If you live in the United States and earn money, you’re required by law to pay federal, state and local taxes. Even though you understand this, there may come a time when you fall behind.

This leads to an important question: will you go to jail if you don’t pay taxes?

There is no easy answer to this question, as it depends on the circumstances of your case. For example, if you made a mistake on your return that resulted in paying less than what you owe, the IRS won’t take criminal action against you.

However, if you’ve carried out a plan to avoid paying taxes, such as by hiding income offshore, you could find yourself in trouble with the law.

Here are some of the tax related actions that could lead to time in jail:

  • Tax evasion: This includes any attempt to evade taxes, such as filing a fraudulent return or failure to report income.
  • Failure to file a tax return: The IRS gives you time to catch up, but you don’t want to take this risk. Failure to file a return can lead to jail time equal to one year for every return you missed.
  • Helping someone else commit a crime: Even if you didn’t commit the crime yourself, if you helped someone else evade taxes, it could result in a prison sentence.

If you’re facing any type of tax-related criminal charge, it’s imperative to learn more about your legal rights. This will put you in position to devise a strategy for preventing the most serious consequences.