News is coming out that the IRS may have been improperly scrutinizing political ideas of some nonprofits applying for tax exempt status for a couple of years, especially in the run up to the 2012 presidential election. If the IRS was denying nonprofit applications based on political ideas (e.g. favoring conservatives or favoring liberals), we can all agree that would be inappropriate and likely illegal, because nonprofits are about serving the common good, not political gains (or losses). While we watch the investigation unfold and the political theater and finger pointing in Washington D.C., another group of people, affluent taxpayers, are seeing a rise in audits.
As this CNBC article explains, more audits of wealthy taxpayers isn’t necessarily bad and may actually be a positive check or balance in the tax system. There are 2 reasons why the IRS might audit wealthy taxpayers more than middle class folks: (1) wealthy taxpayers often have very complex tax returns (individual, investments, corporate, trusts) to file each April 15 because of the diversified nature of their holdings and income and (2) the IRS is more likely to pursue an audit that will yield a better result (e.g. they’re more likely to pursue a few million in disputed income from a hedge fund billionaire than a few bucks in tips the local Starbucks barista forgot to report). Both of these reasons are perfectly legal and appropriate.
Audits are a pain in the neck and take lots of time for families and business owners, but they’re nothing to fear. Follow good accounting practices, keep track of receipts, track income and expenses, and keep old copies of tax returns you’ve filed. The IRS isn’t out to get any of us, they’re just double checking that we did the math right. If my law firm, Johnson Law KC LLC, can help your family or small business with an audit, give me a call (913-707-9220) or send me an email (firstname.lastname@example.org). We’re here to serve you and help you be ready for life’s surprises.
(c) 2013, Stephen M. Johnson, Esq.