Anytime you file taxes, there is a chance that your tax return might be audited by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). The agency conducts standard procedures to find any errors or discrepancies among taxpayers. The audit process is meticulous and, should you find yourself under the scrutiny of IRS, will require detailed information from you.
In the article below, you’ll learn about the audit process and frequently asked questions surrounding IRS audits.
Why was I selected for an Audit?
There are different reasons you may be flagged for IRS audits. Some are due to random checks; however, you have a low chance of being audited this way. Most taxpayers have less than a 0.6% chance of receiving a random audit check.
IRS runs tax returns through their Discriminant Information Function (DIF) system to continually update their database and make sure they are tracking industry benchmarks for each industry and tax bracket.
The DIF system also checks for incorrect tax filing information. Any discrepancies in tax forms, such as an imbalance of tax returns, a discrepancy between reported earnings and employer filings, or unreported cash transactions by one member of a transactional party, will trigger DIF to send your return to an IRS audit officer.
People are more susceptible to an audit if they:
- Earn less than $25,000 or more than $500,000
- File incorrect or incomplete returns
- Have large numbers of cash transactions
- Claim a disproportionate number of deductions
- Are self-employed
- Have a home-based business
- Have a cash business
- Have foreign assets
Sometimes you can be audited as a result of your business partners or investors going through an audit.
How Will I Know If I am Selected for an Audit?
You will know if you are selected for an audit if you receive a verified letter in the mail from IRS. They do not call to notify you about your audit.
What Do I Do If I’m selected for an Audit?
If you or your business are selected for an audit, make sure you read all of the information sent to you in your audit notification letter. The letter and accompanying information request packet will notify you as to what entity is being audited (business or personal) what year(s) are under review and who your auditor is. Once you know what IRS needs, make sure you collect all of the records and supporting documentation requested (but nothing additional). You will need to submit records from banks, vendors, and businesses you have worked with, invoices and pay stubs, payroll records, and medical expenses among other information.
Should I Hire an Attorney to Help Me?
We suggest contacting a qualified tax attorney to help guide you through your audit, to ensure you are timely, responsive, compliant, and do not unintentionally increase the scope of your audit to other areas of your business or personal finances that would otherwise remain unscrutinized.. There is little to no margin for error during an audit, a tight timetable, and potentially severe consequences to a poorly handled interaction with IRS. Unlike CPAs who do not have attorney-client privilege, attorneys are able to speak with your IRS officer on your behalf without risk of subpoena or summons of records discussed. A qualified attorney can, review your documents with an expert eye, create the right strategy for you, represent you or your business, and provide valuable advice and guidance.
How long do I have to reply to an IRS audit?
You have 30 days to reply to the initial audit letter. Do not hesitate, and make sure you take the appropriate steps early on. IRS is not likely to provide extensions unless you have a good reason. Your attorney can help by advocating for more time with the IRS agent. A good attorney will know many of your local IRS auditors and have strong relationships built on well-structured prior cases and mutual respect.
How Long Do Audits Take?
The time it takes to conduct an audit depends on the case. It fluctuates depending on:
- The seriousness of the tax reporting error
- When and whether the right information is provided to IRS
- Communication between the person being audited and IRS officer
How Many Years of Tax Returns Can IRS audit?
IRS audits tax returns from the past three years; however, most are from the past two years. Only when IRS agents find discrepancies within the audit they are conducting do they dig for information older than three years. Most audits do not look for information past six years. Though in cases of criminal audits IRS can look back 9 years and longer.
If you or someone you know received an audit letter from IRS, reach out to our expert team at Milikowsky Tax Law. We have over a decade of experience working with IRS and tax audits and are experts in defending business owners in the face of IRS or other government agency audits.