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.
You misreported your taxable income.
Math and transpose errors (e.g. entering $64,000 as $46,000) will be corrected by most tax software or the IRS automated under-reporter system. But if the misstatement of your income looks intentional and not in error, your tax return is likely to get flagged for audit.
In recent years, the IRS has been auditing significantly less than 1% of all individual tax returns – and the trend has been towards fewer audits from one year to the next. Plus, most audits are handled solely by mail, meaning taxpayers selected for an audit typically never actually met with an IRS agent in person.
Higher-income taxpayers face greater chance of audit
Taxpayers with incomes of $10 million and above had substantially higher audit rates than taxpayers in every other income category for each calendar year from 2010 through 2015.
Yet less than 40 thousand of their returns were audited by the IRS in FY 2021 – just 4.5 out of every 1,000 of these returns. This contrasts sharply with 13.0 out of every 1,000 of these lowest income returns that were audited last year by the IRS.
This is most easily observed by looking at Tax Year 2019 which is presented in the FY 2021 Data Book with audit results as of September 30, 2021. Tax returns for 2019 are filed in 2020 and may be filed on extension as late as October 15, 2020.
Red flags may include excessive write-offs compared with income, unreported earnings, refundable tax credits and more. “My best advice is that you're only as good as your receipts,” said John Apisa, a CPA and partner at PKF O'Connor Davies LLP.
Can the IRS audit you 2 years in a row? Yes. There is no rule preventing the IRS from auditing you two years in a row.
Does the IRS Catch All Mistakes? No, the IRS probably won't catch all mistakes. But it does run tax returns through a number of processes to catch math errors and odd income and expense reporting.
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.
The IRS Review Process: Every Return Is Reviewed by Computer
Once the data is in the system, a computer checks the return for errors, such as mathematical errors; if none are found, the return is processed, and the IRS issues you either a refund or a balance due notice.
The IRS conducts tax audits to minimize the “tax gap,” or the difference between what the IRS is owed and what the IRS actually receives. Sometimes an IRS audit is random, but the IRS often selects taxpayers based on suspicious activity. We're against subterfuge. But we're also against paying more than you owe.
According to a Treasury Inspector General testimony, between 2014 and 2016, nearly 880,000 high-income people owing more than $45 billion failed to file their taxes, and the IRS is unlikely to go after them. Audits of the rich continue to drop while audits of the poor have stayed the same.
On the poorest households in America. The relevant statistics come to us via TRAC, a nonprofit research data center at Syracuse University. TRAC recently mined IRS statistics and determined that the agency audits households with less than $25,000 in income at five times the rate for anyone else.
We usually don't go back more than the last six years. The IRS tries to audit tax returns as soon as possible after they are filed. Accordingly most audits will be of returns filed within the last two years. If an audit is not resolved, we may request extending the statute of limitations for assessment tax.
If there is an anomaly, that creates a “red flag.” The IRS is more likely to eyeball your return if you claim certain tax breaks, deductions, or credit amounts that are unusually high compared to national standards; you are engaged in certain businesses; or you own foreign assets.
If you deliberately fail to file a tax return, pay your taxes or keep proper tax records – and have criminal charges filed against you – you can receive up to one year of jail time. Additionally, you can receive $25,000 in IRS audit fines annually for every year that you don't file.
The six-year rule allows for payment of living expenses that exceed the Collection Financial Standards, and allows for other expenses, such as minimum payments on student loans or credit cards, as long as the tax liability, including penalty and interest, can be full paid in six years.
Fortunately, you don't need to worry about that happening. According to the IRS, most tax audits are regarding returns filed within the last three years. If they find a substantial error, they may add more years. But even then, they seldom go back more than six years.
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.”
In most cases, a Notice of Audit and Examination Scheduled will be issued. This notice is to inform you that you are being audited by the IRS, and will contain details about the particular items on your return that need review. It will also mention the records you are required to produce for review.
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.
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.