It’s tax season, and the Internal Revenue Service is, as always, on the lookout for tax fraud. The tax code is extremely complex, however, and these cases often involve massive amounts of evidence that can be interpreted in at least two ways. Successfully defending against a tax fraud charge can depend on which side — the defense or the prosecution — can parse out the most compelling narrative, given the available evidence.

A Missouri tax preparer was recently unsuccessful in challenging a tax fraud charge and pleaded guilty in federal court. Now she faces a possible prison sentence and hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines and restitution. Her case is a reminder of the importance of mounting a strong criminal defense when the IRS or any other federal agency begins investigating possible criminal activity.

The woman, who reportedly had been preparing income tax returns for about 35 years, was the manager of an H&R Block in Rogersville when her employer received notification from the IRS that taxes were delinquent. According to her plea agreement, she initially told her employer that the IRS had made a mistake, but she later admitted in an email that she had not filed or paid the taxes.

She also reportedly admitted that she had embezzled money from her employer, who then fired her and turned the matter over to local law enforcement.

The woman’s plea agreement states that she embezzled more than $138,800 and failed to pay more than $246,300 in employee payroll taxes. Now she could be sentenced to up to three years in prison for filing a false tax return and up to five years in prison for failing to pay the employment taxes.

Even if you know you’ve done nothing wrong and there is a misunderstanding with the IRS, don’t hesitate to seek legal guidance. A defense attorney with experience in tax-related cases can advise you of your options and protect your interests.