When entities and individuals pay less tax than they owe, they are cheating the system. The Internal Revenue Service (“IRS”) estimates that the “tax gap” – the difference between what is collected and what is lawfully owed – at between $450 billion and $500 billion each year. In some circumstances, the IRS whistleblower program provides for rewards to whistleblowers with information about fraud exceeding $2 million. Tax fraud may also give rise to a claim under other whistleblower reward programs. For example, the New York State False Claims Act allows whistleblower suits based on violations of New York’s tax laws. And Canada and South Korea also have reward programs for reporting tax violations.
Tax fraud and tax evasion resulting in underpayment can take many forms, including:
Underreporting of income due to investment in offshore tax havens
Improperly transferring tax benefits from one company to another by artificially depressing the income reported by U.S. entities based on manipulation of “transfer pricing” (e.g., the prices that one subsidiary charges to another subsidiary for goods or services)
Abusive tax shelters that lack any real economic purpose other than the evasion of taxes, including “Guam Trusts,” debt straddles, lease-in/lease-out transactions, S-Corp ESOP transactions, and off-shore deferred compensation arrangements.
Circular transactions in which funds are moved from one company to another to generate artificial tax benefits
Manipulation of the recognition of revenue or profits to maximize tax benefits