If you keep tidy paperwork and have adequate evidence to support the numbers you report on your tax returns, you’ll generally be fine if you are among the few who are audited this year. That said, most people don’t want to deal with that kind of hassle, and it can be a stressful event in any case. To minimize your chances of being audited, the following pointers may help.
Make Sure You File
First off, if you have filed a return in the last year, you’ll want to keep doing so, even if you have nothing to report. If you do, there’s a higher chance that the IRS will contact you with some questions.
In addition, you’ll want to file on time. While you can get an extension (and there are often good reasons to do so), you should still make sure you’re filling out the proper paperwork and—more importantly—paying any taxes owed on time.
A very practical tip is to be as neat as possible. If your tax documents are hard to read, incomplete, or simply messy, you’ll stand a higher chance of being contacted by the IRS. While the ensuing audit may not be completely unpleasant, it’s still better to avoid getting that letter in the first place.
When filling out your return, be sure to write legibly in each space. Don’t skip fields either; even if you just write a -0- or a dash, it’s still better to make sure the entire form is filled out.
If you have atrocious handwriting, you might consider filling out documents electronically. Doing so will allow you to type your entries in, and it gives you the flexibility of filing online as well.
In connection with being neat and complete as you fill out your tax forms, you’ll need to double-check to make absolutely certain you have no errors on the documents. Check and recheck your math—and use a calculator to make sure—in order to avoid raising any eyebrows.
Include Proof for Significant Changes
If your tax return this year looks significantly different from last year’s, it may trigger an audit. The IRS uses a software system called the Discriminate Income Function (DIF) to check your tax return against those of others in similar income situations.
If either the DIF system or an agent finds that there are significant differences between this year’s return and those of previous years or of other people, they may contact you to clarify your situation. However, if you have included enough documentation to support those differences, then they’ll be less likely to audit you.
Rely on a Qualified Tax Professional
One final pointer is to rely on a qualified tax professional, especially if you have a more complex tax situation. Ideally, the person you choose should be deeply familiar with the tax code and be fully qualified to represent you in the event of an audit.
A tax attorney or other professional can help you make sure all documentation is completed correctly, and they can even help you reduce the total amount of tax you owe. As such, they’re frequently worth the investment.