Avoid IRS Tax Audits! Red Flags That Trigger IRS Audits:
- Claiming Business Losses Multiple Years in a Row
When you operate a business and file Schedule C, the IRS assumes you operate that business to make a profit. Claiming losses year after year without any profit raises a red flag with the IRS.
- Failing to Report Form 1099 Income
Don’t underreport your income if you are self-employed or have a second job. The IRS receives the same 1099 forms that you do, and even if you didn’t receive a Form 1099 when you think you should have, you can’t be sure the IRS didn’t either. If the IRS finds a mismatch, you are sure to hear about it.
- Early Withdrawals From a Retirement Account
In general, if you withdraw money from a retirement account before age 59 1/2, you will need to pay a 10 percent penalty. You will also owe income tax on the amount withdrawn unless you qualify for an exception. Sometimes – but not always – these types of early withdrawals trigger an audit, typically a correspondence audit where the IRS sends you a letter.
- Excessive Business Expense Deductions
Too many deductions for your income and type of business could raise a red flag. Always save receipts and document your mileage and expenses.
- Overestimating Charitable Deductions
Taxpayers that don’t itemize can take an above-the-line deduction for charitable contributions made in tax year 2020 on their tax returns of up to $300 for qualified charitable cash donations that reduce taxable income. The maximum amount for 2020 tax returns is $300 (i.e., not $600), even if you are married filing jointly. For taxpayers that do itemize, taking disproportionately large deductions as compared to your income could raise a red flag. The IRS keeps records of average charitable donation at various income levels, and even if you inherited a large sum of money and want to donate it to charity, there’s a chance you could get audited.
- Failing to Report Winnings or Claiming Big Losses
Professional gamblers report winnings/losses on Schedule C. They can also deduct costs related to their profession, such as lodging and meals, for example. Gambling winnings are reported on Form W-2G, which is sent to the IRS. As such, you must report this income. You may deduct gambling losses, but you must itemize your deductions on Schedule A (Form 1040) and keep a record of your winnings and losses.