Only .84 percent of the 146.9 million individual tax returns filed in 2015 were audited by the IRS. The last time the audit rate was that low it was 2004 and most of us were walking around in Uggs. And even though the IRS says it expects to see even fewer audits in 2016, your chance of being audited tends to increase when:
You fail to report all taxable income
You will be notified if the IRS notices any inconsistencies between the taxable income reported on your tax return and the combined amount reported on your 1099s and W2s. Be sure to make the issuer of your 1099 aware of any mistakes, including incorrect income reported or receiving a form that is not yours.
You own a cash-intensive business
If you operate a taxi, car wash, bar, hair salon, restaurant or any other cash-intensive business, the IRS will be watching your tax return closely. Historically, cash-intensive businesses have been less accurate in reporting all taxable income. In response, agents are using special techniques to interview business owners and audit for unreported income.
Read Also: What’s Worse: An IRS Audit Or A Root Canal?
You claim large charitable deductions
IRS agents don’t have a problem with you philanthropic behavior, it’s the people abuse this tax deduction they have a problem with. This is another area the agency has had problems with in the past, which is why agents pay special attention to these types of deductions – especially if the deduction is disproportionately large in relation to your taxable income. So, if you are going to make a gift to a nonprofit organization, make sure to do it the right way. Keep your receipts, document everything and obtain an appraisal if the donation is for property worth more than $500 (and be sure to file Form 8283 with your return). It’s also important to note that donated cars, boats and planes continue to draw special attention.
You claim home office deductions
If you can claim the home office deduction – great! However, many are often unsuccessful because they ultimately realize that they don’t meet the strict requirements. Or, if they do successfully claim it, they overstate the deduction. For this reason, this is another area the IRS tends to scrutinize. Remember, if home office space must be used exclusively and on a regular basis as your primary place of business in order to claim a percentage of the rent, real estate taxes, utilities, phone bills, insurance and other costs.
Your claim for meals, travel and entertainment is disproportionately high
This is another area where taxpayers have made excessive claims in the past, causing the IRS to look closely at meal, travel and entertainment deductions for self-employed taxpayers. When the deduction appears too large for the business, agents look for detailed documentation including the amount, place, persons attending, business purpose and nature of the discussion or meeting.
You claimed 100% business use of a vehicle
It’s very rare that a taxpayer actually uses vehicle exclusively for business, especially if no other vehicle is available for personal use. If an IRS agent sees this type of claim, they won’t just see red flags, they will hear sirens. If you are planning to claim a percentage of your vehicle usage on your tax return, be sure to keep detailed mileage logs and precise calendar entries for the purpose of every road trip.
The best way to guard against an IRS audit is to have your business and personal tax returns prepared correctly every year by a team of tax specialists. Email Rea & Associates to learn what other red flags the IRS is looking for.
By Chad Bice, CPA (Zanesville office)