The examining agent will function as a revenue agent — within this context not all revenue agents are considered accountants — who may be an accountant who works for the Internal Revenue Service. Unlike other types of examinations, revenue agents spend considerable time reviewing the taxpayer’s return. Office audits, or Area Office (AO) Examinations, are face-to-face audits that are conducted at the office of an IRS revenue agent. They are typically appropriate for somewhat complicated issues, which may include small business returns and complex non-business returns. Since there is more than one type of tax audit, it follows that there is more than one tax audit procedure. To begin with, there is a filtering process that all tax returns go through in order to determine which ones get flagged for possible audits.
You’ll be hit with fines regardless of whether your mistake was intentional. If your math is a little shaky, using good tax preparation software or a tax preparer near you can help you avoid unfortunate errors that can lead to an IRS audit. If you’re telling the truth, and the whole truth, you needn’t worry. Nothing is inherently sinister about an IRS audit or state audit. However, people who are consciously cheating the system do have reason to be concerned. The IRS also offers mediation or you can file an appeal if there is enough time remaining on the statute of limitations.
For example, the IRS may request more information if your itemized deductions are very high or if you claim excessive small business losses. Most audits are triggered either by computerized screening, random sample, or the income document-matching program. The document-matching program verifies the income and amounts reported to IRS are on the return and that the amounts match. Alimony paid by cash or check under pre-2019 divorce or separation agreements is deductible by the payer and taxable to the recipient, provided certain requirements are met. For instance, the payments must be made under a divorce or separate maintenance decree or written separation agreement.
Deductions that appear out of the ordinary can trigger an audit and the IRS imposes penalties for deductions that you’re unable to justify. In any case, you should never lie or make a material misstatement to an auditor, as this is a federal crime that carries possible jail time. Taxpayers representing themselves have the distinct disadvantage of having to answer the auditor’s questions point blank when asked.
Although audit rates decreased more for higher-income taxpayers, IRS generally audited them at higher rates compared to lower-income taxpayers, as shown in the figure. However, the audit rate for lower-income taxpayers claiming the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) was higher than average. IRS officials explained that EITC audits require relatively few resources and prevent ineligible taxpayers from receiving the EITC. It’s important to know that the primary IRS statute of limitations for a tax audit is three years from when the federal tax return was filed. It is important to note there are many exceptions that give the IRS six years or longer.
The IRS expects individuals to file an annual tax return each year. Yet, many don’t file yearly or even haven’t filed for several years. In fact, in 2020, the IRS estimates it was owed over $114 billion in back taxes, penalties,… If the audit occurs through an in-person interview, it can be at an IRS office, your business, or your accountant’s office.
Keep in mind that the IRS can levy more than 150 different penalties. As a result, when the IRS does conduct an audit on your tax return, it is likely that you will end up with a larger tax bill. If your tax return is being audited by the IRS, there is a greater likelihood that the IRS will find errors in your return, which can result in hefty IRS audit penalties and interest. In more extreme cases, the penalties can cost you tens of thousands of dollars – or even result in jail time.
The IRS hasn’t always been diligent in pursuing individuals who don’t file required tax returns. In fact, the agency has been chastised by Treasury inspectors and lawmakers on its years-long lack of enforcement activity in this area. So, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that high-income non-filers now top the list of IRS’s strategic enforcement priorities.
You may be able to dispose of some of the questions and get a postponement for the rest. Second, always respond to IRS requests in a timely manner, and always be cooperative and polite. The agency has an information-packed web page that can help you prepare.
If a spouse does not qualify for innocent spouse relief or separation of liability, the IRS may grant equitable relief. Each type of relief is different and each has different requirements. You must file Form 8857, Request for Innocent Spouse Relief, to request Irs audit any of these methods. The credit is estimated when you go on a marketplace website such as healthcare.gov to buy insurance. You can choose to have the credit paid in advance directly to the health insurance company to lower your monthly payments.
The IRS audit experience can be straight forward if you’re prepared, but you’ll probably find yourself on the defensive if you’re not. Keep in mind the IRS auditor has gone through the trouble of drafting and issuing an audit report and because of all the attachments and schedules with it, the auditor is less likely to change their position. According the the IRS’ “The Right to Finality,” taxpayers have the right to know when the IRS has finished an audit. When the audit is completed, you are entitled to check on its status. Office audits may also be conducted by either correspondence and/or office interview. Examiners at the correspondence and office levels are much less invasive.
By keeping your documents organized, you can avoid the risk of an audit in the first place. For example, just because you disagree with the results of your audit does not mean your audit is over. Once you complete your audit, you will remain in contact with your auditor as you may file an appeal which can extend the process.
Math errors could also draw an extra look from the IRS, but they usually don’t lead to a full-blown exam. The same goes for errors with refundable tax credits, such as the earned income credit and the refundable child credit. In the end, there’s no sure way to predict an IRS audit, but these 19 audit red flags could certainly increase your chances of drawing unwanted attention from the IRS. The majority of audits are triggered by missing information in tax returns, such as wages from a job, interest from a bank account, or income from selling an investment. Income like this is usually reported on a W-2 or 1099 form that you should receive at the beginning of the year.
Many business owners will have to file a Schedule C to report business income as part of their individual tax returns. This is true of sole proprietorships, which make up the bulk of small businesses. Schedule C will show the profit or loss of your company, but also land your return in the more-likely-to-get-audited pile. Frankly, there’s nothing you can do about this other than making sure you have the proper documentation for all your claims.
However, if significant errors exist, the IRS can audit returns from over six years ago. Most audits, however, are for returns from within the last two years. If you get audited by the IRS and owe money, you’ll be notified of the additional tax that you’re required to pay as well as any penalties and interest due. The correspondence that you receive from the IRS will mention a deadline by which you must pay. This penalty applies when you don’t file your tax return by the due date. The taxpayer’s tax balance will thus be assessed a late filing penalty.