FAQ’s About Criminal Tax Investigations

Questions about Criminal Tax Investigations

What is the different between an IRS Special Agent, an IRS Revenue Agent, and an IRS Revenue Officer?

The IRS has two separate methods of conducting an investigation; civil audit examinations and criminal investigations. Additionally, the IRS has a separate division in charge of collecting unpaid tax liabilities. IRS Special Agents are the individuals charged with investigating criminal tax crimes. Accordingly, any contact made by an IRS Special Agent generally connotes a criminal investigation. Alternatively, the IRS also has civil audit examiners titled Revenue Agents. Revenue Agents are charged with conducting civil audit examinations. Lastly, the IRS Collection Division employs Revenue Officers to collect unpaid tax liabilities.

How do I know if the IRS has initiated a criminal investigation against me or my business?

Generally speaking the IRS will usually conduct the initial stages of a criminal investigation without notifying the taxpayer that he/she is under investigation. However, oftentimes Taxpayers become aware of a criminal investigation through information from friends or colleagues who were contacted by the IRS Special Agents in charge of the investigation. Additionally, the IRS Special Agents may also attempt to make contact with the Taxpayer who is under investigation. In these cases, the Special Agents will identify themselves and advise the Taxpayer that he/she is under investigation.

An IRS Special Agent came to my house, what should I do?

If you received notice that an IRS Special Agent visited your home you should contact an attorney. While the appearance of a Special Agent at your home does not necessarily mean that you are under criminal investigation; it is always advisable to first contact an attorney to discuss your rights and obligations before speaking with a Special Agent.

I haven’t filed tax returns for many years, what should I do?

The failure to file federal income tax returns can potentially lead to a criminal investigation, indictment and conviction. Additionally, there are also very substantial civil monetary penalties that can be imposed on taxpayers who fail to timely file and pay their federal income taxes. Accordingly, it is important to handle these situations very sensitively. The IRS has a voluntary disclosure procedure whereby you can notify the IRS of your failure to file returns without being exposed to criminal investigation and prosecution. If you haven’t filed returns for many years it is advisable that you seek guidance from an attorney who specializes in federal tax law regarding when and how to file these delinquent returns.