The probability of being selected by the IRS for a federal income tax audit this year is going up. Overall audit rates for 2010 were 7.4%. This meant 7 out of 100 tax returns were picked for audit. At the recommendation of the Treasury Department the IRS is updating their relationship databases in March 2012. Their current database system has not been updated since 1998. With the update the IRS will be able to profile tax returns with more sophisticated criteria to ensure that the tax returns picked for audit will generate tax dollars. Good news for them, bad news for those who get audited!
What is a “tax audit”, really? Tax audits fall into two categories. The first category being the full scale audit where you meet face to face with an IRS agent, the “real deal” tax audit that everyone dreads. The second category is known as an unreal audit or paper audit. Basically, you get a letter from the IRS that you under reported income, had math errors, or that you did not file a tax return and the IRS has filed a substituted tax return on your behalf.
Who is going to be picked? This depends on the complexity of the tax return and the amount of adjusted gross income. Tax returns with adjusted gross income of $500,000 to $1 Million had a 2.9% chance for a full scale audit and a 9.4% chance for an unreal audit. On the other end of the scale your odds of being selected for an audit decrease with your income. Tax returns with adjusted gross income of $50,000 to $75,000 had just a 0.7% rate of selection for full scale audit vs.7.1% for unreal audit.
What triggers an audit? Some areas of concern that the IRS is looking at are tax returns with Schedule C an E income. On recent audits, the IRS has discovered that taxpayers were trying to take personal expense as deductions for businesses and rental property. This is not allowed. The NAICS number that is entered on Schedule C, 1120 forms, and 1065’s are tracked by the IRS. Through database analysis the IRS can gauge what your income and deduction ratios should be compared to industry averages.
Who is preparing your taxes? Another part of the database analysis that is rumored to be looked at is your tax preparer. The IRS can see how many tax returns have been completed by the preparer and how they break out by category. For example, if your tax preparer suddenly starts preparing a large number of low income tax returns with all large tax refunds this may be an area of concern.
What can you do? For the most part, audit risk can be reduced by simply verifying financial documentation. Check to make sure the correct social security numbers are reported, all income has been reported, and the math is correct. Of course, also ensuring that all of the correct forms are filed and properly completed is a requirement. It can be complex! From 2000 until 2010 tax law have seen over 4,000 changes. This, on average, is over 400 changes per year that taxpayers have to navigate to prepare tax returns!
The bottom line: the best way to lower your chances of being audited is to have your tax returned prepared by professionals at Fredrick James. We keep up with all of the tax code changes and will ensure that your tax return is accurate and properly filed to keep you out of trouble with the IRS!
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