It is not a crime to simply refuse to pay taxes, or to owe txes and be unable to pay. It is a crime to file false returns, hide income, or otherwise “evade” taxes. It is also a crime* to hide assets.*
You can’t be prosecuted simply for not paying, buit you can be prosecuted if you try and stop the IRS from siezing your assets.
Indeed, some declare Bankruptcy, and although that does not releive your Fderal Income tax debt, it usually gets the IRS off your ass. You have a right to declare bankruptcy, it even mentions it in the Constitution.
If you filed a honest return, owing large amounts of taxes, then said “I refuse to pay it” (and let the IRS take what they wanted) the IRS has 10 years to collect it. During that time if you earn anything (there are some minor exclusions) or have any assets (again, there are some minor exclusions) the IRS will take them.
But dudes don’t do that as it means for ten years you have to live like a homeless person. It’d be as bad as prison. Instead dudes lie and cheat- then they go to prison.
However, few dudes even then actually go to prison (unless you are the leader of a Tax Protestor ring). What usually happens is that after conviction, most dudes :see the light" and if they promise to file and pay all taxes and penalties, they are given a suspended sentence and time served. Most- when faced with more prison time- yeild and promise. Few remain adamant.