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5 Common Tax Audit Triggers and How to Avoid Them




Tax audits can be a nerve-wracking experience for any taxpayer. Even the thought of being audited can cause a great deal of anxiety and stress. Tax audits are a normal part of the tax process and are done to make sure taxpayers pay the right amount of taxes. A tax audit may happen if there are differences in income reported on tax returns versus what employers report or if someone claims too many deductions or credits, or did not report all income accurately.

In this article, we will delve into the top five common tax audit triggers and provide practical tips on how to avoid them. By taking the necessary steps to minimize the risk of an audit, taxpayers can rest assured that their tax returns are in order and that they won’t be caught off guard should they receive a tax audit notice.

1. Claiming Excessive Deductions

As tax season rolls around, taxpayers need to be aware of the red flags that can catch the attention of the IRS. One of the most significant red flags is the claim of excessive deductions. While deductions can help reduce your taxable income, claiming too many may raise suspicion from the IRS, putting you at risk of an audit. For instance, if you work from home as a self-employed individual, deducting expenses like internet or utility bills may seem like a good idea. However, it’s crucial to remember that only expenses directly related to your business are eligible for deduction. Failing to adhere to these guidelines can result in penalties and a damaged reputation with the IRS. It’s crucial to maintain accurate records and only claim legitimate deductions to avoid any unwanted attention from the IRS.

2. Failing to Report All Income

The topic of failing to report all income is a critical issue that has caught many taxpayers off-guard during tax audits. This situation is even more prevalent amongst those who are self-employed or work as freelancers. The reason for this is that the IRS has a system in place where they receive copies of all W-2 and 1099 forms, which they use to cross-check with what you’ve reported on your tax return. If there are any discrepancies, it could raise a red flag leading to an audit. It is essential to have a system in place to keep detailed records of all income received during the year and report it accurately on your tax return. Staying on top of such matters could significantly reduce the chances of your tax returns getting flagged for an audit.

3. Making Mistakes

When it comes to filing taxes, no one wants to make mistakes. However, human error is inevitable, and making even minor errors on your tax return can trigger an audit. In fact, according to the IRS, about 17% of individual tax returns have errors.


These mistakes range from typos to more complex miscalculations of tax credits and deductions. The consequences of an audit can be devastating, resulting in penalties, fines, and additional taxes owed. Therefore, it’s essential to take the necessary steps to reduce the likelihood of making mistakes. Double-checking your tax return and seeking guidance from a tax professional or using tax preparation software can be incredibly helpful in this regard. In this article, we’ll dive deeper into the common mistakes made while filing taxes and the various steps you can take to avoid them.

4. Claiming Large Charitable Donations

Charitable donations have always been a popular option for individuals who wish to give back to society while also reducing their tax burden. However, when it comes to claiming large charitable donations, individuals must tread cautiously as it may result in triggering an audit by the IRS. As per federal tax laws, any donation above 20% of your income may raise red flags and subject you to an audit. Therefore, it is essential to keep detailed records of all charitable contributions and provide supporting documents, such as receipts or acknowledgment letters. By adhering to these rules, you can ensure that your donations are used for their intended purpose while also receiving the tax benefits you deserve. In this article, we delve into the intricacies of claiming charitable donations and explore tips and tricks to help you navigate this complex topic.

5. Running a Cash-Only Business

Running a cash-only business may seem like a simple option for small business owners. However, this method of transaction comes with a variety of potential risks and challenges that entrepreneurs should be aware of.


For instance, accepting only cash payments can limit the potential customer base and make it challenging to scale the business. Additionally, maintaining accurate financial records can be tricky, as the paper trail is limited.

One of the most significant concerns for cash-only business owners is the increased risk of tax audits. Without a clear and consistent record-keeping system in place, the IRS may suspect that the owner is not reporting all income accurately. This can lead to intense scrutiny, potential penalties, and even legal action in severe cases. Running a cash-only business requires careful attention and accuracy to ensure proper recording and reporting of transactions on tax returns. Before opting for this route, it’s important to understand the potential challenges and risks involved.

In summary, to avoid a tax audit, it is important to be truthful and precise when filing your tax return. By steering clear of known red flags, you can minimize the risk of being audited and avoid unnecessary tension and inconvenience. Ensure that you maintain accurate financial records, disclose all earnings, and seek guidance from a tax expert if needed. With some diligence, you can confidently file your taxes and sidestep a potential audit.

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