Answer: yes, you can go to jail for filing single while married. Whether or not an individual will be sentenced to jail for tax fraud will depend on the circumstances of the offense and the individual who committed the offense.
In the article that follows, we’ll explain.
Can You Go To Jail For Filing Single When Married? (Discussion)
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Introduction To 26 U.S. Code § 7206 [Fraud and False Statements)
When United States citizens file tax returns, they are required to sign their name in a section that states:
Under penalties of perjury, I declare that I have examined the return and accompanying schedules and statements, and to the best of my knowledge and belief, they are true, correct, and complete.
In addition, 26 U.S. Code § 7206 states:
Ay person who willfully makes and subscribes any return, statement, or other document, which contains or is verified by a written declaration that is made under the penalties of perjury, and which he does not believe to be true and correct as to every material matter…shall be guilty of a felony, and upon conviction thereof, shall be fined not more than $100,000 or imprisoned not more than 3 years, or both, together with the costs of prosecution.26 U.S. Code § 7206
Purposefully making a false claim on the tax return, such as being single when the individual is in fact, married, is making a false statement on a tax return.
This would technically mean that the filer had violated 26 U.S. Code § 7206, and pursuant to the statute, jail time is a potential penalty.
What Does It Mean To Be “Married” For Tax Purposes?
For tax purposes, if individuals were married on December 31st, they are considered married for that particular year, even if they were only briefly married before the end of the day (like getting married at a New Year’s Eve party).
This is also true even if the parties are in the process of getting divorced.
In common law states, the parties may also be considered married in certain circumstances.
There may be exceptions to whether a couple is “married” or not, which should be discussed with a tax professional.
Would The Filer Go To Jail For Making a False Statement?
Though jail is an option per the statute, whether an individual would get sentenced to jail is much more complicated.
Offenders do not go to jail automatically for breaking the law every single time.
Instead, during sentencing process, many factors are considered, such as:
- how serious the crime was (felony or misdemeanor, as established by statute)
- how badly anyone was hurt
- how much property was damaged
- whether self-defense was involved
- what or who was threatened
- whether a weapon was involved
- whether the offender is prepared to pay for damages
- whether this is a first offense
- the most recent previous criminal conviction, and how many previous convictions there are
- whether the offender is remorseful
- whether jail will cause the offender to lose his job or place in school
- whether the offender is prepared to enter substance abuse treatment
- the mental and physical health of the defendant
The judge will make the decision as to whether jail is appropriate in the circumstances, or whether the offender would be better suited to performing community service or other service under the eye of the jail, such as trash clean up/road crew.
The parties (prosecutor and defense) may even negotiate a sentence that seems appropriate and jointly recommend it to the court for consideration.
In certain circumstances (in a few states), the laws establishing the offense do not allow the court to sentence an offender to probation, making jail a mandatory punishment.
If the offender had no previous criminal history, did not hurt anyone, did not exhibit extreme behavior, expresses remorse, and has support in the community, the defendant is less likely to receive a lengthy jail sentence.
If the offender has significant criminal history, exhibited extreme behavior (especially if vulnerable individuals were involved), and does not show any remorse or acceptance of responsibility, the defendant is more likely to receive a jail sentence.
In the end, a jail sentence really just depends on the jurisdiction, the judge, the facts of the case, and the circumstances of the defendant.
There’s no way to say for sure with any certainty what will or would happen without details.
If you have been charged with tax crimes, or you are worried that you will be, conferring with an attorney early on is recommended.
Even if you don’t think you’ll need a lawyer or be able to afford a retained lawyer in your case, early consultation with an experienced criminal defense lawyer in your state could prevent you from making your case worse and give you guidance about what to do next.
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