This post was written as part of a series on tax excuses that don't work.
The Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution gives people the right to not incriminate themselves in criminal matters. This means they don't have to testify in criminal trials of themselves. They don't have to tell on themselves in regard to crimes that they've committed or been accused of committing.
The filing of tax returns is something completely different, however. Yes, it's possible that a tax return could later be used in a criminal tax trial against you, but that possibility is very remote. Especially if you're honest when you file and pay your taxes. So the filing of tax returns is not equivalent to self-incrimination.
It is merely the reporting of income which will be taxed by the government. You're required to report your income on tax returns, and the U.S. Constitution doesn't exempt you from that.
Tracy L. Coenen, CPA, MBA, CFE performs fraud examinations and financial investigations for her company Sequence Inc. Forensic Accounting, and is the author of Essentials of Corporate Fraud.