Just 0.45 percent of taxpayers were audited in the fiscal year 2019. Still, with taxes becoming more complicated every year, there is an even greater possibility of confusion turning into a tax mistake and an IRS audit. Avoiding “red flags” like the ones listed below could help.
Red Flags That Trigger IRS Audits
- Claiming Business Losses Year After Year
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
Resist the temptation to 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 You will also owe income tax on the amount withdrawn unless you qualify for an exception.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.
- Hobby Losses
Income derived from a hobby such as operating a vineyard or breeding horses must be reported on your return. Expenses are deductible up to the amount of that income. On the other hand, you can only deduct losses if you run your hobby like a business, i.e., with a reasonable expectation of making a profit. Most hobbies that make a profit in three years out of five are considered a business.