How to prepare for, and survive, an IRS tax audit

If the IRS wishes to do an audit of your tax return, do not panic. In most cases, an audit is simply the government wanting to double check the numbers that were provided on your return. The IRS investigation will go smoothly if you have provided correct numbers for your calculations, income, deductions and write-offs - and have the documentation to prove it

In addition to not panicking, it is also important to be prepared for the audit. If you have copies of your tax returns for at least three years, as well as a file of your receipts, bills and financial information, you will be in good shape from the start.

Audits are often done by correspondence. In these cases, make sure you send all information that is requested of you in response to the notification. Below are other tips for surviving an IRS audit, particularly if you need to present your case in person:

  • Take the audit notice seriously - Don't ignore the notice, as you typically will have just 30 days to respond before the IRS takes action. Instead, read it thoroughly and understand the specific items that are under closer scrutiny.
  • Organize your records - Prepare for the audit by organizing your records in a way that makes it easy for the auditor to examine the evidence. Replace any records that are missing, and submit copies of everything rather than the originals.
  • Bring only what is asked for and stay on topic - Don't introduce new issues to the audit, or open yourself up to future issues. Bring evidence to support the particular items under closer investigation. Keep answers and explanations brief and to the point.
  • Be courteous - Don't take your frustrations out on the auditor. Treat them with the respect they deserve as professionals who are there to do a job.

As always, if you feel the audit process is too overwhelming, you have a right to seek advice and counsel from an experienced tax attorney.

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