Whether you're doing taxes for your own business or a client's business, the small – but real – possibility exists for an audit.
Understanding the chances of an audit and what the Internal Revenue Service may pay particular attention to can help you and your client during an audit, if and when one occurs. What are some common triggers that might lead to an audit by the IRS?
Running a Home-Based Business
Operating a business from one's home is becoming more and more common with high-speed Internet. However, the IRS is scrutinizing just how much of a home is actually used for a home office. Per IRS Publication 587, someone claiming a den or single room of their house will be more likely to have the deduction approved versus claiming their entire home. Similarly, the sole room or workspace must be used exclusively for one's business, not for family entertaining or personal storage.
Reporting Business Losses
It is normal and often expected for a business to have losses during the first few years. However, if losses are still reported years after the business' incorporation, the IRS might take a second look.
Higher Income, Higher Audit Chances
On average, the chances of an individual audited by the IRS is about 1 percent. However, the more income reported, the greater the likelihood of an audit. Tax returns showing incomes of $200,000 and more have an increased chance of an audit, about one in every 30. Filers making $1 million or more have an even greater chance of an audit – about 11 percent.
Lopsided and Unsubstantiated Charitable Deductions
Donating and not substantiating a high percentage of one’s income might raise a red flag with the IRS. Giving away half of one's income, not appraising a car or similar valuable donation or forgetting to include IRS Form 8283 might have the IRS requesting an audit.
Major Currency Withdrawals and Deposits
Businesses that make deposits or withdrawals of $10,000 or more may trigger an IRS audit. The IRS gets countless reports of these types of withdrawals every day, and they will naturally pique the interest for an audit.
Bills from medical problems might be deducted if they meet a certain threshold. If medical bills add up to more than 10 percent of a filer's adjusted gross income and they are younger than 65, they might be deductible. However, gym membership fees, nonprescription medications and medical procedures for aesthetic purposes only do not qualify under the rules as medical expenses.
Partially Completed Tax Returns
Whether it's a Social Security number, a signature or a 1099 Form not submitted, the IRS' system and auditors often flag such returns. And sometimes computer or data entry mistakes result in an audit to ensure there are no other errors in the tax return.
Tally Up and Include All 1099s
Staying organized with all types of 1099s will help a tax return go smoother, reducing the chances of accidentally forgetting a 1099 and potentially triggering an audit. Whether it's a 1099-MISC documenting income earned from self-employment, a 1099-INT for earned interest, a 1099-G documenting an income tax refund or another type of 1099, ensuring all necessary 1099s are included will ensure the IRS' system is in agreement with the supplied 1099s.
The IRS can still choose to audit a business' tax returns regardless of the circumstances. However, staying organized, following IRS regulations and maintaining one's own records will help reduce the number of errors – which will make it a much smoother process for all involved during tax time.