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  • Robert Nath

Audits and Appeals

Updated: Mar 14, 2022

How does the audit and appeal system work?

It starts (generally) with the tax return you filed. If the IRS selects that return for examination, it can propose more taxes and/or penalties. The process can be quick, for example by an IRS notice of proposed amounts due (very common), or “correspondence audit “(less common), or office or field audit.

If you agree, you sign papers and pay the extra taxes and possibly penalties. If you disagree, you have the right to “appeal” the agent’s proposed tax additions to the “Independent Office of Appeals.” This is a separate sub-agency within the IRS that is tasked to settle cases based on “hazards of litigation,” that is, the chances the IRS might lose the case if it went to court. The Appeals office has been around for decades. In the past 20 years or so, the law has given it much more power over tax cases. It’s job is to try to settle.

If you can’t agree with Appeals, you can go to court, usually the United States Tax Court. Audits can take anywhere from a few months to years. Appeals to the Independent Office of Appeals can take the same range of time.

Check,,id=98196,00.html for more information on the Independent Office of Appeals.

How did the IRS select my return for audit?

The IRS audits most returns are audited based on a scoring system known as “DIF” – Discriminant Information Function. That’s a fancy phrase for scoring your return based on “audit potential.” The agency selects other returns based on related audits, math errors, and other reasons.

Who has the burden of proof in an audit?

You do, in the vast majority of cases. That’s the law; the IRS can ask for proof of your income or deductions, and absent your proof to the contrary, it can make reasonable proposals of additional income or disallow deductions, and you are stuck with the results.

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