Folks, today I want to address those who are not in the good graces of the IRS.  That’s right, some of us may not have filed all of our returns or perhaps not paid all of our taxes.  Today’s column is for you.

There are often a variety of reasons for this.  Sometimes we may be too sick, others times we may have lost our records or lacked the money to pay due to misfortune , and some of us just didn’t get around to it. Some of us may even have income from illegal sources and have failed to report that income on the tax returns.  These omissions are civil but can be criminal and if discovered can result in prison terms.  Worse, efforts to hide these crimes can result in even greater crimes and even longer prison terms.

Of course the greatest cost is the stress in worrying about this, a black cloud hanging over our lives.

But there is good news.  The federal tax law has an element of forgiveness if you become proactive:

  1. Failure to File

If you have failed to file tax returns, there may be choices available to you that can help reduce or eliminate risk of criminal prosecution.  But these choices require you to take certain actions first– if the IRS contacts you it may be too late.  So the tip here is forgive  yourself, and then get active in trying to solve the problem.  Contact a lawyer – soon.

  1. Failure to Pay

If you will owe taxes, there will surely be penalties added – including interest on penalties.  This can be a big number.  However, over the last 38 years of my practice, I can say without hesitation that there are more ways to reduce or eliminate these penalties than ever before.  Further, there are also more ways to pay the amounts owed over time or to settle for lesser amounts – than ever before.  If you decide to get active and file returns – do so without fear of the amounts that will be owed.  There are solutions.

  1. Illegal Income

There are quite a few souls in our community that have illegal income.  It may be from drugs, prostitution, bribes, and any number of various illegal activities.  The IRS can get real aggressive when they catch these people, and it has a variety of ways to estimate that unreported illegal income.  Believe me, the IRS has the resources to quite accurately reconstruct your income, assess the tax, and ruin your life here.

The good news is the federal tax law doesn’t care whether income is legal or illegal – so long as it is reported on a return.  There are even legal ways to reduce the tax liability. This situation is complicated and requires the help of a tax lawyer specialist.

So folks, if you want to get back into the system and start living a different life – without fear of the IRS – you have choices but only if you become proactive.

And one last thing.  Life is precious and can be short.  I have a dear friend who lived each day as if it may be his last- and then he died unexpectedly in a car accident.  If you have failed to file, failed to pay, or have illegal income, there are solutions.  Take his advice, forgive yourself, and consider alternatives now – there may not be a tomorrow.

David Leeper is a Board Certified federal tax attorney with 38 years  experience .  He can be reached at 915-581-8748 or by email at