Everyone has at least one family member who indulges in self-destructive behavior. The only question is when you need to step in and help them back on the wagon. The nature of self-abuse can vary, including behavior that can result in a financial or legal crisis. If you suspect that a loved one has become reckless with his or her IRS duties, it may be time to schedule a tax intervention.
Although you might not be comfortable inserting yourself into a relative's financial affairs, you have to put the issue into context. Considering that an IRS problem is arguably one of the most caustic and potentially devastating financial dilemmas, you may be compelled to intercede. Before you make up your mind one way or the other, look for some not-too-subtle warning signs and the eventual consequences of tax temerity.
The distinction between absentminded and alarming will typically be pretty clear. For instance, if someone is simply running behind on filing a return, there's little cause for concern. But if your family member has been avoiding tax returns or IRS notices year after year, there's ample reason to worry.
Willfully evading tax filing is a federal crime. If it becomes a chronic issue, particularly if there is money due Uncle Sam, you can be sure that IRS action will be imminent. Regardless of whether your relative has yet to receive notices or has simply been trashing them, urge them to take control before the IRS does it for them.
You might be privy to a family member's penchant for shifty tax practices. As an example, if he or she intends to claim phantom dependents on a tax return for a little extra cash, this can lead to a serious problem. Not only will they be inviting an audit and a sizeable tax liability, the IRS may view this type of behavior as tax fraud.
Similarly, filing false returns, such as withholding income information, can provoke a stern IRS response. And you don't have to be a tax expert to detect possible criminal activity; if it sounds suspicious, it likely is. If your family member feels comfortable confiding their misdeeds, you may feel empowered to dissuade them from proceeding.
Even if the tax problem is more standard fare, such as a long-delinquent tax balance, unwelcome complications are inevitable. The IRS can't imprison wayward taxpayers, but they can enforce wage garnishments, bank levies and tax liens. Any one of these actions can be debilitating to even the most financially sound individual.
When it comes time to sit down for the hard tax talk, you don't have to do it alone. You can schedule a consultation with a licensed tax professional, who can help propose a swift, legal tax resolution. This professional can also help illustrate the importance of handling the issue before any real damage is done. The path to recovery is far less painful than enduring the wrath of the Internal Revenue Service.