Vernoia, Enterline + Brewer, CPA LLC

Posts tagged ‘audited by the IRS’

IRS Tips to Determine If The IRS Is At Your Door

The Internal Revenue Service has created a special new page on IRS.gov to help taxpayers determine if a person visiting their home or place of business claiming to be from the IRS is legitimate or an impostor. (more…)

So You Just Filed Your Taxes – Could an Audit Be Next?

Like many people, you probably feel a great sense of relief wash over you after your tax return is completed and filed. Unfortunately, even professionally prepared and accurate returns may sometimes be subject to an IRS audit. (more…)

Latest IRS Data Book gives insight into audit activities

audit_stampThe IRS has issued its annual Data Book for fiscal year (FY) 2015, which provides statistical information on activities such as examinations and collections conducted by the IRS from October 1, 2014 to September 30, 2015. For FY 2015, the Data Book shows the total number of audits conducted by the IRS was 1.37 million, down from the 1.38 million examined in FY 2014. (more…)

IRS reports decline in audit coverage following budget shortfalls

The IRS budget has suffered significant funding cuts to the past few fiscal year (FY) budgets. Most recently, IRS Commissioner John Koskinen told reporters that the IRS has been forced to absorb a $346 million cut to its FY 2015 budget. Such drastic reductions directly impact the IRS’s ability to enforce the nation’s tax laws. This became evident after the IRS issued its annual Data Book for FY 2014. (The Data Book provides statistical information on examinations, collections, taxpayer assistance, and other activities.) This year, the Data Book indicated that IRS audit rates have fallen for individuals and large corporate taxpayers between FY 2013 and FY 2014. On the other hand, the audit rate for partnerships increased slightly, ostensibly as a result of the IRS’s recent policy favoring more audits of this long-neglected sector.

Exam coverage: individuals

Individual returns filed in 2013, including both business and nonbusiness taxpayers, were audited at just under an overall 0.9 percent rate during FY 2014, based on more than 145.2 million individual returns filed. The audit rate for individuals in all income categories declined from FY 2013 to FY 2014. The drop was highest for taxpayers with income between $1 and $5 million. The audit rate for this category of taxpayers dropped by nearly three percentage points.

Individual business tax returns with and without the earned income credit (other than farm returns), were audited at a 1.59-percent rate, based on 679,093 audited returns out of nearly 42.7 million filed. This represents a decline from the 1.78 rate from FY 2013, based on 759,179 audited returns out of nearly 42.7 million filed.

Exam coverage: corporations

The IRS examined nearly 1.35 percent of all corporate returns (other than S corps) during FY 2014, based on a total of nearly 1.92 million returns and 25,905 examinations. The IRS reported that during FY 2014 it recommended more than $17.1 billion in additions to tax for corporate returns. The additions to tax recommended for returns filed by corporate taxpayers with more than $20 billion in assets comprised approximately 50.6 percent of the total additions to tax. Large corporations with total assets between $5 billion and $20 billion experienced an audit rate of only 44 percent, representing a dramatic decrease from FY 2012 when the audit rate for this same category of taxpayer was nearly 61 percent.

Exam coverage: partnerships

Partnerships and S corps filed a total of approximately 8.4 million returns during FY 2014, a slight increase from FY 2013 when these types of entities filed 8.3 million returns. In addition, the audit rate increased slightly from 0.42 percent in FY 2013 to 0.43 percent for FY 2014. By contrast, the audit rate for all types of businesses fell slightly from 0.61 percent in FY 2013 to 0.57 percent in FY 2014. This trend is likely to continue as IRS officials have recently announced that the agency intends to concentrate more heavily on partnership audits in the future.

Commissioner Koskinen noted in the 2014 Data Book that during FY 2014, the IRS had audited tax returns of about 1.2 million individuals, nearly 12 percent less than the previous year. The figure was, in fact, the lowest it has been since FY 2005. Despite this, the IRS admitted that it had managed to hold steady the number of tax returns processed (approximately 240 million) and amount of revenue collected (approximately $3.1 trillion). However, the IRS estimated that as a result of the enforcement cuts, the federal government likely will lose an estimated $2 billion in revenue that otherwise would have been collected.

Guidelines for keeping good records for tax season and beyond

Good recordkeeping is essential for individuals and businesses before, during, and after the tax filing season.

First, the law actually requires taxpayers to retain certain records for a specified number of years, for example tax returns or employment tax records (for employers).

Second, good record is essential for taxpayers while preparing their tax returns. The Tax Code frequently requires taxpayers to substantiate their income and claims for deductions and credits by providing records of various profits, expenses and transactions.

Third, if a taxpayer is ever audited by the IRS, good recordkeeping can facilitate what could be along and invasive process, and it can often mean the difference between a no change and a hefty adjustment. Finally, business taxpayers should maintain good records that will enable them to track the trajectory of their success over the years.

Here you will find a sample list of various types of records it would be wise to retain for tax and other purposes (not an exhaustive list; see this office for further customization to your particular situation):

Individuals

Filing status:

Marriage licenses or divorce decrees – Among other things, such records are important for determining filing status.

Determining/Substantiating income:

State and federal income tax returns – Tax records should be retained for at least three years, the length of the statute of limitations for audits and amending returns. However, in cases where the IRS determines a substantial understatement of tax or fraud, the statute of limitations is longer or can remain open indefinitely.

Paystubs, Forms W-2 and 1099, Pension Statements, Social Security Statements – These statements are essential for taxpayers determining their earned income on their tax returns. Taxpayers should also cross reference their wage and income reports with their final pay stubs to verify that their employer has reported the correct amount of income to the IRS.

Tip diary or other daily tip record – Taxpayers that receive some of their income from tips should keep a daily record of their tip income. Under the best circumstances, taxpayers would have already accurately reported their tip income to their employers, who would then report that amount to the IRS. However, mistakes can occur, and good recordkeeping can eliminate confusion when tax season arrives.

 

Military records – Some members of the military are exempt from state and/or federal tax; combat pay is exempt from taxation, as are veteran’s benefits. (In many cases, a record of military service is necessary to obtain veteran’s benefits in the first place.)

Copies of real estate purchase documents – Up to $500,000 of gain from the sale of a personal residence may be excludable from income (generally up to $250,000 if you are single). But if you own a home that sold for an amount that produces a greater amount of gain, or if you own real estate that is not used as your personal residence, you will need these records to prove your tax basis in your home; the greater your basis, the lower the amount of gain that must be recognized.

Individual Retirement Account (IRA) records – Funds contributed to Roth IRAs and traditional IRAs and the earnings thereon receive different tax treatments upon distribution, depending in part on when the distribution was made, what amount of the contributions were tax deferred when made, and other factors that make good recordkeeping desirable.

Investment purchase confirmation records – Long-term capital gains receive more favorable tax treatment than short-term capital gains. In addition, basis (generally the cost of certain investments when purchased) can be subtracted from gain from any sale. For these reasons, taxpayers should keep records of their investment purchase confirmations.

Substantiating deductions:

Acknowledgments of charitable donations – Cash contributions to charity cannot be deducted without a bank record, receipt, or other means. Charitable contributions of $250 or more must be substantiated by a contemporaneous written acknowledgment from the qualified organization that also meets the IRS requirements.

Cash payments of alimony – Payments of alimony may be deductible from the gross income of the paying spouse . . . if the spouse can substantiate the payments.

Medical records – Disabled taxpayers under the age of 65 should keep a written statement from a qualified physician certifying they were totally disabled on the date of retirement.

Records of medical expenses – Certain unreimbursed medical expenses in excess of 10 percent of adjusted gross income may be deductible.

Current health insurance policy – The new health care law requires most individuals to obtain minimum essential health coverage. If your employer has not provided you with records of coverage because you have your own policy, or for some other reason, you should be able to substantiate the amount of your coverage.

Mortgage statements and mortgage insurance  – Mortgage interest, premiums paid toward mortgage insurance, and real estate taxes are generally deductible for taxpayers who itemize rather than claim the standard deduction.

Receipts for any improvements to real estate – Part or all of the expense of certain energy efficient real estate improvements can qualify taxpayers for one or more tax credits.

Keeping so many records can be tedious, but come tax season it can result in large tax savings. And in the case of an audit, evidence of good recordkeeping can get you off to a good start with the IRS examiner handling the case, can save time, and can also save money. For more information on recordkeeping for individuals, please contact our offices.

Businesses

 

Taxpayers are required by law to keep permanent books of account or records that sufficiently substantiate the amount of gross income, deductions, credits and other amounts reported and claimed on any their tax returns and information returns.

Although, neither the Tax Code nor its regulations specify exactly what kinds of records satisfy the record-keeping requirements, here are a few suggestions:

State and federal income tax returns – These and any supporting documents should be kept for at least the period of limitations for each return. As with individual taxpayers, the limitations period for business tax returns may be extended in the event of a substantial understatement or fraud.

Employment taxes – The Tax Code requires employers to keep all records of employment taxes for at least four years after filing for the 4th quarter for the year. Generally these records would include wage payments and other payroll-related records, the amount of employment taxes withheld, reported tip income, identification information for employees and other payees; employees’ dates of employment; income tax withholding allowance certificates (Forms W-4, for example), fringe benefit payments, and more.

Business income – These would go toward substantiating income, and could include cash register tapes, bank deposit slips, a cash receipts journal, annual financial statements, Forms 1099, and more.

Inventory costs – Businesses should keep records of inventory purchases. For example, if an electronics company purchases a certain number of widgets for resale or a manufacturer purchases a certain number of ball bearings for use in the production of industrial equipment that it manufactures and sells. The costs of these goods, parts, or other materials can be deducted from sales income to significantly reduce tax liability.

Business expenses – Ordinary and necessary expenses for carrying on business, such as the cost of rental office space, are also generally deductable from business income. Such expenses can be substantiated through bank statements, canceled checks, credit card receipts or other such records. The cost of making certain improvements to a business, such as through buying equipment or renovating property, can also be deductible.

Electronic back-up

Paper records can take up a great deal of storage space, and they are also vulnerable to destruction in fires, floods, earthquakes, or other natural phenomena. Because records are required to substantiate most income, deductions, property values and more—even when they no longer exist—taxpayers (and especially business taxpayers) should digitize their records on an electronic storage system and keep a back-up copy in a secure location.

Business taxation can be extremely complicated, and the requirements for recordkeeping vary greatly depending on the size of the business, the form of organization chosen, and the type of industry in which the business operates. For more details on your specific situation, please call our offices.