. Not even Hacienda Auditors like Hacienda Audits. Also, since my uncle used to lead that particular department and two of the current Auditors for my region happen to be family, being audited is the kind of thing that really, really wouldn't go well for me, if only because the family would nail me to a cross and keep me there till the end of time.
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Last edited by Nava; Today at 07:43 AM.
  #30  
Old Today, 08:41 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mrdeals View Post
Mainly interested in responses about United States law.....What if somebody just up and said

ďi hate paperwork, Iím never filing a return again, Iíll just wait until the IRS sends me a letter saying what I owe and pay that.Ē

Technically they arenít evading taxes, just making the IRS do all the work.
I don't know why someone would do this. If you work for an employer, taxes are being withheld from your paycheck. The only way to get a refund of that is to file a tax return.
  #31  
Old Today, 09:27 AM
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Originally Posted by Alley Dweller View Post
U.S. v. Hairston, 819 F.2d 971 (10th Cir. 1987).

Richard P. Hairston wanted to produce evidence at his trial that he would have received a refund had he filed. The trial judge disallowed it. The appeals court said the trial judge acted properly.
Not so much, since that wasnt why he was prosecuted "Mr. Hairston then began purchasing literature published by, and attending tax seminars conducted by, Irwin Shiff, William J. Benson, Marvin L. Cooley, George Gordon, and others associated with the so-called "tax protest movement" who claim that the sixteenth amendment was never properly ratified and that filing tax returns is completely voluntary. He even attended some criminal trials of those charged with failure to file and visited acquaintances imprisoned on tax-related charges. See record, vol. 2, at 137, 168. On several occasions, he freely voiced his views that the tax laws were illegal and unconstitutional. See id. at 137, 161-67.

In the years 1977, 1978, 1979, and 1980, Mr. Hairston filed returns completed with only the words "object," "self-incrimination," or "none." He filed no returns in 1981 and 1982. He received numerous registered letters from the Internal Revenue Service informing him of his obligation to file a return and the possibility of criminal liability for failure to comply. In the years 1980, 1981, and 1982, Mr. Hairston submitted thirty-one withholding certificates commonly known as "W-4s" on which he claimed to be exempt from withholding requirements.

Mr. Hairston's defense at trial was that he did not file due to a bona fide misunderstanding as to his legal duty to file a return."


His tax protestor statements and Illegal W-4 proved the 'willful" part of "Any person required under this title . . . to make a return . . . who willfully fails to . . . make such return . . . at the time or times required by law or regulations, shall, in addition to other penalties provided by law, be guilty of a misdemeanor. . . ."

If you simply dont file and are owed a refund, then there's no 'willfulness'.
  #32  
Old Today, 09:31 AM
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Originally Posted by Freddy the Pig View Post
In the United States at least, failure to file a tax return (assuming that you have taxable income) is a misdemeanor whether you owe tax or not. In practical terms, obviously, it's uncommon for prosecutors to go after people whom they have no reason to believe owe anything, but it could happen.

....
This is not true.

In that case the failure must be willful.

And you must have had enough income so that you are required to file.

Last edited by DrDeth; Today at 09:32 AM.
  #33  
Old Today, 09:34 AM
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There's the added complication in the USA - here in Canada, all provinces rely on the federal government to collect their taxes too (except Quebec I think, they like to be different). Consequently, it's one stop shopping for tax filing. As I understand, you have to file a separate return with the state down there, correct? So the problem is not just federal taxes, but state taxes too. Plus the fun situation of earning in one state and residing in another - I assume without a filing on your part to claim deductions for other taxes paid, everyone will want their full share? (Something Canadians don't worry about) I guess the question is when does it become more profitable to pay a tax prep service than to leave the overpayment on the table?
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