Nina Olson, the National Taxpayer Advocate comments on Internal Revenue Service (IRS) audits or examinations.

IRS audits, or examinations, can be done through correspondence examinations, office or field audits. Correspondence examinations is where the IRS sends you a notice or letter in response to a single item or group of items requiring additional explanation. Office audits is where you appear before an IRS examiner and are asked specific questions with regards to tax returns you have filed.

Roughly 80% of IRS audits are currently done through correspondence examinations. In most cases, the IRS letter details what the IRS audit covers and describes the documentation required to support the position you’ve taken on your return.

It is always important that you read and respond to IRS notices. The IRS will complete the examination of your return even if you do not respond. As a result, the IRS will adjust your return, almost always unfavorably, and take steps to collect taxes that may be due.

To find out more information regarding IRS audits and your taxpayer rights, you can also read

  • IRS Publication 1, Your Rights as a Taxpayer, which explains the audit process and describes your rights, including the IRS appeal process if you disagree with what the IRS thinks you owe.
  • IRS Publication 3498-A, The Examination Process (Examinations by Mail), which give an overview of the Appeals Process and most common payment options available.
The Taxpayer Advocate Service (TAS)  is an independent, branch or division of the IRS. By design, the TAS is designed to assist taxpayers who have already exhausted their normal procedures to resolve IRS problems and have been unsuccessful. If you have not already followed the general procedures required to solve your IRS problems, you should not be contacting the TAS for assistance.
Contacting a qualified tax representative, or the IRS is always your first step when receiving an IRS audit notice.  A knowledgeable, experienced representative can help you prepare for your examination, review and assess any exposure you may have. The key to winning an IRS audit always centers on preparation – knowing what the examiner will be looking for and how to respond appropriately. Who knows – you may even find that you overpaid your taxes.