Will a State Audit Trigger a Federal Audit? Unraveling the Interplay of Tax Audits

Navigating the complexities of tax audits can be a daunting task, especially when dealing with both state and federal authorities. The question of whether a state audit can trigger a federal audit, and vice versa, is a common concern among taxpayers. To provide clarity, this comprehensive guide delves into the nuances of state and federal audits, examining their potential impact on each other.

Understanding State Audits

State audits are conducted by the Department of Revenue within each state. These audits scrutinize state tax returns to ensure accuracy and compliance with state tax laws. While an audit does not necessarily imply wrongdoing, it signifies a discrepancy between the taxpayer’s reported information and the state’s records.

Common Triggers for State Audits:

  • Nexus: Businesses operating in multiple states may establish a tax presence, known as nexus, in those states. Failure to register for sales and use tax can trigger an audit.
  • Use Tax: Neglecting to report use tax on items purchased outside the state but used within the state can raise red flags.
  • Sole Proprietorships: Self-prepared tax returns filed by sole proprietors are more prone to errors, increasing the likelihood of an audit.
  • Misreporting Information: Intentional or unintentional misstatements on tax returns can prompt an audit.
  • Incomplete Returns: Submitting incomplete tax returns can also lead to an audit.

Exploring Federal IRS Audits

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) conducts federal audits to examine federal tax returns. These audits assess the accuracy of reported income, deductions, and credits. The IRS employs various methods to select taxpayers for audit, including:

Common Triggers for IRS Audits:

  • Random Selection: The IRS utilizes a computer system to randomly select tax returns for audit.
  • Related Examinations: Taxpayers connected to other audited individuals or businesses may be subject to an audit.
  • Unreported Income: Discrepancies between reported income and actual income can trigger an audit.
  • Excessive Deductions: Claiming excessive or questionable deductions can raise suspicion.
  • Home-Based Businesses: Businesses operated from home may face increased scrutiny.
  • Cryptocurrency Transactions: Failure to report cryptocurrency transactions can result in an audit.

The Interplay of State and Federal Audits

The IRS and state Departments of Revenue share information to enhance tax administration. However, this exchange of information does not automatically trigger an audit by one agency based on the actions of the other.

Potential for Impact:

  • State Audit Findings: If a state audit uncovers errors or discrepancies, the taxpayer may be required to amend their federal tax return. Failure to do so could lead to an IRS audit.
  • Federal Audit Findings: Similarly, if an IRS audit results in adjustments to the taxpayer’s federal tax liability, the taxpayer may need to amend their state tax return.

While a state audit does not directly trigger a federal audit, it can indirectly impact the likelihood of one. Taxpayers should strive for accuracy and transparency in both their state and federal tax filings to minimize the risk of audits. Understanding the triggers for both types of audits and the potential consequences of errors can help taxpayers navigate the audit process effectively.

What the IRS is actually looking for that could trigger a tax audit


Can you get audited by state and not federal IRS?

Your biggest worry when being audited by your state Department of Revenue is whether you will also trigger an IRS audit. While there is no certainty of this happening, it definitely is a possibility since both state and federal taxing agencies communicate with each other.

What is most likely to trigger an IRS audit?

High income As you’d expect, the higher your income, the more likely you will get attention from the IRS as the IRS typically targets people making $500,000 or more at higher-than-average rates.

What gets you flagged for IRS audit?

Too many deductions taken are the most common self-employed audit red flags. The IRS will examine whether you are running a legitimate business and making a profit or just making a bit of money from your hobby. Be sure to keep receipts and document all expenses as it can make things a bit ore awkward if you don’t.

Can a state audit affect a federal audit?

State audits focus on state tax returns and are performed by a state’s Department of Revenue. Even though state and federal tax returns are typically prepared at the same time, it’s possible to have issues with one and not the other. Will a federal audit trigger a state audit or vice versa? Sometimes, but not always.

What triggers a state tax audit?

As you now know, state audits can be triggered by a variety of factors, and an IRS audit can be one. Your federal tax return influences your state tax return, and if the IRS requires you to make any amendments to your federal tax return, you’ll most likely have to do the same for your state tax return.

What is the difference between federal and state tax audits?

Federal audits focus on federal tax returns and are performed by the IRS. State audits focus on state tax returns and are performed by a state’s Department of Revenue. Even though state and federal tax returns are typically prepared at the same time, it’s possible to have issues with one and not the other.

What is a state tax audit?

Before diving into state tax audits and federal tax audits, it’s important to know what an audit is first. A tax audit is when the IRS or your state’s Department of Revenue examines your federal or state tax return to ensure your income and deductions are accurate.

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