The Examination (Audit) Process
FS-2006-10, January 2006
The IRS examines (audits) tax returns to verify that the tax reported is correct.
Selecting a return for examination does not always suggest that the taxpayer has either made an error or been dishonest. In fact, some examinations result in a refund to the taxpayer or acceptance of the return without change.
The overwhelming majority of taxpayers files returns and make payments timely and accurately. Taxpayers have a right to expect fair and efficient tax administration from the IRS, including verification that taxes are correctly reported and paid with enforcement actions against those who fail to comply voluntarily.
The IRS trains its employees to explain and protect taxpayersâ€™ rights throughout their contacts with taxpayers. These rights include:
How Returns Are Selected for Examination
The IRS selects returns using a variety of methods, including:
An examination may be conducted by mail or through an in-person interview and review of the taxpayer's records. The interview may be at an IRS office (office audit) or at the taxpayer's home, place of business, or accountant's office (field audit). Taxpayers may make audio recordings of interviews, provided they give the IRS advance notice. If the time, place, or method that the IRS schedules is not convenient, the taxpayer may request a change, including a change to another IRS office if the taxpayer has moved or business records are there.
The audit notification letter tells which records will be needed. Taxpayers may act on their own behalf or have someone represent or accompany them. If the taxpayer is not present, the representative must have proper written authorization. The auditor will explain the reason for any proposed changes. Most taxpayers agree to the changes and the audits end at that level.
Appeal Rights are explained by the examiner at the beginning of each audit. Taxpayers who do not agree with the proposed changes may appeal by having a supervisory conference with the examinerâ€™s manager or appeal their case administratively within the IRS, to the U.S. Tax Court, U.S. Claims Court or the local U.S. District Court. If there is no agreement at the closing conference with the examiner or the examinerâ€™s manager, the taxpayer has 30 days to consider the proposed adjustments and their next course of action. If the taxpayer does not respond within 30 days, the IRS issues a statutory notice of deficiency, which gives the taxpayer 90 days to file a petition to the Tax Court. The Claims Court and District Court generally do not hear tax cases until after the tax is paid and administrative refund claims have been denied by the IRS. The tax does not have to be paid to appeal within the IRS or to the Tax Court. A case may be further appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals or to the Supreme Court, if those courts accept the case.