Worried About an IRS Audit? Advanced Preparation is Key
- Get the facts about IRS audit rates.
- Learn about audit targets.
- Find out what to do if you receive a letter from the IRS.
- Learn how best to prepare for an audit.
IRS audit rates are historically low, according to a recent Government Accountability Office (GAO) report, but that’s little consolation if your return is among those selected to be examined. Plus, the IRS recently received additional funding in the Inflation Reduction Act to improve customer service, upgrade technology and increase audits of high-income taxpayers. But with proper preparation and planning, you should fare well.
From tax years 2010 to 2019, audit rates of individual tax returns decreased for all income levels, according to the GAO. On average, the audit rate for all returns decreased from 0.9% to 0.25%. IRS officials attribute this to reduced staffing as a result of decreased funding. Businesses, large corporations, and high-income individuals will have higher audit rates but, overall, all types of audits occur less frequently than they did a decade ago.
There’s no 100% guarantee that your return won’t come up for an audit because audits can happen randomly. However, the best way to survive an IRS audit is to prepare in advance. On an ongoing basis, you should systematically maintain documentation — invoices, bills, canceled checks, receipts, or other proof — for all items, you will report on your tax returns. Also – make sure you keep all records in one place.
It also helps to know what might catch the attention of the IRS. Certain types of tax-return entries are known to involve inaccuracies so they may lead to an audit. Here are a few examples:
- Significant inconsistencies between tax returns filed in the past and your most current return,
- Gross profit margin or expenses markedly different from those of other businesses in your industry, and
- Miscalculated or unusually high deductions.
Certain types of deductions may be questioned by the IRS because there are strict recordkeeping requirements for them — for example, auto and travel expense deductions. In addition, an owner-employee’s salary that’s much higher or lower than those at similar companies in his or her location may catch the IRS’s eye, especially if the business is structured as a corporation.
If you receive a letter
If the IRS decides to audit you, you’ll receive a notification by letter. Generally, the IRS doesn’t make initial contact by phone. But if there’s no response to the letter, the agency may follow up with a call.
Many audits simply request that you mail in documentation to support certain deductions you’ve claimed. Only the strictest version, the field audit, requires meeting with one or more IRS auditors. (Note: Ignore unsolicited emails or text messages about an audit. The IRS doesn’t contact people in this manner. These are scams.)
The tax agency doesn’t demand an immediate response to a mailed notice. You’ll receive notification of the discrepancies in question and be given time to prepare. Collect and organize all relevant income and expense records. If anything is missing, you’ll have to reconstruct the information as accurately as possible based on other documentation.
If you’re audited, Fiducial can help you:
- Understand what the IRS is disputing (it’s not always clear),
- Gather the specific documents and information needed, and
- Respond to the auditor’s inquiries in the most effective manner.
Don’t panic, prepare
The IRS normally has three years within which to conduct an audit, and an audit probably won’t begin until a year or more after you file a return. Don’t panic if the IRS contacts you. Many audits are routine. By taking a meticulous, proactive approach to tracking, documenting, and filing your company’s tax-related information, you’ll make an audit less painful and even decrease the chances of an audit.
Do you need help preparing your taxes? Call Fiducial at 1-866-FIDUCIAL or make an appointment at one of our office locations to discuss your situation.
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