The Yearly Journey of 1,000 Steps: It’s Tax Season and I Can Do Better

journeyAh, mid-February- that time of year when my postman provides a daily barrage of tax documents, and scolds me for not retrieving them quickly enough. When it finally becomes apparent that he can no longer jam another rumpled envelope into my overflowing mail slot I know it’s time to file my taxes. While this annual ritual often yields a financial reward in the form of a tax refund, there is clearly a higher purpose for the enormous pile of paper. Note to self: my inner guilt will be quelled; this year I will make better use of tax time, and so can you. Continue reading

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7 Red Flags that May Trigger a Tax Audit

Tax Audit.  Just saying the words is enough to make most people cringe.  With the April Red Flag15th tax-filing deadline rapidly approaching, we’re going to discuss the red flags that could trigger a tax audit.

Sometimes audits are chosen as part of a random sample.  The rest of the time, there are a number of things you can avoid doing so as not to raise red flags.  In order to avoid the likelihood of a government audit, follow these guidelines:

  1. Report all of your income.  Make sure to file any 1099s received (from brokerage houses, miscellaneous income).  The government conducts a matching audit from the payers with what you report: discrepancies are a red flag that will trigger an audit.
  2. A major red flag is if your business (owned) has had a loss for more than 2 out of 5 years.  A business must satisfy rule of profitability (3 of 5 years) to avoid being considered a hobby (in which your profit motives are called into question).
  3. Avoid situations where someone might call the IRS.  For example, situations may arise with disgruntled former employees (i.e. recently fired) or spouses (i.e. in the middle of a divorce) acting as whistleblowers.
  4. Do not exaggerate your expenses.  Claiming too much for deductions (medical, charity, miscellaneous) and not having substantiation for those types of expenses can be a major red flag for the IRS.
  5. Additionally, if your deductions are much higher than average for your income level in your geographic area, a deviation from the mean could trigger an IRS examination.
  6. If you’re in a cash-basis business, it is crucial to be especially careful in properly reporting your income and expenses.
  7. Avoid consistently filing returns late or paying your taxes late.  This is one of the most sure-fire ways to trigger an examination.

Ultimately it is your responsibility to make sure that your return is filed accurately and correctly (even if a CPA files for you).  Make sure never to ignore any sort of letter from the government (and if you do get correspondence from the government, make sure to follow proper procedure as to how to respond).  If you need an extension of time, you can ask for it.  You may want to consider hiring a CPA for handling any audits/examinations.

As you’re preparing your returns for this year, check this list of red flags and make sure to set yourself up for success in avoiding a tax audit.

If you have any questions, contact us.