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Sunday, June 20, 2010

How to present your case - IRS Audits

It is very important that you not only put your case together with evidence, but that you have considered the presentation. If you do not know how to effectively communicate your defence, then the proof you have isn't as good as the paper it is written on.

Firs, you need to make sure you have selected the right person to represent you. You want to make sure that they have experience specifically with the IRS. You should also remember that lawyers, accountants and doctors are tax payers too and may be just as afraid of the IRS as you are. Meet with the person you have selected, and test their confidence. Depending on your situation, you may want an accountant, and attorney or both to represent you.

Once you have determined who will be representing you, or if you will be representing yourself, it is time to prepare the evidence. Make sure that you have found every relative piece of paper and no document is left un-turned. The IRS audit doesn't have to be stressful. A little discipline, time, preperation and knowledge should help you to relax. If you find that you, or your representation, needs more time to prepare, call the agent and ask for an extension. Extensions for IRS audits are generally granted for up to six months, but be aware that the possinibility of a second extension in very unlikely, therefore use your time wisely.

Here is the main documentation that you will need. This is a breif checklist that should help you begin yur document hunt.

Receipts to justify any deductions or credits that the IRS is questioning.

A list of the above reciepts, organized by date and include the amount and reason for each deduction.

A list, organized by date, of all cash expeditures. Treat this list as if it were a reciept for each purchase. List the reason for each expenditure.

Bank account statements organized by month and in order.

Reciepts for income, organized by date.

It is important to only present information that counters what the IRS is questioning. Do not offer up more information then needed and only asnwer direct questions with direct answers. This is one situation where more information is not better. The IRS auditor will give you the reasons for the audit, and a list of the items being audited. Prepare your defence based on that in question.

It is equally important to be well organized. You do not want the auditor to be required to dig through files to find the information he or she is looking for. This may uncover more mistakes or violations for the IRS to audit in the future.

With a little preperation and knowledge, you can get through the dreaded IRS audit.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Challenging The IRS Audit

The IRS has audited you and the report is now complete. Take your time, read through the report carefully and if you don’t understand it, contact your auditor. Now that you understand it, you may not agree with it. If you don’t agree with, there are some actions that you can take to appeal the IRS’ decision. First, send a protest letter to the IRS within 30 days of the receipt of the IRS Audit report. While you can use standard first class mail, I would recommend sending this certified so that you have proof that they received it, The certified letter should require a signature, avoiding later concerns that your letter for an appeals hearing is being requested too late. Once you request an appeals hearing, one will be granted with an appeals officer supposedly unbiased and from a different division of the IRS. This officer is not a part of the office that originally conducted your IRS audit.

If you meet with the officer, and still do not agree with the outcome, other steps can be taken to have your side heard. You can file a petition in tax court, which is fairly inexpensive and not that difficult. You can find helpful resources online that can aid you during this process. While you can file a petition on your own, it is only suggested to act on your own behalf if your tax bill is less than $50,000. Any amount over that and it would be worth your investment to seek the advice of a tax attorney.

As a rule, contesting your audit in court is beneficial. If you are being unjustly charged your case can be heard but beyond that you may save money simply by appealing the decision. About half of the people who file a petition in tax court end up paying a reduced penalty. While there is no guarantees, it is at least worth a shot. Reducing your tax bill, filled with fees and penalties, by only 10% can add up to significant savings. Weigh your options, the amount of time that your case will take and determine if tax court in the right decision. If tax court fails, I am sorry to report, that there is little you can do other than seek advice from a tax advisor and/or attorney. At this point you have exhausted your last method, tax court, so there may not be anything either of those professionals could do either. Good Luck!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

IRS Auditor’s and their Attitudes

An IRS Audit is a stressful time. Your emotions may be running high. At the same time, the auditors deal with dishonest and hostile citizens everyday. While you may feel that an auditor is playing “God” because they have limited authority over you at the moment, there are some steps that can be taken to avoid a conflict which isn’t in anyone’s best interest. Also, you need to remember the position of the auditor and perhaps why he is expressing himself the way he is.

IRS auditors aren’t high paid employees, and their working environments can be stressful since they are dealing with defensive people day to day. IRS auditors are on deadlines and many times, finding the person in order to speak with them causes more and more delays, adding to their case load. Their goal is to get your case closed out as quickly as possible. Since they are underpaid and deal with other’s attitudes all day, you should expect their morale to be low.

With that said, there are ways to alleviate some of the challenge. First, don’t get upset. Try to reason with your auditor. Explain that you want to get along and assist them with getting this case closed. In the auditors mind, you are the enemy. Try changing that so that you are more of friend then a foe, helping them through their mundane and underpaid 9-5 workday.

If that attempt fails, speak kindly to the agent’s supervisor, asking to resolve the issue. Be polite and explanatory. It is the supervisor’s job, as much as it is the auditor’s to close the account. If the supervisor sees that you are attempting to work with them to get the goal accomplished, the hostilities should end.

If you are dealing with an aggressive or dishonest IRS auditor, then certainly contact the chief inspector at 800-366-4484 or write to P.O. Box 589, Benjamin Franklin Station, Washington, DC 20044-0589. This is not an interactive investigation however, and you will not be informed of the outcome. While it is rare, some auditors may imply that favors could get rid of your problem. Report this right away as it is bribery and will do nothing for your position. Either way, the best bet is to try and assist the auditor in order to get your case closed as soon as possible so that you can move on with your life and the pesky auditor will be gone.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Tips for Surviving an IRS Audit

First and foremost, your goal in every tip listed in this article is to convince the IRS that you were entitled to your credits, deductions and exemptions. Additionally, you will need to convince the IRS that you reported all of your income. You should only prove or convince them of the items in question, never going above or beyond.

You should delay the process whenever you can without becoming suspicious. Request more time to gather your records or confer with a professional. You can also request more time to get your records together, and make certain that the records are presented in an orderly fashion. Regardless of why, postponing the audit is usually to your benefit.

You should never have the IRS at your home or at the place of your business. Instead, consider going to the IRS local office to conduct the Audit, or have a tax professional handle it. Field Audits, where the IRS auditor comes to your place, usually happens when there is business income. At very least, you should consult your tax professional, even if he or she will not be handling the audit for you, prior to meeting with the auditor at your home or business.

Always prepare your records in an orderly fashion, arranging bank statements by month, receipts by type or date and invoices by type and month. If you are missing a requested document, you are allowed to reconstruct records.

Do not expect to walk out of an audit without owing something. The odds in any audit are that they will find something. Also, do not attempt to negotiate on the taxes to be paid, instead try to compromise on the tax issues themselves.

Do not produce more documents than requested, keep the chatter down, only answering the questions that you are asked and do not give copies of other years’ tax returns to the auditor.

Research and know your rights. There is free IRS publications and commercial tax guides for your assistance. If you are still unclear, consult a professional. Your rights are well defined in the taxpayer’s bill of rights. If you believe that your auditor is treating you unfairly contact his supervisor and if tax fraud comes up, seek the advice of a professional immediately.

What Should I do if I get Audited by the IRS?

The first thing that you should do is to remain calm. Too many times, taxpayers act in haste and make more mistakes then are already at the table. Just because you were selected for an audit doesn’t mean that you did anything wrong. It also does not mean that you need to shell out thousands of dollars for a professional, depending on your situation of course.

You can represent yourself in an IRS audit. You may be audited by mail or with a field audit. In any event simply provide the documentation in an orderly fashion as it is asked for. Answer promptly but allow yourself the time to gather the documentation that is needed. Request more time respectively if required but make sure that the request isn’t due to procrastination. Once you find the documents requested, do not send them in out of order. The auditor will assume that the disorganization of the documents represents the way in which you day-to-day business is handled and may result in a larger scope investigation.

After you take your time to assemble the documents in a neat and orderly fashion, deliver them to the IRS auditor or mail them in promptly. Never volunteer more information than is being asked for. This will likely lead into a more complicated audit. Be friendly, but concise. Also, try to not allow the agent to come to your home or place of business. IRS auditors are trained to view the return and your surroundings to see if you are living beyond your means. Inviting them into your home or business could result in a larger investigation as well.

Once all documents have been sent and the audit comes to a close, you will have a report that gives you the results of the investigation. Never sign anything before you understand it. Again, take your time before any agreements and seek professional advice if needed. If you will be seeking the advice of a tax professional, let the auditor know that and inform him that you will get back with him promptly. If you have documents that dispute the findings, such as case law or tax code, contact the auditor’s supervisor and come back to the table. If you still do not agree with the findings, you may appeal the decision or take the findings to tax court. Either way, do not fret, as the report isn’t the end of the rope.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Why is the IRS auditing me?

While there are many reasons that the IRS may audit you, it must first be understood how the IRS selects a tax filing for Audit. There are audits conducted just to compile data and statistics to figure out which types of industries, deductions, income and other tax related filings will provide the highest rate of return for the IRS through penalties, taxes and fines. Once the data audit is completed, the information is entered into a computer system that formulates high-risk combinations.

Now that your return has been filed, the entire return is entered into the computer at the IRS. The secret and highly guarded formula selects returns based on the probability that the filing is fraudulent, wrong or high risk. If your filing is in fact high risk, you may be selected.

While the formula is secret, we know some of the areas that the IRS data audits have found to be high risk. They include industries that deal with large cash transactions, the self-employed and a large amount of deductions to name a few. In industries that deal with large cash transactions, many times that income goes unreported therefore the IRS generally has a good chance of collecting money from those types of returns after the audit. The self-employed have an opportunity to file beneficially to the business owner, without regard for tax law. Since there is little checks and balances when an individual is self employed it makes a good bet for the IRS. Claiming a large amount of deductions, relative to that of others in your profession or industry, may alarm that formula in the computer. If the deductions are real and provide a large amount of tax savings, then certainly claim them. If the tax savings is minimal, it may be recommended to not file itemized deductions due to the possibility of an audit.

IRS tax law is complicated and open for interpretation. With that said, once you receive an audit there is little chance that some mistake won’t be found. The best thing you can do is try to avoid the audit all together by being careful, reporting all income and making educated decisions on your deductions. If you have done everything you can to complete an honest and complete tax return, do not worry. With proper documentation, representation and education, the audit can be minimal. Simply be patient, answer the questions at hand without elaboration and confer with a tax professional.

IRS Audit Closing Conference

Out of all the meetings that you have had with the IRS so far, by far the most important to your bottom line may be the closing conference. This is generally performed when you have been part of an IRS field audit. At the closing conference, you can expect for the auditor to present the IRS’ side, and the conclusions from the audit. Additionally, the auditor will likely have a report of any changes that are required to be made to your tax return along with the penalties and interest that are now due. The report will also contain more important information for later research, such as Internal Revenue Code and other legal resources that support the proposed claim.

Do not feel pressured to agree or sign anything on the day of the conference. If you do not understand something in the report, or if you feel it is incorrect or unfair, request more time from the auditor. It is common for someone who is representing him or herself, to request additional time in order to confer with a professional. You may want to set up a second meeting with the auditor. Now that you have the report in hand, your audit team has time to review, research and prepare calculations, discrepancies, questionable issues or arguments on your behalf.

Even after all that work, an audit team and a second meeting to discuss what your audit team found, you may not be able to reach an agreement with the auditor. Don’t get upset, this happens. Since tax laws are complicated and subject to interpretation, there are appellate processes and tax courts that may see things from your point of view. Speak as little as possible, but be polite and straightforward. Inform the auditor that you and/or your company may want to exercise it’s right to an appeal and/or to tax court. End the meeting on good terms and even shake hands.

Remember that it is not the IRS’ job to make your life difficult. It is their job to enforce the code that makes each of us responsible for taxes equally. There position’s makes the tax code fair and even across the board. Simply cooperate the best you can and if you cannot come to an agreement, simply appeal it. While this may be easier said than done, it is worth trying and may prevent a headache in the meantime.