Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Tax Deadline: 5 Quick Tips to Avoid an IRS Audit

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Tax Deadline: 5 Quick Tips to Avoid an IRS Audit

Article excerpt

The IRS fails to get 1 of every 6 tax dollars its entitled to, so it's on the lookout for fraud. But there are steps you can before Tuesday's tax deadline to reduce the risk of an audit.

The Internal Revenue Service wants you to pay your taxes - and it's ready to come after you if it suspects you haven't done so.

The vast majority of taxpayers don't get an IRS audit, but about 1 percent do. And the risk of an audit rises if you have a high income or run a business.

It's part of the agency's effort to collect what's due to the US Treasury at a time when an estimated 1 in every 6 tax dollars owed never shows up. The "tax gap" between what is owed and what is paid totaled some $385 billion in 2006, the latest year for which the IRS has attempted an estimate.

"Virtually all major initiatives launched by the IRS since 2008 have been designed to focus on the tax gap through more effective enforcement or improved service to taxpayers," the agency said in a January press release.

In other words, the IRS is dangling some "carrots" (trying to make it easier for honest filers to pay what they owe) as well as "sticks," such as audits and other collection efforts.

To some extent, your risk of an audit simply is what it is. If you run a home-based business and have a lot of deductions, your chances of getting questioned by an IRS agent are a lot higher than if your only income is listed on a W-2 from Ford Motor Co.

But you can also help yourself, tax experts say, by not rushing to push the "send" button or to drop your return in the mail. A few moments of double checking can sometimes reduce the risk of an audit, or save you some money if you catch a mistake.

Here are some steps to consider:

1. Check your math. When IRS computers scan through millions of tax returns and flag the ones most likely to contain under-reported tax obligations, one of the red-flag issues can be math errors. Also check the basic facts, like listing your Social Security number correctly.

2. Report your income. Check that you've reported your income, which can include not only wages but also things like investment income and jury duty pay. Remember that, in addition to income for which you receive a W-2 or 1099 form, things like tips and proceeds from sales activity on eBay also classify as taxable income. …

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