IRS Audits

Her Majesty, the Snoop

Getting audited by the IRS is rarely anyone's spot of tea — unless, of course, you're the auditor. But at least our IRS "plays fair" and uses your actual return to decide whether to audit you. Not so for the folks at Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs Service across the pond!

Here in the former colonies, the IRS uses statistical analysis to find most of their audit targets. Every return gets a super-secret score called a Discriminant Information Function, or "DIF." The higher your DIF, the more potential the IRS sees for bringing in additional taxes in an audit. So, with limited resources available for auditing returns, the IRS naturally strives to audit the higher-scoring returns first. (It's like why Willie Sutton robbed banks — because that's where the money was!) Generally, small businesses organized as sole proprietorships face the greatest chance of audit — as high as 4% or more — because they have the greatest opportunity to under-report income and overstate deductions.

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If you don't take care of your taxes, you risk some pretty expensive fines and penalties. Some of those amounts are fixed, like $89 per partner per month for failing to file your partnership return. Others are based on the actual tax due, like the 10% penalty for failing to file employment taxes. If the IRS has to come after you, they can slap liens on your home or other property. They can impose levies to pluck back taxes from your paycheck, your bank account, or your retirement plan. They can even seize your assets and auction them to collect their pound of flesh.

Having said all that, would it surprise you to learn that there's someone with a "Get Out of Jail Free" card for not paying his taxes? Would it surprise you even more to learn that it's Uncle Sam himself?

The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration ("TIGTA") is an independent board that oversees the IRS. Their job is to audit, investigate, and inspect the tax system itself, as well as to prevent and detect fraud, waste, and abuse within the IRS and related entities. Last month, the TIGTA issued a report with a bland and vague title: A Concerted Effort Should Be Taken to Improve Federal Government Agency Tax Compliance. But that deceptively bureaucratic name masks a pretty outrageous conclusion: