Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

AP Exclusive: Likely Tax Cheats Flock South, West

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

AP Exclusive: Likely Tax Cheats Flock South, West

Article excerpt

WASHINGTON * Worried the Internal Revenue Service might target you for an audit? You probably should be if you own a small business in one of the wealthy suburbs of Los Angeles.

You might also be wary if you're a small-business owner in one of dozens of communities near San Francisco, Houston, Atlanta or the District of Columbia.

A new study by the National Taxpayer Advocate used confidential IRS data to show large clusters of potential tax cheats in these five metropolitan areas. The IRS uses the information to target taxpayers for audits.

The taxpayer advocate, Nina Olsen, runs an independent office within the IRS. She got access to the data as part of an effort to learn more about why some taxpayers are more likely to cheat than others.

The study also looked at tax compliance in different industries, and found that people who own construction companies or real estate rental firms may be more likely to fudge their taxes than business owners in other fields.

Many of the communities identified by the study are very wealthy, including Beverly Hills and Newport Beach in California. Others are more middle class, such as New Carrollton, Md., a Washington suburb, and College Park, Ga., home to a section of Atlanta's massive airport.

Steve Rosansky, president and CEO of the Newport Beach Chamber of Commerce, said business owners in his city are probably targeted because many have high incomes. The likelihood of an audit does increase with income, according to IRS data.

"I imagine it's just a matter of them going where they think the money's at," Rosansky said in an interview. "I guess if I was running the IRS I'd probably do the same thing."

The study focused on owners of small businesses sole proprietorships, to be specific because they have more opportunity than the typical individual to cheat on their taxes. Many small businesses deal in cash while most individuals get paid in wages that are reported to the IRS. …

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