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Types of IRS Audits

Jun 18, 2024 | IRS

Receiving notice from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) that you’ve been selected for an audit can be stressful and overwhelming. However, receiving a notice does not necessarily show any wrongdoing. IRS audits can be targetted or can be random — the IRS conducts routine audits to verify tax returns and ensure accuracy in taxpayer reporting. The following are three common types of IRS audits taxpayers should know:

Mail Audit

The IRS regularly conducts audits by mail. Also called correspondence audits, these audits occur when the IRS sends a letter asking for more information from you to verify the accuracy of your tax return. With a mail audit, the IRS may ask for more information regarding many items on your tax return, including: 

  • Income
  • Expenses
  • Itemized deductions
  • Credits
  • Missing forms

Since all the documents you will be asked to present should have been used while preparing your tax return, a mail audit does not require you to produce anything new. The IRS may request receipts, bills, canceled checks, legal papers, loan agreements, logs, employment documents, or other information. If you have too many records to send through the mail, you can ask for an in-person audit. By law, you must retain all documents used in preparing your tax return for at least three years from the date the return was filed. As a bit of advice, I would maintain all such records for seven years.

If you disagree with the audit findings, you may be eligible to file an appeal if you are within the statute of limitations. 

Field Audit

A field audit is the most comprehensive IRS audit. In contrast with a correspondence audit, when a field audit is conducted, an IRS agent will visit your home, place of business, or accountant’s office to examine your records. If you’ve been selected for a field audit, the IRS will send a letter informing you of the date, time, and location where it will be held. 

Typically, a field audit involves reviewing the financial records of a business, interviewing employees, and touring the company’s facility. This is meant to help the IRS understand the company’s management structure, internal controls, and procedures for accounting. While a field audit can last from one day to a week, the length of the audit will depend on the complexity of the issues and the information being requested.  

Office Audit

An IRS office audit – or desk audit – requires you to meet with an IRS agent at a local IRS office. This audit is more comprehensive than a correspondence audit, but less detailed than a field audit — they are conducted to ensure taxpayers are reporting their income and deductions correctly. Office audits usually only cover a select number of issues that have been identified by the IRS in a written notice. A taxpayer may be selected at random for an office audit in connection with the IRS’s routine compliance efforts. However, an office audit may also be requested if the IRS suspects errors due to mismatched documents or based on its examination of a return.   

Contact an Experienced New York Tax Attorney

If you’ve been selected for an IRS audit, it’s essential to have a knowledgeable tax attorney by your side who can guide you through the process. Offering reliable counsel to individual taxpayers, businesses, entrepreneurs, and corporations, Brinen & Associates represents clients for a wide variety of tax matters at both the state and federal levels, including those involving audits. Call (212) 330-8151 or send us a message to learn more about how we can assist you.


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