What is correct form of this sentence?

higher percentage of these tax returns being caught as fraudulent can be due to intentional misstatements.

Is it better to say could be due to?

2 Answers 2


I could use many words to explain it, but this resource gives a very succinct answer:

Use could (not can) to refer to conditional situations, in which something has to happen or be the case in order for someone to be able to do something or for something else to occur

Your sentence is clearly conditional, because the "higher percentage of these tax returns being caught as fraudulent" has to happen for the "intentional misstatements" to occur. It would thus be more correct to use could in this situation.


I can't agree with Chasi's argument. Intentional misstatements on tax forms and how many tax forms are caught as fraudulent may be independent. The sentence even concedes as much even in the version with 'can'.

It might be the case that the higher percentage is due to more intentional misstatements, BUT presumably it may also be due to the fact that the fraud department has started doing a better job.

The quoted resource refers to a different use of could where there really is a causal link. Such as:

I could buy that car I want if I make the sale.

Here making the sale is stated as prerequisite for buying the car. Now presumably even in this case it could happen that I unexpectedly inherit a fortune and I thus will still be able to buy the car regardless of the outcome of the sale, but I'm expressing the idea that making the sale will allow me to buy the car.

As for the original question the difference between a can and could in that sentence is mainly how sure you are that there are intentional misstatements and that they affect the percentage. If you "know" there are intentional misstatements and that they do affect the results can is more appropriate. If you're not sure whether there are any or if they affect the percentage could is more appropriate IMO.

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