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IRS Audit FAQs

Does the IRS ever contact a taxpayer or the tax preparer via e-mail to initiate an audit?
The IRS does not contact an individual via e-mail for an initial appointment. Contact related to being selected for an audit will be made via telephone or mail only, due to disclosure requirements. 

Does filing an amended return affect the return selection process?
Filing an amended return does not affect the selection process of the original return. However, amended returns also go through a screening process and the amended return may be selected for audit.

Why was my return selected for audit?
When returns are filed, they are compared against “norms” for similar returns. The “norms” are developed from audits of a statistically valid random sample of returns. These returns are selected as part of the National Research Program which the IRS conducts to update return selection information.

The return is next reviewed by an experienced auditor.  At this point, the return may be accepted as filed, or if based on the auditor’s experience questionable items are noted, the auditor will identify the items noted and the return is forwarded for assignment to an examining group.

Upon assignment to a group, the return is reviewed by the manager.  Items considered in assigning a case are:  factors particular to the area such as issues pertaining to construction, farming, timber industry, etc. that have specific factors and rules that apply.  Based on the review, the manager can accept the return or assign the return to an auditor.  The assigned auditor again reviews the return for questionable items and either accepts it as filed or contacts the taxpayer to schedule an appointment.

Where will the audit be held?
It depends on the type of audit being conducted. 

Audits by Mail/Correspondence Audit:  Some audits are conducted entirely by mail. If the audit is conducted by mail, you will receive a letter from the IRS asking for additional information about certain items shown on the tax return such as income, expenses, and itemized deductions.

In-Person Audits are audits conducted either at a local IRS office or at your business location.

Can you request the audit be conducted at the IRS office instead of at your place of business?
If the audit has been scheduled to be conducted at your location, it will generally be conducted where the books and records are located.  Requests to transfer the audit to another location, including an IRS office, will be considered but may not be granted. Treasury Regulation 301.7605-1(e), Time and place of audit, discusses the items considered when a request for a change in location is made.

Can the audit be transferred to another IRS office?
You can request a transfer of an audit if you have moved.  Several factors will be considered such as your current location, the location of the business and where the books and records are maintained.

If the audit is by correspondence, you can request a face-to-face audit because the books and records may be too voluminous to mail.

How long should the records related to a business or other long-term asset be kept?
In the case of an asset, records related to the asset should generally be kept for as long as you have the asset plus three years.  If the asset was exchanged, the basis for the new asset may include the exchanged asset so the records for both assets will need to be retained until the new asset is disposed plus three years from the file date of the tax return for the year of disposition.

How long should payroll records be kept?
In general, payroll records should be kept for four years with a review of the file to see if any items relating to current employees should be retained with current records.

After an auditor completes the audit, will the case be reviewed to ensure the audit results are correct?
All cases may be reviewed by the auditor’s manager either during the audit or upon completion. If errors are noted by the manager, the auditor will contact you to advise you about the proposed correction and what impact this may have on the amount of tax due.

It's time for my appointment and I'm not ready. What do I do?
If you do not have all the information requested, contact your auditor at the number reflected in the notification letter to discuss what information is currently available.  It may be possible to begin the audit with the information available rather than postpone the appointment.  The quicker the audit begins, the quicker it can be resolved.  In addition, if the initial appointment is scheduled beyond 45 days from the initial action, managerial approval is required.

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.  Additional years can be added if a substantial error is identified.  Generally, if a substantial error is identified, the IRS will not 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, you may be asked to extend the statute of limitations for assessment tax.  The statute of limitations limits the time allowed to assess additional tax.  The statute of limitations is generally three years after a return is due or was filed, whichever is later.  There is also a statute of limitations for making refunds. Extending the statute will allow you additional time to provide further documentation to support your position, request an appeal if you do not agree with the audit results, or to claim a tax refund or credit. It also allows the IRS time to complete the audit and provides time to process the audit results.

You do not have to agree to extend the statute of limitations date.  However, if you do not agree, the auditor will be forced to make a determination based upon the information provided.

More information related to extending a statute of limitations can be obtained in Publication 1035, Extending the Tax Assessment Period, or from your auditor.

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Page Last Reviewed or Updated: 08-Dec-2016

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