How to Avoid an IRS Audit

Being audited by the Internal Revenue Service is something many taxpayers fear; even if your return is entirely above board, an honest mistake here or there can turn an audit into a tax nightmare. So when it comes to filing your income taxes, the best strategy is to do everything possible to avoid IRS red flags that are likely to trigger an audit. Audit Warning

Before discussing specific triggers to stay away from, it should be noted that the IRS currently audits less than 1% of all taxpayers. As with all government agencies, they are facing budget shortfalls and shrinking personnel. So all things being equal, your chances of an audit are only about one out of a hundred. However, you can lessen these odds even further by taking certain steps:

Make Sure to Report All your Taxable Income: Remember, all 1099s and W2s from employers and contract work are sent to the IRS. If your reported taxable income is not equal to or greater than the sum of all your 1099s and W2s, this will likely trigger an automated IRS notice and you may receive a bill for additional taxes owed.

Be Reasonable with your Charitable Deduction Reporting: Statistics show that the average American gives between 2% and 6% of their income to charity, depending on the income level. The IRS has this same data; so if you claim to give 25% of your income to charity, it is likely to raise a red flag. You may have actually donated that much, and if you did and want to claim all of it, make sure you have thorough documentation in the event of an audit.

Watch your Schedule C (Small Business) Deductions: The IRS is always on the lookout for higher than usual Schedule-C deductions in areas such as mileage, travel, meals and entertainment. Make sure that everything you claim in this area is fully documented. The Home Office deduction is another target for scrutiny because many people that are not entitled claim this deduction.

Report all Foreign Bank Accounts: The IRS has forged voluntary compliance agreements with several countries to report U.S. taxpayers that hold foreign bank accounts. If you have a foreign account that had a balance of $10,000 at any time during the tax year, you are required to report it to Uncle Sam.

Stay Out of the Top Income Bracket: While less than 1% of all U.S. taxpayers are audited, the percentage more than triples for taxpayers whose incomes exceed $200,000. Of course, it may be impossible to avoid this trigger if you are well above the $200,000 threshold. If you on the border, it may be worthwhile to talk with a professional accountant about legal ways to lower your taxable income.

Avoiding an IRS audit is not an exact science. Sometimes you do everything right and still get audited. If you do receive an audit notice, there is no need to panic. Get in touch with your accountant to go over your case. Your accountant can help you plan the best strategy to survive your audit without it costing you an arm and a leg.

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