In the end, the only way to pass an IRS audit is to pay your taxes in full, on time, and keep records of all your claims.
The IRS will charge you with a failure-to-pay penalty, which is usually 0.5% of your unpaid tax. The failure-to-pay penalty will be applied monthly until your taxes are paid in full.
What happens if you get audited and owe money? 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.
If the IRS finds that you were negligent in making a mistake on your tax return, then it can assess a 20% penalty on top of the tax you owe as a result of the audit. This additional penalty is intended to encourage taxpayers to take ordinary care in preparing their tax returns.
While the IRS does not pursue criminal tax evasion cases for many people, the penalty for those who are caught is harsh. They must repay the taxes with an expensive fraud penalty and possibly face jail time of up to five years.
If there's one thing American taxpayers fear more than owing money to the IRS, it's being audited. But before you picture a mean, scary IRS agent busting into your home and questioning you till you break, you should know that in reality, most audits aren't actually a big deal.
The IRS doesn't assign your mail audit to one person.
In fact, if you don't respond, respond late, or respond incompletely, the IRS will likely just disallow the items it's questioning on your return and send you a tax bill – plus penalties and interest.
In general, no, you cannot go to jail for owing the IRS. Back taxes are a surprisingly common occurrence. In fact, according to 2018 data, 14 million Americans were behind on their taxes, with a combined value of $131 billion!
Ignoring or failing to make a proper attempt to follow IRS rules and regulations. This includes failing to file your tax return. You could face an IRS audit penalty if you understate your income by 10% of your actual income or by $5,000. The penalty will be based on the larger of the two amounts.
Key Takeaways. Your tax returns can be audited even after you've been issued a refund. Only a small percentage of U.S. taxpayers' returns are audited each year. The IRS can audit returns for up to three prior tax years and, in some cases, go back even further.
The Short Answer: Yes. The IRS probably already knows about many of your financial accounts, and the IRS can get information on how much is there. But, in reality, the IRS rarely digs deeper into your bank and financial accounts unless you're being audited or the IRS is collecting back taxes from you.
How far back can the IRS go to audit my return? Generally, the IRS can include returns filed within the last three years in an audit. If we identify a substantial error, we may add additional years. We usually don't go back more than the last six years.
If you get audited and don't have receipts or additional proofs? Well, the Internal Revenue Service may disallow your deductions for the expenses. This often leads to gross income deductions from the IRS before calculating your tax bracket.
Audit trends vary by taxpayer income. In recent years, IRS audited taxpayers with incomes below $25,000 and those with incomes of $500,000 or more at higher-than-average rates. But, audit rates have dropped for all income levels—with audit rates decreasing the most for taxpayers with incomes of $200,000 or more.
If you find that you cannot pay the full amount by the filing deadline, you should file your return and pay as much as you can by the due date. To see if you qualify for an installment payment plan, attach a Form 9465, “Installment Agreement Request,” to the front of your tax return.
You cannot go to jail for making a mistake or filing your tax return incorrectly. However, if your taxes are wrong by design and you intentionally leave off items that should be included, the IRS can look at that action as fraudulent, and a criminal suit can be instituted against you.
Audits can be bad and can result in a significant tax bill. But remember – you shouldn't panic. There are different kinds of audits, some minor and some extensive, and they all follow a set of defined rules. If you know what to expect and follow a few best practices, your audit may turn out to be “not so bad.”
Here's what happens if you ignore an office audit:
You may have avoided the meeting, but you'll pay for it later in taxes, penalties, and interest. The IRS will change your return, send a 90-day letter, and eventually start collecting on your tax bill. You'll also waive your appeal rights within the IRS.
If you are being audited, you may not need to answer questions posed by the IRS; however, if you refuse to produce your tax-related documents, you may be forced to do so in court.
The IRS usually starts these audits within a year after you file the return, and wraps them up within three to six months. But expect a delay if you don't provide complete information or if the auditor finds issues and wants to expand the audit into other areas or years.