A couple of major tax evasion stories recently made the rounds in the media, and some Atlanta residents have likely read about them; while many others will be interested in the lessons these stories teach.

In the first case, a 62-year-old man was accused of tax evasion because of an offshore bank account he inherited from his father. The man's father instructed his heir to keep the account a secret. So the man did -- to his detriment. He had to pay roughly $1 million in back taxes and had to retire from the military (for which he served 30 years) due to a felony conviction, which led to a 6-month prison sentence.

The other case involves a 79-year-old woman, who also had a hidden bank account. She attempted to tell federal officials about it; but her attorney procrastinated, leading to accusations that she was evading taxes. Eventually, things were sorted out when she brought a new lawyer aboard. The woman had to pay substantial back taxes; but she was spared jail time.

There are a couple of things to learn from these stories, starting with the latter: it is vital to secure experienced and aggressive legal representation when you are being accused of tax evasion, or if you are going through an audit. Without it, you can infringe on your own rights, or be left in an uneviable position regarding your taxes.

Which brings us back to the first story: trying to keep assets hidden from the Internal Revenue Service is a very risky maneuver, and you should not try it. Discuss things with your lawyer and come up with a plan to reveal any hidden accounts; and then work with the IRS to reach an agreement. Your lawyer can help you out in this regard.

Source: USA Today, "From 2 tax-evasion sentences, a lesson comes," Kevin McCoy, April 25, 2013