Death and Taxes in Florida: What Happens When You Don't File Your Tax Return?

In today's society, many Florida taxpayers do not file their tax returns simply because they cannot pay their taxes. However, one of the most serious offenses an individual can commit, with respect to the IRS, is failure to file a tax return. Under Title 26 of the United States Code, Section 7203, it is a federal crime or offense for anyone to willfully fail to file a federal income tax return when required to do so by Internal Revenue laws or regulations. A person's willful failure to supply information or pay tax is also punishable as a crime under Section 7203. In some cases, a person convicted of these crimes may be imprisoned for up to 5 years.

In addition to the risk of criminal prosecution, there are severe civil penalties that are imposed for failure to file a tax return. For example, the failure to file penalty pursuant to Section 6651 is assessed by the IRS at a rate of 5% per month or partial month up to a 25% maximum. The failure to pay penalty is assessed by the IRS at a rate of 0.5% per month or partial month up to a 25% minimum. If both the failure to file and failure to pay penalties are assessed, the failure penalty is reduced by the failure to pay penalty. Hence, penalties are greater when a taxpayer fails to file versus when a taxpayer fails to pay.

Similarly, as mentioned above, there are serious underpayment penalties to taxpayers. One example would be criminal fraud, which is your basic example of tax evasion. This can result in imprisonment, fines, or both. Another example would be civil fraud, where taxpayer fraud does not rise to the criminal fraud level. If this happens, the penalty can be up to 75% of the portion of tax underpayment which is directly linked to the determined fraud. Moreover, there are penalties for frivolous returns. A frivolous return is where the taxpayer omits or is incorrect with respect to information which is required to determine the taxpayer's tax liability. This can result in a penalty for $500 dollars for each and every frivolous return that is filed with the IRS. Furthermore, in the event a refund is owed to the taxpayer, this refund may be given up if not claimed in time (a specific example of this would be the earned income tax credit).

Moreover, interest on underpayments run from the due date of the tax return, i.e. April 15th of the given year. In other words, taxpayers can expect to pay a lot more than they owe to the IRS once interest accumulates. For example, the interest on unpaid balances is around 4% annual interest on unpaid balances. Interest is updated on a quarterly basis, so this number can fluctuate dramatically.