What to Expect in an IRS Audit

An IRS audit can be a daunting and stressful experience for taxpayers. It is important to understand what to expect during this process to ensure compliance and minimize potential penalties. Here is a guide to help you navigate through an IRS audit and what you can expect:

1. Selection for Audit: The IRS selects tax returns for audit based on various factors, including discrepancies, random selection, or being linked to another audit. If your return is selected, you will receive a notice from the IRS specifying the type of audit and the items they will review.

2. Type of Audit: There are three main types of IRS audits: correspondence audit, office audit, and field audit. Correspondence audits are conducted via mail, while office and field audits require in-person meetings with an IRS agent.

3. Preparation: Once you receive the audit notice, it is crucial to gather and organize all relevant documents and records to support the items being audited. This includes receipts, bank statements, invoices, and any other documents related to your income, deductions, and credits.

4. Meeting with an IRS Agent: If your audit requires an in-person meeting, you will be contacted by an IRS agent to schedule an appointment. This meeting can take place at your home, place of business, or at an IRS office. It is essential to be prepared and have all requested documentation readily available.

5. Scope of Audit: The IRS will specify the items they will review in your audit notice. This could involve a particular deduction, credit, or income reported on your tax return. However, the IRS may expand the audit scope if they uncover additional discrepancies or red flags during the process.

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6. Communication: Throughout the audit, it is crucial to maintain open and honest communication with the IRS agent assigned to your case. Respond promptly to any requests for information or clarification, and provide accurate and complete answers to their questions.

7. Resolution: After reviewing your documentation and conducting any necessary interviews, the IRS will determine if adjustments or additional taxes are owed. If discrepancies are found, you will receive a proposed adjustment letter outlining the changes and any resulting penalties or interest.

8. Appealing the Results: If you disagree with the proposed adjustments, you have the right to appeal the decision within a certain timeframe. This involves submitting a written protest to the IRS, explaining your disagreement and providing supporting evidence. The appeal process can be complex, and it is advisable to consult with a tax professional or attorney for guidance.


1. How long does an IRS audit take?
The duration of an IRS audit varies depending on its complexity. Some audits can be resolved within a few weeks, while others may take several months or even years.

2. What triggers an IRS audit?
Various factors can trigger an IRS audit, including mathematical errors, unusually high deductions, substantial changes in income, or being linked to another audit.

3. Can I refuse an IRS audit?
You cannot refuse an IRS audit if your return has been selected. Failure to comply with the audit process can result in penalties and further legal action.

4. Can I negotiate with the IRS during an audit?
While you cannot negotiate the amount of tax owed during an audit, you can provide explanations, supporting documents, and argue your case if you disagree with the proposed adjustments.

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5. Will I be penalized if mistakes are found in my tax return during an audit?
If the IRS finds mistakes in your tax return during an audit, you may be subject to penalties and interest on the additional taxes owed. The severity of the penalties depends on the nature and extent of the errors.

6. Can I request an extension to gather necessary documentation for an audit?
In some cases, you may be able to request an extension to gather the required documentation for an audit. However, it is crucial to communicate with the IRS agent assigned to your case and obtain their approval.

7. What are my rights during an IRS audit?
Taxpayers have certain rights during an IRS audit, including the right to professional and courteous treatment, representation, and the right to appeal the results.

8. Should I hire a tax professional to represent me during an audit?
While it is not mandatory to have representation during an audit, hiring a tax professional, such as a Certified Public Accountant or tax attorney, can provide you with expert guidance, ensuring that your rights are protected and that you are well-prepared for the audit process.

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