If I Get Audited by the IRS, What Happens?

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As taxpayers, understanding the consequences of an IRS audit is crucial. No one wants to receive that dreaded notice from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). However, being prepared and informed can help alleviate some of the anxiety associated with an audit. In this article, we will explore what happens if you get audited by the IRS and provide valuable insights to guide you through the process.

What Triggers an IRS Audit?

Common Red Flags

The IRS selects individuals for audits based on various factors. While the selection process may seem mysterious, there are certain red flags that can increase your chances of being audited. These red flags include:

  • Discrepancies or errors in your tax return
  • High income or significant changes in income
  • Claiming excessive deductions or credits
  • Operating a cash-heavy business
  • Failing to report all income
  • International transactions and offshore accounts

IRS Selection Process

The IRS uses both automated and manual methods to select individuals for audits. The Automated Underreporter (AUR) program compares the information reported on your tax return with data received from employers, financial institutions, and other sources. Additionally, the IRS performs manual audits based on specific criteria, such as industries or professions that have a higher likelihood of non-compliance.

What Happens During an IRS Audit?

Initial Notification and Documentation Request

When selected for an audit, the IRS will notify you through mail or sometimes by phone. The notice will specify the type of audit and provide instructions on how to proceed. Typically, the IRS will request specific documentation, such as receipts, bank statements, and other supporting documents, to substantiate the information reported on your tax return.

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Examination of Tax Returns and Supporting Documents

During the audit, the IRS will review your tax return and compare it with the documentation you provide. They may ask for clarification on certain entries or inquire about discrepancies. It is essential to be responsive and cooperative during this process.

Potential Interviews

In some cases, the IRS may request an interview with you or your representative. The purpose of these interviews is to gather additional information and clarify any uncertainties. It is advisable to prepare thoroughly and seek professional guidance if needed.

Types of IRS Audits and Procedures

The IRS conducts different types of audits, including:

  • Correspondence audits: These audits are conducted through mail and generally involve specific issues or discrepancies.
  • Office audits: In an office audit, you will be asked to visit the local IRS office to provide additional documentation or answer questions.
  • Field audits: Field audits are conducted at your place of business or residence. They are typically more comprehensive and involve a thorough examination of your financial records.

Consequences of an IRS Audit

Possible Outcomes of an Audit

After the audit, the IRS will determine if there are any adjustments to be made to your tax return. There are three possible outcomes:

  1. No change: If the IRS finds no discrepancies or errors, they will conclude the audit with no changes to your tax return.
  2. Additional tax due: If the IRS identifies errors or unreported income, they may assess additional taxes, penalties, and interest.
  3. Refund: In some cases, the audit may result in a refund if the IRS discovers that you overpaid your taxes.
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Penalties and Interest on Tax Deficiencies

If the IRS determines that you owe additional taxes, penalties and interest may be imposed. The penalties can vary depending on the type of error or violation. It is crucial to understand the penalties that may be applicable and work towards resolving any issues promptly.

Impact on Future Tax Returns and Financial Reputation

An IRS audit can have implications beyond the current tax year. If the audit results in changes to your tax return, it may impact future returns as well. Additionally, repeated audits or significant tax deficiencies can raise concerns about your financial reputation.

FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

What should I do if I receive an audit notice from the IRS?

If you receive an audit notice, it is essential to remain calm and take it seriously. Read the notice carefully and follow the instructions provided. It is advisable to consult with a tax professional who can guide you through the audit process.

Can I refuse to comply with an IRS audit?

Refusing to comply with an IRS audit can have severe consequences. It is in your best interest to cooperate and provide the requested documentation. Non-compliance can lead to further scrutiny, penalties, and potential legal action.

How long does an IRS audit typically take?

The duration of an IRS audit can vary depending on various factors, such as the complexity of your tax return and the type of audit being conducted. Simple audits may be resolved within a few months, while more complex audits can take several months or even years to conclude.

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Will an IRS audit trigger a criminal investigation?

While the purpose of an audit is to ensure compliance with tax laws, not all audits result in criminal investigations. However, if the IRS suspects intentional fraud or evasion, they may refer the case for a criminal investigation. It is crucial to be honest and transparent throughout the audit process.

Can I appeal the results of an IRS audit?

If you disagree with the results of an audit, you have the right to appeal. The IRS provides a formal appeals process where you can present your case and provide additional evidence to support your position. Consulting with a tax professional can help you navigate the appeals process effectively.

Can I seek professional help during an IRS audit?

Absolutely! Seeking professional help during an IRS audit can provide valuable guidance and ensure that your rights are protected. Enlisting the assistance of a tax professional, such as a certified public accountant or tax attorney, can help you navigate the complexities of the audit process.


In conclusion, receiving an audit notice from the IRS can be a nerve-wracking experience. However, understanding what happens during an IRS audit and being prepared can help alleviate some of the stress. By cooperating, providing accurate documentation, and seeking professional guidance when needed, you can navigate the audit process with confidence. Remember, staying compliant with tax laws is crucial for your financial well-being and peace of mind.

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