August 27, 2014

You may be under the impression that if you’re being audited, you’ll find out by a strong knock at your front door. Unless you’re in serious trouble, this won’t be the case.

How will you know if you’re being audited? Short Answer: The IRS will let you know directly.

The only way you will know for certain if the IRS is auditing your is if the IRS tells you – either by phone or mail. If your initial contact is by email, it’s likely a scam and you should report it.

Who is most likely to be audited? According to Bloomberg News, only 1% of all tax returns each year are audited. But there are factors that increase your chances of being targeted.

  • Being rich. 12.5% of all tax returns for those who make over a million dollars a year.
  • Mistakes on your tax return. This could be anything from not reporting all of your income, your numbers not matching with W2s your employer provided or even math errors on your return. Don’t round your numbers.
  • Self-employed. IRS will look at your deductions to see if they are the typical amount for someone in your industry. Travel/entertainment and automobile deductions are watched especially closely. While a home office is no longer an immediate reason to suspect an audit, taking the deduction  needs to be backed up with detailed records.
  • Large charitable donations. If you only make $20,000 a year and yet donated a substantial amount of money, watch out.
  • Your associates. If your business partner in a firm or a close relative is being audited, you could be too.

There are three types of IRS audits, depending on the complexity of your return, the number of questions the IRS has and the dollar amount involved.

  • Correspondence audit – An audit conducted entirely by mail. The IRS likely has a short checklist of questions to ask you about your income, expenses or itemized deductions.
  • Field audit – The IRS will send an agent to visit you in person in your home or business. They will want to inspect the records you’ve kept.
  • Office audit – You are requested to meet with an agent at their nearest office and bring your paperwork with you to the meeting.

If you are audited there are four things to remember:

  • Respond to their letters within the deadline given on the notice. If you need more time, you’re far more likely to get an extension if you ask for it before the deadline’s passed.
  • Gather all the documentation you need to answer their questions and provide copies to the IRS. (Never give them your original documents, they aren’t responsible if anything is lost.)
  • Bring the right representation. Not your Uncle Bill but a CPA or tax attorney. This is not the time for amateur help or to go it alone.
  • Be polite and respectful. But don’t volunteer anything. If the agent wants to expand the audit, you are entitled to more time to answer any new questions that may arise.

A tax audit can be a painful experience but you will get through it with thorough preparation, and if needed, expert help from Optima Tax Relief.

Additional Tax Tips:

The IRS Criminal Investigation Process
What to do during an IRS Audit
What does the IRS look for in an audit?
IRS penalty and interest rates