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Sales Tax Criminal Defense

Florida Sales Tax Attorney

If you have been contacted by an investigator with the Florida Department of Revenue, then do not talk to the investigator. An "investigator" with the Florida Department of Revenue is effectively a police officer whose job is to gather enough evidence to have you criminally prosecuted by a state's attorney. If an investigator is involved in a case with the DOR, then the state already suspects that someone is guilty of a crime.

Anything you say can be used against you during the prosecution of your tax fraud case. Even with the best intentions, it is far too easy to admit to the elements of sales tax fraud and, without a professional tax defense lawyer at your side, you may inadvertently make a situation much worse.

Penalties for Tax Fraud / Tax Evasion

$301 $20,000:

  • 3rd degree felony
  • 5 years in prison
  • $5,000 in fines

​$20,001 $100,000:

  • 2nd degree felony
  • 15 years in prison
  • $10,000 in fines

More than $100,000:

  • 1st degree felony
  • 30 years in prison
  • $10,000 in fines

What to Expect in a Tax Fraud Case

If you are convicted of a sales tax crime, then the consequences can be extremely serious. It is imperative that you protect yourself with the help of a Florida sales tax attorney immediately if you are being investigated for sales tax crimes. It is amazing how few people realize that you can go to prison for sales tax fraud.

Sales tax fraud can consist of:

  • Submitting fraudulent tax records
  • Helping another to submit fraudulent tax records
  • Falsifying records in order to evade tax responsibilities
  • Failure to file taxes
  • Failure to report correct gross and exempt sales
  • Failure to pay taxes owed
  • Making false claims on sales tax returns

If the Florida Department of Revenue believes that your company has intentionally underreported or underremitted sales tax, then a Department of Revenue investigator will not hesitate threating you with criminal prosecution until you can prove otherwise.

Your own words can be used as evidence against you – so do not talk to the investigator yourself. Contact an attorney experience in both Florida sales tax and criminal defense. At the Law Offices of Moffa, Sutton, & Donnini, P.A., our partners are both CPA's and attorneys with cumulatively more than 50 years of experience defending business owners against the Florida Department of Revenue throughout the state.

Criminal Investigations by the Florida Department of Revenue

Quite often, we get asked "Why am I being investigated?" A very common situation that could lead to an investigation by a Florida DOR investigator is when a DOR auditor, who is conducting an audit, feels there are indications of fraud. He or she will then refer the case to the criminal investigation unit of the Florida Department of Revenue. Therefore, it is important to realize what an auditor may see as a sign of fraud, which can vary from agent to agent.

Hints of fraud can open the door to a criminal investigation in spite of ambiguities that possibly indicate an investigation should never have happened. It can even occur when a Florida Department of Revenue audit is underway and the auditor is covertly sharing information she has collected to the criminal investigation unit, all without the taxpayer knowing about it. If you are being audited, the Florida Department of Revenue will focus its attention on you if you have reported higher exempt sales than actual or have largely under-reported your taxable sales. Alternatively, an investigation can start if someone reports a potential sales tax crime.

If you know, or even just suspect you are being investigated, you need to take fast action and contact a sales tax attorney in Florida. We work diligently and swiftly to protect our client's interests as well as minimize as much as possible any unnecessary or unwarranted criminal prosecution. Our experience can even at times result in stopping the criminal investigation and keep it within the parameters of a civil matter. Whether you are facing a criminal tax matter as a business owner, or are a CPA or attorney assisting a client, our firm can provide the legal representation necessary to address the situation professionally.

The relationship between you and your accountant does not have any element of confidentiality when it comes to Florida Department of Revenue criminal investigation. Your accountant can be compelled to disclose all information about you that you have told him, including your personal financial information. In fact, your accountant can even be forced to testify about these matters if there is a grand jury indictment or trial. Attorney-client privilege does prevail in this type of investigation and all other legal situations. All information between an attorney and client is confidential and we can engage accountants, as necessary, under our attorney-client privilege (known as a Kovell Letter) to allow the same attorney-client privilege with accounts.

Where can I find more info on tax fraud investigations?

If you are still reading this, then you are probably concerned about an ongoing or pending investigation. Let us give you some information that will help you sleep a little better at night.

At the end of the day, unless you have been convicted of fraud before, the state generally only wants its money. Most state's attorneys do not want to go to trial in an attempt to convict someone for failing to remit sales tax. The court systems are backed up enough with violent criminals that should be in jail. With this in mind, through proper negotiation with the investigator or state's attorney, we can help get you into a payment plan that may keep you from having charges filed and even allow you to keep your business.

There are generally two types of payment plans out there depending on the stage of the criminal investigation process. If an arrest warrant has not been issued, then we can negotiate directly with the Florida Department of Revenue on your behalf. Generally, the state will ask for 25% down and the remainder paid monthly over the next year. We can help negotiate a much more reasonable payment plan based on your ability to pay.

Hint – one of the ways you can help with the negotiation is to get current with your most recent sales tax returns. This helps to show that you have the ability and willingness to get current with the sales tax return filing and remitting obligations

Someone else is guilty of the crime!

If you know someone else is guilty instead of you, then you need to get an attorney involved as soon as possible. A good example we see quite often is a silent business partner being investigated who has no involvement with the business. We work with the investigators to help them understand who is responsible for the fraud and provide evidence to clear your name.

The criminal penalties are simply too serious to take this matter lightly and believe the investigator will understand you. The investigators job is to suspect everything you say is a lie meant to conceal your crimes. You need an attorney that knows how to deal with the investigators and state's attorney. Someone who is knowledgeable in accounting, sales tax, and criminal law. If this is your situation, then call us today for a free consultation to learn how we can help clear your good name.

Diversion, Pre-Trial Intervention & Misdemeanor Intervention Programs

Another alternative, instead of working with the Florida Department of Revenue, most jurisdictions in Florida have what is called a Diversion Program, Pre-Trial Intervention program ("PTI"), or Misdemeanor Intervention Program ("MIP"). Various jurisdictions call the program by different names, but they are all essentially the same.

This program keeps people charged with a non-violent crime out of the court system by allowing them to negotiate a payment plan without having to admit guilt. If all the payments are made on time, then the state's attorney will drop the charges against you. However, not everyone being investigated for sales tax fraud is allowed into these programs and some jurisdictions have dollar amount limits. For example, if the amount of sales tax you are accused of failing to remit to the state is over $100,000 in Hillsborough County, Florida, then the Misdemeanor Intervention Program is not available.

Call (888) 444-9568 right now to at least discuss your options in a free initial consultation with an attorney that can help you understand your rights and help negotiate on your behalf.

Options After an Arrest Warrant Has Been Issued

After the arrest warrant has been issued, then your options become much more limited. Hundreds of people every year in the state of Florida get arrested by a local sheriff for sales tax fraud. Business owners with absolutely no criminal record, not even a speeding ticket, get hauled away from their home, their business, or even their children's school for failure to remit Florida sales tax. [see link at the bottom of this page for stories about specific business owners arrested] If you know an arrest warrant has been issued, then contact us right away. We will help advise you on how to turn yourself in and bond out of jail as quickly as possible. Hint - turning yourself in first thing in the morning on a weekday will lessen the chance that you will have to spend a night in jail.

Hint - If you receive Bail Bondsmen notices in he mail, then that is an indication that a warrant has been issued for your arrest. 

At this point, we will negotiate with the state's attorney to potentially reduce your sentence in exchange for a payment plan. Some jurisdictions are very reasonable in offering deals, other are very difficult. Either way, you will have several appearances before a judge and will likely have to plea guilty to something to get a plea deal with a payment plan. Most jurisdictions will allow adjudicated to be withheld, which means you will not be a convicted felon and you will not lose the right to vote. However, you will be on probation until the moneys have been paid in full.

Why Choose the Law Offices of Moffa, Sutton, & Donnini, P.A.?

Our firm approaches sales tax criminal investigations and cases before the state attorney's office differently than most criminal attorneys. A typical criminal defense attorney that handles other types of crimes is usually focused on keeping information from the state in an effort to stall and hopefully convince the investigator that they can't prove their case. It takes very, very little evidence to prove a sales tax fraud case. Either you collected tax you didn't remit or you failed to file sales tax returns. Even if a typical criminal attorney is success in getting the investigation or charges dropped, then case is usually referred back to the civil audit division who has full statutory authority to estimate your liabilities and place the burden of proof on you to prove them wrong. If you go back to the civil audit side, then they also have the power to impose up to 200% of tax penalties on you personally - based on estimates.

Our attorneys know that sales tax fraud cases are different than typical criminal cases and have much broader issues than just the criminal side of the matter. We look at the whole picture and help you decide the best course of action to get the whole issue resolved and put behind you.

Quite often, an effective defense involves working with the investigators to determine what you business really owes then to get you into a payment plan and to close out the investigation before charges are ever filed. If you didn't find our firm before charges were filed, then if negotiated correctly, the payment of taxes, penalties, interest, and costs is usually enough to keep the state from convicting you of a crime. It is just a very tricky mind field to reveal your crimes without being convicted and we collectively have decades of experience in dealing specially with sales tax criminal cases. Why not at least speak to an attorney from the Law Offices of Moffa, Sutton, & Donnini, P.A. in a free initial consultation to at gain more knowledge of how to keep from going to jail?

Contact the Law Offices of Moffa, Sutton, & Donnini, P.A. today for a FREE INITIAL CONSULTATION to see how we can protect your rights and interests in any criminal Florida sales tax matter. © 2011-2019 – All Rights Reserved – the Law Offices of Moffa, Sutton, & Donnini, P.A.

Additional Resources

  • Florida DOR
  • ABA
  • FiCPA
  • The Florida Bar

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