What is Tax Evasion?

Legal Definition
Tax evasion is the illegal evasion of taxes by individuals, corporations, and trusts. Tax evasion often entails taxpayers deliberately misrepresenting the true state of their affairs to the tax authorities to reduce their tax liability and includes dishonest tax reporting, such as declaring less income, profits or gains than the amounts actually earned, or overstating deductions.

Tax evasion is an activity commonly associated with the informal economy. One measure of the extent of tax evasion (the "tax gap") is the amount of unreported income, which is the difference between the amount of income that should be reported to the tax authorities and the actual amount reported.

In contrast, tax avoidance is the legal use of tax laws to reduce one's tax burden. Both tax evasion and avoidance can be viewed as forms of tax noncompliance, as they describe a range of activities that intend to subvert a state's tax system, although such classification of tax avoidance is not indisputable, given that avoidance is lawful, within self-creating systems.
-- Wikipedia
Legal Definition
Tax evasion is using illegal means to avoid paying taxes. Typically, tax evasion schemes involve an individual or corporation misrepresenting their income to the Internal Revenue Service. Misrepresentation may take the form either of underreporting income, inflating deductions, or hiding money and its interest altogether in offshore accounts. The U.S. Government projects that fiscal year 2007 resulted in the government losing $345 billion because of tax evasion.

Individuals involved in illegal enterprises often engage in tax evasion because reporting their true personal incomes would serve as an admission of guilt and could result in criminal charges. Individuals who try to report these earnings as coming from a legitimate source can face money laundering charges.

In the United States, tax evasion constitutes a crime that may give rise to substantial monetary penalties, imprisonment, or both. Section 7201 of the Internal Revenue Code reads, “Any person who willfully attempts in any manner to evade or defeat any tax imposed by this title or the payment thereof shall, in addition to other penalties provided by law, be guilty of a felony and, upon conviction thereof, shall be fined not more than $100,000 ($500,000 in the case of a corporation), or imprisoned not more than 5 years, or both, together with the costs of prosecution.”

Proof of the crime requires first proving the attendant circumstance that an unpaid tax liability exists. Second, the prosecution must prove some affirmative act by the defendant to evade or attempt to evade a tax. Third, prosecutors most show that the defendant possessed the specific intent to evade a known legal duty to pay. To convict, the jury must find the defendant guilty of each of these elements beyond a reasonable doubt.

See Tax Crime.

See also White-collar crime; Tax Law.
Legal Definition
The illegal attempt to reduce your tax amount payable by fraudulent means.