Tag Archives: small business audits

Small Business Accounting Advice: Avoid Red Flags That May Lead to an Audit (Continued for 2019)

It’s not a pleasant topic. Business owners hate them. Accountants despise them.

We are speaking of small business accounting audits, of course. We blogged about this topic in 2016. It can be one of the most agonizing experiences of your life. Certainly, and we are being candid here, it is not enjoyable or without its stresses.

The good news is this: According to the IRS, just over 1 million individual income tax returns were audited in 2016. That is only a 0.7% tax audit rate which is the lowest in more than ten years.

There are three types of IRS audits:

  1. Correspondence (letter): information requested through the mail
  2. Office audit: visit the IRS office for the audit
  3. Field: IRS agent comes to your business to perform the audit.

So, no matter how you are audited, the likelihood of you or your company being audited are pretty slim.

However, if your tax returns have some “questionable” records, you may see the IRS auditor looking at you through the peephole early on a Saturday morning. Here are some red flags to avoid so you won’t be audited:

  1. File late consistently: If there is any tax filing behavior that will get you in trouble, it’s filing late, year after year. The IRS begins to wonder why it takes you so long to file even though you know it is due in April every year. Be smart: start working on your tax documents and records in January. File them by April 15 or, better yet, before that date.
  2. A large number of deductions: Tax deductions allowed by law are fine. However, a large number of deductions for a small business may draw some suspicion. Instead, be consistent on your deductions. Do the same ones each year, if appropriate, for your returns. The IRS has a rule for deductions: They must be ordinary and necessary in your type of business.
  3. Excessive business vehicle use: Claiming 100% business use of a vehicle will bring the magnifying glass from the IRS. Instead, use the IRS standard mileage rate. Don’t deduct both the business use and mileage. Don’t claim 100% business use unless you can prove that by showing every single business trip you made.
  4. Failing to report taxable income: HUGE MISTAKE. Small business owners are required to report all of their income. Don’t ever hold back on income reporting.
  5. Schedule C Filings: A schedule C Form 1040 allows sole proprietors to take deductions. You can deduct items like monthly cell phone bills, home office space, website subscriptions, and other items. It may get you audited if your items are questionable.
  6. Donations in large sums for charity: We all appreciate businesses which donate to charities. It is a noble practice. However, a large sum that is given to non-profits might appear suspicious to the IRS. A common practice of some businesses is to give lots of money to charity to avoid paying taxes on it.
  7. Unusually high salaries for employees: Be careful that you pay reasonable salaries. High-income earners who are also shareholders may bring questions from the IRS.

No one wants to be audited. The IRS probably doesn’t like to do it either, as they are costly and require extra labor. It’s not a positive experience for anyone involved. So, avoid these filing red flags and do your best to file your taxes. It will decrease stress and costs, for sure.

If you need small business accounting help and guidance, contact our experienced tax advisor team at A.K. Burton, PC. We provide the services that you need. We can advise you, talk to the IRS for you, handle your IRS tax correspondence, and help you file your taxes accurately and efficiently. Taxes can be overwhelming, let us make it manageable. We serve the Bethesda, Maryland and Washington, D.C. area. Call for an appointment at (301) 365-1974 or email us at info@cpamaryland.com.