Many of standard and straightforward tax deductions will not undergo much scrutiny from the IRS. However, some red flag deductions can make you an easy target for the IRS and increase the chances of you getting an IRS audit notice. Some of the deduction items that can make you an easy audit candidate are:
The IRS uses a Discrimination Information Function (DIF) score to identify suspicious tax returns. The score has been measured by a compilation of statistics for years that shows an average correlation between incomes, tax credits, and tax deductions. Therefore, if you claim tax deductions that do not correspond to your income level, chances are, the IRS will be mailing you with a tax audit notice. One of the common areas where people get audited is if one makes a large donation that is not proportional to one’s income. Therefore, if you have claimed large deductions, ensure that you have sufficient documentation of the expenses, just in case you are selected for an IRS audit.
Rules of Deductions
Various tax deductions will come with precise rules and guidelines. You need to ensure that the deduction you are claiming meets all the IRS’s rules. You can find the guidelines on the IRS website to find out more details on what, how, and how much you are allowed to claim on certain deductions. Some rules can get tricky and technical, so you may need the assistance of a tax professional to know whether you qualify for certain deductions.
Proof of Deductions
Tax deductions generally require some level of verification. Some proof documentation can include pictures of your home office, testimonials, an affidavit, or any other evidence to support the deduction. Ensure that you can provide proof in some way before claiming a deduction, as some deductions are hard to prove with standard documentation. A good example is your business-car mileage at the end of a given tax year.
Red Flag Deductions
Some tax deductions are considered as red-flags, just by their sheer nature. Entertainment expenses (pertaining to businesses) for a self-employed taxpayer is an easy “misuse” deduction and Uncle Sam will definitely give such claims a second look. Other commonly misused deductions that are common targets for IRS audits include claims for meals, travel expenses, and work related clothing expenses. When making such claims, ensure that they are reasonable and are backed up with support documentation.
Business/Personal Use Deductions
Another area of common scrutiny by the IRS is with differentiating between business and personal expenses. This mainly affects home businesses and car expense deductions. For example, a taxpayer is allowed to deduct car expenses relating to a business. However, travel from the home to the office is not considered a business expense and will be considered as personal-use mileage only. For people who have a home business or taxpayers who have a rental property that they also use for personal purposes, precise and clear allocation of expenses needs to be shown to avoid an audit.
Ensure That You Claim Deductions
As much as this article impels you to be careful with tax deductions to avoid IRS audits, by no means should you avoid or refrain from taking the full advantage of them. You can seek assistance from a tax professional to determine what and how much of deductions you can claim. Indeed, some of the deductions are so complex that there are more gray areas than clear guidelines. Nevertheless, you can always take a turned-down deduction to tax court. For example, an exotic dancer who had undergone a breast enlargement procedure claimed it as a business expense. The IRS rejected the claim, but when the issue was taken to tax court, they ruled that the surgery was indeed, a business expense and that the dancer had the right to claim it in her taxes. The judge noted that having the surgery increased her ability to earn income for her trade.