Avoid These IRS Audit Triggers

irs audit triggers

Navigating the complex world of taxes can be challenging, especially when avoiding IRS audits. In this guide, we’ll delve into what IRS audit triggers to look out for, identifying red flags, and how to minimize your risk. With a focus on best practices, we aim to equip you with the knowledge to protect yourself and your business.

What is an Audit Trigger? 

IRS auditors are always looking for malfeasance, but certain red flags will attract their scrutiny more than others. In the accounting world, we call these red flags audit triggers. 

In most cases, the IRS believes audit triggers can suggest deeper discrepancies in your tax return, so auditors will typically approach you suspiciously when they find them. 

Recognizing these triggers is the first step towards avoiding them. Fortunately, you can minimize your audit risk if you take the time to employ a few simple precautions. 

The Most Common IRS Audit Triggers

common irs audit triggers

If the IRS spots any of these red flags, your chances of being audited could increase. Here are some of the most common IRS audit triggers: 

  • Disproportionate Deductions: It can be a major red flag if your deductions are unusually high compared to your income. Only claim legitimate deductions and carefully maintain receipts, maintenance records, and other documentation. 
  • Inconsistent Income Reporting: Any inconsistency between your reported income and the information the IRS receives can lead to scrutiny. This includes income from freelance work, investments, and other sources. Make sure the totals listed on any 1099 or W2 forms match what you list on your tax return.
  • Frequent Losses on Schedule C: If you’re a business owner or self-employed individual reporting losses year after year on Schedule C, the IRS might question the legitimacy of your business activities. In a worst-case scenario, they could rule that your side hustle is a hobby, not a business, and charge you back taxes for previous deductions.
  • Excessive Home Office Deductions: Home office deductions have become much more common recently, and the IRS scrutiny towards these write-offs has lessened. However, excessive claims for home office deductions can still catch the IRS’s eye. Ensure you meet the strict criteria for this deduction by documenting your office space with pictures and recording your office’s dimensional measurements. Also, be sure to allocate whole-home vs. business-specific deductions accurately.

How to Minimize Your Audit Risk

There are a few steps you can take to help minimize your risk of an audit. 

Report Income Accurately

First, make sure you accurately report all of your income. Cross-check your business’s income statements with 1099s, W2s, and other informational tax returns to ensure your numbers line up with what the IRS has on file. 

Keep Organized Records 

Organizing receipts, invoices, and other transactional records can often differentiate between a quickly resolved IRS inquiry and a full-blown audit. If the IRS has questions about your return, you should be able to respond to their requests quickly to avoid increasing scrutiny from auditors. 

Work with a Pro on IRS Audit Triggers 

Tax professionals can provide valuable insights and help you navigate complex tax situations. Having a qualified tax pro prepare your taxes substantially reduces the chance of an error that triggers an audit.

Best Practices for Audit Protection 

Adopting a few of these best practices can significantly protect you from the stress of an IRS audit.

  • Be Precise with Deductions: Avoid rounding off numbers. Exact figures demonstrate meticulous record-keeping.
  • Report All Income: Include all taxable income, even if it’s small or was not reported to the IRS by a third party.
  • Understand Tax Laws: Staying informed about changes in tax laws ensures that your filings comply with current regulations.

What To Do If You’re Audited 

If you find yourself facing an IRS audit, don’t panic. Here’s what you can do:

  • Stay Calm and Organized: Gather all relevant documentation related to your tax filings.
  • Understand the Scope of the Audit: Determine whether it’s a correspondence, office, or field audit.
  • Seek Professional Assistance: Consider hiring a tax professional or attorney specializing in tax law to guide you.

Closing Thoughts on  IRS Audit Triggers

Understanding and avoiding IRS audit triggers is crucial for any taxpayer. By maintaining accurate records, reporting all income sources, and staying up-to-date with tax laws, you can significantly reduce the risk of an audit. Remember, professional guidance can help you navigate the process confidently if you face an audit.

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