A couple made famous by their reality television show is now facing several years or even decades in federal prison on tax evasion charges. The couple’s accountant also faces charges and has been accused of lying to IRS investigators.

For their part, the couple claims that they are innocent of federal tax evasion. They say that the accusations against them are based on the word of unreliable ex-employee who gave the government bad information and false documents which painted the couple in a guilty light. The government, not surprisingly, views the case differently.

The charges apparently arose out of a civil audit of the couple’s taxes and, by extension, their financial affairs. Criminal tax evasion charges frequently are the outcome of a civil tax audit that went very poorly for the taxpayer, as IRS agents have the option to refer an audit to the IRS’s criminal investigators should they come across suspicious findings that they think are more than just an honest mistake or carelessness.

What may have also brought on this indictment were some inconsistent statements the couple made on the one hand to the IRS and on the other hand various lending institutions. Inaccurate statements uncovered during the audit also may have led to the couple’s present legal trouble.

Sometimes, the first step to defending against criminal tax-related charge is to have an effective legal strategy for dealing with a civil audit. Sometimes, civil auditors do get the wrong impression about things, and they can cry foul prematurely.

Likewise, will it is always best to tell a consistent story about one’s finances, inconsistencies or even errors are not always indicative of criminal intent.

A resident of the Chicago area whose civil audit gets suspended unexpectedly or who discovers they may be under investigation for tax evasion should be well aware of his or her legal rights and options.