For many, the IRS is not an agency which suggests a welcoming message. Receiving a letter requesting payment of overdue taxes or a change to your return is rarely pleasant and can lead to additional stress to your already stressful life.
By staying prepared and anticipating an audit from the IRS, your stress can be reduced and you can find comfort in the records you have kept.
IRS audit rates are historically low, according to the latest data, but that’s little consolation if your return is among those selected to be examined. However, with proper preparation and planning, you should fare well.
In fiscal year 2019, the IRS audited approximately 0.4% of individuals. Businesses, large corporations and high-income individuals are more likely to be audited but, overall, all types of audits are being conducted less frequently than they were a decade ago.
There’s no 100% guarantee that you won’t be picked for an audit, because some tax returns are chosen randomly. However, the best way to survive an IRS audit is to prepare for one in advance. On an ongoing basis you should systematically maintain documentation — invoices, bills, cancelled checks, receipts, or other proof — for all items to be reported on your tax returns. Keep all your records in one place. It also helps to know what might catch the attention of the IRS.
Audit hot spots
Certain types of tax-return entries are known to the IRS 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 tax 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 salary that’s inordinately higher or lower than those in similar companies in his or her location can catch the IRS’s eye, especially if the business is structured as a corporation.
Responding to a letter
If you’re selected for an audit, you’ll be notified 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 taken. Others may ask you to take receipts and other documents to a local IRS office. Only the harshest version, the field audit, requires meeting with one or more IRS auditors. (Note: Ignore unsolicited email messages about an audit. The IRS doesn’t contact people in this manner. These are scams.)
Keep in mind that the tax agency won’t demand an immediate response to a mailed notice. You’ll be informed of the discrepancies in question and given time to prepare. You’ll need to collect and organize all relevant income and expense records. If any records are missing, you’ll have to reconstruct the information as accurately as possible based on other documentation.
If the IRS chooses you for an audit, Rudler, PSC 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 expedient and effective manner.
The IRS normally has three years within which to conduct an audit, and often an audit doesn’t begin until a year or more after you file a return. Don’t panic if you’re contacted by the IRS. Many audits are routine. By taking a meticulous, proactive approach to how you track, document and file your company’s tax-related information, you’ll make an audit much less painful and even decrease the chances that one will happen in the first place.
Contact your Rudler, PSC advisor at 859-331-1717 with questions. We are happy to assist you in staying prepared for a potential IRS audit and can provide solutions to any IRS issues which arise.
RUDLER'S TAX MANAGEMENT & PLANNING TEAM
This week's Rudler Review is presented by Austin Alwell, Intern and Karen Daugherty, CPA.
If you would like to discuss your particular tax situation, contact Austin or Karen at 859-331-1717.
Rudler PSC has established a Tax Management and Planning Team, a group of professionals who specialize in tax services. These highly qualified and experienced tax specialists meet on a regular basis to discuss upcoming client engagements, current issues relating to our clients and regulatory changes. Be sure to receive future Rudler Reviews for advice from our tax experts, sign up today !