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IRS Criminal Investigation Process

By Spodek Law Group | June 12, 2021
(Last Updated On: July 26, 2023)

Last Updated on: 26th July 2023, 08:29 pm

IRS Criminal Investigation Process

If you find yourself facing an IRS criminal investigation, a civil investigation or an audit that, in time, may turn into a criminal investigation, you may be curious about the process the IRS will undergo to investigate you. Actually, it is a surprisingly easy thing for a person to find themselves involved with this problem. Perhaps you have been accused of tax evasion, or some other type of tax fraud. Some clients are not even aware that anything has gone wrong until the IRS comes after them.

An honest mistake, an oversight, or your accountant’s malpractice may trigger an IRS criminal investigation. In particular, unreported income, a false statement, the use of an unauthorized accounting or banking service, or declaring too many deductions are actions that could get you audited.  An audit could escalate to the level of an IRS criminal investigation process.

Our law office has a criminal tax defense practice to deal with federal, criminal income tax issues prosecuted by the IRS. It is sometimes said that although the focus of an accountant is accuracy, the focus of a tax lawyer is advocacy.

Did you know that the Internal Revenue Service is the world’s most powerful collection agency?

The IRS has tremendous resources.  Its Criminal Investigation Division (CID) is ruthless. The goal of the division is simple.  It is to conduct a thorough investigation of the taxpayer who is thought to have committed tax fraud so that he or she can be criminally prosecuted.

What is the Difference Between an IRS Criminal Investigation and a Tax Audit?

In an audit, the IRS tries to figure out whether you have calculated your tax liability correctly. On the other hand, in a criminal investigation, the IRS seeks to bring a case against you so that the U.S. Attorney’s Office can prosecute you. The tax system is run on the basis of fear. For them to maintain a proper level of fear, the government continues to prosecute tax cheats on an ongoing basis.

How Does an IRS Audit Lead to Criminal Tax Investigation?

Tax audits are conducted in a number of different ways. All of them involve your furnishing records and documents to back up the information on your tax returns. This can be completed entirely through correspondence.  Sometimes agents may ask you to come in person to a field office or they may come to your home or business to review your books and records. No matter which kind of audit you’re looking at, you need reach out as soon as you discover that you are being audited to a skilled dual licensed Tax Lawyer & CPA like those at our firm.

During the course of an audit, the auditor may be assisted by someone referred to as a fraud technical advisor (FTA). The FTA will look for “badges of fraud”.  These are indicators that fraud might have taken place.  If they find any, they refer the matter to the criminal investigation (CI) unit for a closer look. If the CI unit decides to refer your case for prosecution, they have a 90% conviction rate, so the sooner you get in touch with one of our dual licensed Tax Attorney & CPAs, the better chance you have of a positive outcome.


How Does an Appeal Work in an IRS Criminal Investigation?

You have the right to file an appeal of your tax bill with the IRS.  If your appeal is not granted, you can then take your case to Tax Court. To begin the process, your tax lawyer must prepare and file a petition with the Tax Court for relief within 90 days of receiving a notice of deficiency letter from the IRS.


At that point, your attorney works with the IRS attorney to try come to some sort of settlement in which your tax bill is reduced or eliminated, generally because the facts and law are on your side, in exchange for your dropping your matter and helping them lower the burden on the court system. The overwhelming majority of these kinds of cases get settled out of court. If you don’t want to settle your matter, your lawyer can make the best possible case before the court that your bill was unfair and that it should be reduced or eliminated by bringing witnesses and evidence, and countering the witnesses and evidence produced by the IRS.

A Walk through the IRS Criminal Investigation Process

The Criminal Investigation Division “CID” is populated by federal agents, known as “Special Agents”. The Special Agents are highly trained financial investigators that carry guns and wear badges. Unlike your local police department, the CID conducts extremely thorough investigation, which may last years. They can interview your family, friends, employees, co-workers,  business associates, and bankers to collect evidence of the extent of the tax evasion or tax fraud that may have been perpetrated.

A conviction on criminal tax violation charges carries severe consequences.  In addition to monstrous fines, including the cost of prosecution and jail time – this can be up to 5 years in jail for each count – conviction could mean financial, personal, and social catastrophe. Note that the government usually will not prosecute without being able to establish a minimum of 3 counts. Compounding the problems is the fact that often a taxpayer will not know when he or she is subject to an IRS criminal investigation until that investigation is in the late stages.  By this time, they more than likely would have made incriminating admissions if they were not represented by competent counsel.

Get Help from an Experienced IRS Criminal Lawyer

If you believe you are the subject of an IRS criminal investigation, we can help you. In a effort to protect your rights, we erect a barrier between you and the IRS. Contact our Law Office today for your initial consultation.

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