Most Commonly Asked Tax Related & IRS FAQ's

1.  Is there a time limit as to how far back the IRS can go to audit a return?

             Yes; the general rule is the IRS may audit any tax return within three (3) years from the date of filing including extensions and late filings.  It is possible under certain limited circumstances for the IRS to extend the statute of limitations to six (6) years.  However, in those instances the burden of proving the inaccuracy of a return generally shifts to the IRS, while under the three-year statute of limitations the burden of proving the accuracy of the return rests with the taxpayer.

 2.  Can a taxpayer be represented by a tax professional during an audit?

             Yes; every taxpayer has the right to be represented by persons that are admitted to practice before the IRS.  Tax issues are exceptionally complicated and every taxpayer is well advised to seek professional advice.

 3.  Does the hiring of a tax professional prohibit the IRS from unilaterally speaking directly to the taxpayer?

             Yes; once a tax professional files a Form 2848 (Power of Attorney and Declaration of Representative) the IRS must communicate directly with the tax professional.  If the IRS wishes to speak directly to the taxpayer, the IRS must first advise the tax professional of that fact.  This will allow the tax professional an opportunity to first strategize with the taxpayer as to how best to handle any interview and to evaluate risk.

 4.  Can the IRS auditor continue with a civil audit after the IRS makes a referral to the Criminal Investigation Division of the IRS?

            No; if the IRS auditor believes that there is evidence of criminal activity and decides to make a referral to the CID (criminal investigation division) then the civil audit must be suspended until completion of any criminal investigation. 

 5.  Can the IRS obtain copies of your business records and other documentation relating to your tax return?

             Yes; the IRS routinely issues “Information Document Requests” (Form 4564).  However, the taxpayer should be careful to ensure that any tax-return-related documents that might contain incriminating evidence be first reviewed by a qualified tax attorney to determine whether or not they contain incriminating evidence.  If, in the judgment of the tax attorney, there is a risk of criminal prosecution, then the tax attorney will likely assert various legal arguments against production, including the taxpayer’s 5th amendment right against self-incrimination.

 6.  If, after an audit, the IRS says that I owe additional taxes and penalties, is there anything I can do?

             Absolutely; every taxpayer has a number of options available including appealing directly to the Appeals Division of the IRS.  An appeal to the Appeals Division of the IRS is accomplished by the filing of a written protest.  The written protest sets forth the arguments of law and fact in favor of the taxpayer.  There are also additional appeal options such as the filing of a petition in the U.S. Tax Court, which does not require the payment of the tax deficiency and penalties in advance.

 7.  If I have received a “Notice of Deficiency” from the IRS is there anything I can do?

            Yes; a Notice of Deficiency is not the end of the world.  If the IRS has made proposed adjustments to your account, and you didn't respond or couldn't reach an agreement, then you will receive a notice of deficiency. The notice of deficiency allows you to go to the Tax Court and tells you the procedures to follow. If you don't go to Tax Court you will receive a bill for the amount due.

 8.  If I have received one or more tax bills from the IRS is there anything I can do to avoid or reduce the payment?

             Maybe; the IRS is not irrational.  They know that they can’t get money out of a rock.  Under certain circumstances, an “Offer in Compromise” can be made to the IRS which, if accepted, will reduce your tax obligation.  Warning!  Be wary of television advertisements that claim that reduction of your taxes by 60% or more is a given.  In addition, installment agreements with the IRS are possible under certain circumstances.

 9.  Are there any tax planning tools that I can employ that will safeguard my assets from IRS collection procedures?

            Yes; depending on the facts of your particular case, it is possible to structure the ownership of your assets in such a way that if you owe the IRS additional taxes, they will be unable to reach those assets.  However, it should be noted that this type of tax planning must be implemented before any tax audits arise, to avoid “fraudulent conveyance” arguments being raised by the IRS.

 10.  I have not filed a tax return in several years; is failing to file a serious problem?

             Yes; however, there are ways to deal with such situations to minimize the negative consequences.  Failure to file a return is a misdemeanor under U.S. federal tax law.  Nonetheless, it is extremely important that the taxpayer retain competent legal counsel to deal with this situation in a way that is in the best interests of the taxpayer.


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A. Fred Zybell is a tax and IRS lawyer who assists clients with tax problems, IRS problems, tax liens, tax audits, tax returns, tax evasion, tax fraud, tax court, IRS audits, IRS levies, and
IRS criminal investigations. The law office of A. Fred Zybell, Atty. practices tax law in all states including Michigan and Florida.



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