Should I Be Worried About Getting Audited?

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) conducts audits to ensure that taxpayers are complying with tax laws and reporting their income and expenses accurately. While the prospect of an audit can be daunting, it’s important to remember that not all audits result in significant tax bills or penalties. By understanding the IRS’s audit process and taking steps to minimize your risk of being audited, you can significantly reduce your stress and anxiety.

Types of Audits

The IRS conducts various types of audits, each with its own scope and procedures:

  • Correspondence Audits: These are the most common type of audit and typically involve the IRS sending you a letter requesting additional information or documentation to support items reported on your tax return.
  • Office Audits: These audits are conducted at an IRS office and involve a face-to-face meeting with an IRS auditor.
  • Field Audits: These audits are conducted at your home or business and are typically more comprehensive than office audits.

Audit Selection Process

The IRS uses a variety of factors to select tax returns for audit, including:

  • Mathematical Errors: Errors in calculations or inconsistencies between different sections of your tax return can trigger an audit.
  • High Income: Taxpayers with high incomes are more likely to be audited, as they have a greater potential for underreporting income.
  • Business Expenses: Taxpayers who claim significant business expenses are more likely to be audited, as these expenses are often subject to scrutiny.
  • Itemized Deductions: Taxpayers who itemize deductions on Schedule A are more likely to be audited, as these deductions are often subject to verification.
  • Prior Audit History: Taxpayers who have been audited in the past are more likely to be audited again.

Audit Red Flags

Certain items on your tax return can raise red flags and increase your risk of being audited, such as:

  • Unreported Income: Failing to report all of your income, including income from side hustles or investments, can trigger an audit.
  • Excessive Deductions: Claiming excessive deductions, especially for business expenses or charitable contributions, can raise suspicions.
  • Round Numbers: Using round numbers for expenses or deductions can indicate that you are not accurately tracking your finances.
  • Frequent Amendments: Amending your tax return multiple times can raise red flags, as it suggests that you may be trying to hide something.
  • Foreign Accounts: Having bank accounts or investments outside the United States can increase your risk of being audited.

How to Reduce Your Risk of Being Audited

While you cannot completely eliminate your risk of being audited, you can take steps to minimize it:

  • File an Accurate Tax Return: Ensure that your tax return is complete, accurate, and filed on time.
  • Keep Good Records: Maintain detailed records of your income, expenses, and deductions.
  • Be Prepared to Provide Documentation: Gather all necessary documentation to support the items reported on your tax return.
  • Consider Using a Tax Professional: A qualified tax professional can help you prepare your tax return and identify potential red flags.

What to Do If You’re Audited

If you receive an audit notice from the IRS, don’t panic. Here are some steps to follow:

  • Respond Promptly: Contact the IRS within the timeframe specified in the notice.
  • Gather Your Records: Organize all relevant documents and records to support your tax return.
  • Consider Getting Professional Help: If you’re not comfortable handling the audit on your own, consider hiring a tax attorney or accountant.
  • Be Cooperative: Answer the IRS auditor’s questions honestly and provide all requested documentation.
  • Don’t Sign Anything: Do not sign any documents until you have had a chance to review them thoroughly.

While the prospect of an IRS audit can be stressful, it’s important to remember that most audits are routine and do not result in significant tax bills. By understanding the audit process, taking steps to minimize your risk of being audited, and following the recommended steps if you’re audited, you can significantly reduce your stress and anxiety.

Should I Worry About an IRS Audit?


What are the odds of getting audited?

The number of IRS audits has been declining for years. Today, an American’s overall chances of being audited are about 1 in 200. Moreover, three-quarters of all audits are correspondence audits in which the IRS sends the taxpayer a letter in the mail asking about one or two issues.

How hard is it to get audited by the IRS?

In recent years, the IRS has audited significantly less than 1% of all individual tax returns. Plus, most audits are handled solely by mail, meaning taxpayers selected for an audit typically never actually meet with an IRS agent in person.

What are red flags for IRS audit?

Not reporting all of your income is an easy-to-avoid red flag that can lead to an audit. Taking excessive business tax deductions and mixing business and personal expenses can lead to an audit. The IRS mostly audits tax returns of those earning more than $200,000 and corporations with more than $10 million in assets.

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