For many California residents, the complexity and length of the federal tax code make it more akin to a foreign language than to a comprehensible set of rules and regulations. That may help explain why so many people make mistakes when filing their tax returns. However, while it is certainly easy to make a mistake, facing allegations of tax crimes is nevertheless a serious matter. A conviction for tax evasion could lead to hefty fines and years behind bars.

With that in mind, readers may be interested to hear that a federal grand jury has issued a four-page indictment against a woman from Santa Clara County. She is charged with 29 counts of tax evasion in connection with a business that she owns. Authorities announced the charges in late February, and each count carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a fine of $250,000.

The charges relate specifically to a payroll service company the woman operated. Authorities claim that between 2008 and 2009, the woman collected roughly $154,800 in employment and unemployment taxes from her clients. But instead of giving this money to the IRS, the woman has been accused by federal authorities of pocketing the payments.

If convicted of all the charges against her, she could spend decades behind bars and pay a total fine of over $1 million. Nonetheless, it may also be possible to reach a deal with the IRS that allows her to pay back the taxes without risking time in prison. Meanwhile, California residents might want to keep an eye on the case, since it illustrates the need to maintain proper documentation lest the IRS starts knocking at the door.

Source: mercurynews.com, “Mountain View business owner facing 29 counts of tax evasion,” Jason Green, Feb. 21, 2012