How to Protect Yourself from the Risk of a Tax Investigation

by Five Fantastic Lawyers™ on January 14, 2013

Guest post regarding protecting yourself from the risk of a tax investigation (mainly US law)

Protecting yourself completely against an IRS audit is virtually impossible. A tax investigation is something that can happen to any business or person, no matter how many times you’ve prepared your taxes correctly. Even so, the risk of an audit can be a very real presence and fear for many small businesses and taxpayers. It is a process no one wants to undergo, as it requires lost time, the search for paperwork, lost work and more. In fact, business owners who have actually undergone an audit will tell you that, if given a choice of undergoing a tax audit or a minor surgery with no anesthesia, they would gladly opt for the latter. A tax investigation is really the last thing you want to happen to you, so you want to take steps that can help minimize the risk of your ever being investigated…

1 – Send in clean paperwork. Don’t omit any information and triple check your return if needed. Even a minute detail can attract the attention of IRS auditors.

2 – Avoid reporting a low income if you don’t have the appropriate loss statements. There are certain limits associated to each professional field, and even though it is very possible to make less than what is expected of you, this can alert auditors to you. You should also consider your ratio of deductions to income; if your expenses are more than half your income, you increase the risk for audit.

If you do experience low income, you need to be able to prove the reason for this.

3 – Report all income: whether it’s from employment, a contract, self-employment; even simple jobs need to be reported. This is especially important for those who work on a per contract basis and are paid per job. Companies that contract your services report the income to the IRS, so it’s important that you confirm that income.

4 – File – You should always file a tax return if you made any kind of income within a year. Businesses need to adhere to their quarterly schedules for federal and state payments. They should prepare and mail in forms according to their due dates. Your tax attorney or CPA can furnish you with this schedule and review your filings. Your failing to file will raise a red flag to IRS and may cause them to want to audit your business.

5 – Review the Guidelines. The IRS has a set of guidelines that auditors follow. These are located on the IRS website, and by reviewing these you can make sure your return meets these guidelines.

6 – Consult with a tax attorney – It may be in the best interest of some to consult with a tax attorney. He or she can review your tax return and suggest ways to minimize the risk of a tax audit and take every possible deduction available to you.

Bottom Line

When it comes to filing taxes, people have a lot of misconceptions. Often these have nothing to do with reality and do not protect you any more or less from being audited. Some people believe that if they file later or earlier in the season, they reduce their chances of being audited; they believe having a home office automatically flags you; that you can make under a certain amount and won’t be detected; or that once you receive your refund you won’t be audited. All of these ideas are misconceptions. They have no influence as to whether you will be audited or not. So the best way of protecting yourself is to declare every bit of income you have made over the year. You need to make your calculations and deductions accurately, and if you feel unprepared or unqualified to make these calculations, then seek the help of a qualified tax accountant or preparer to help you.

Claire Fenn is a business tax consultant. She enjoys demystifying the topic as she believes a lot of fear surrounding taxations is due to misinformation. If you require the services of a benefit fraud solicitor, visit the link to learn more.

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