A form of white-collar crime, skimming is slang for taking cash "off the top" of the daily receipts of a business (or from any cash transaction involving a third interested party) and officially reporting a lower total. The formal legal term is defalcation.
- A skimming crime may be simple tax evasion: the owner of a business may fail to "ring up" a transaction and pocket the cash, thus converting a customer's payment directly to the owner's personal use without accounting for the profit, thereby the owner avoids paying either business or personal income taxes on it. A famous example of this crime occurred at Studio 54 discotheque, which was forced to close as a result.
- Skimming may additionally be the direct theft of the cash; in addition to hiding it from tax authorities, the perpetrator hides the taking from an employer, business partners, or shareholders. A large scale such allegation has been leveled at Satyam Computer Services concerning the billion dollars missing from the company's coffers.
- Skimming may be necessitated by a third crime; for example, an otherwise honest businessman who pays taxes and does not cheat his partners might still be forced to skim some cash from the business and use it to give to an extortionist in the form of a bribe, kickbacks, or payment to a protection racket or loan shark or even a blackmailer.
- Other related usages can include things such as corrupt government officials "skimming" cash received as foreign aid.