Can I Go to Jail for Errors on My Sales Tax Returns?

Yes you can. If the CDTFA thinks you're willfully under reporting sales tax and/or fraudulently filing returns, you can and will receive a criminal referral. One of the biggest jobs that we have at the beginning of an audit when somebody comes to me and says I've underreported on my sales tax and now I'm getting caught is to mitigate any evidence that there is any willful conduct on behalf of the client. The goal with any potential criminal matter is to keep it civil and to minimize the damage as much as possible. So you can trigger a CDTFA fraud referral based off of that but also even if you're not going to go to jail for the errors that you caused on the sales tax returns, you have to be mindful of penalties. CDTFA has a very rigid penalty scheme particularly with respect to fraud penalties and sales tax that was collected but never paid over to the state. So in addition to worrying about going to jail, you need to be worried about the escalating liability, because an escalating liability once it gets into collections can create a huge problem for the taxpayer. While you're in the examination phase of a CDTFA audit, you want to make sure you can make the biggest adjustments possible and eliminate any notion that there was any willfulness behind your actions.


Sam Brotman, JD, LLM, MBA

Owner and Director of Legal
Brotman Law