For most American taxpayers, there’s a small amount of anxiety each year as they file their taxes. What if we get audited? Even if you know that you’ve been completely honest on your taxes, there’s always the fear and anticipated hassle of facing an audit.
In fact, IRS audits are down significantly over the last decade. In 2010, the IRS completed some 1.5 million audits of the income tax of American taxpayers. In 2020, the IRS completed less than half that number at 509,917 audits.
You might wonder what happens because of all these audits. For most Americans, they receive IRS Form 4549. What is IRS Form 4549 and what does it mean for the taxpayer who gets it?
Read on to learn more about the process after an IRS audit including IRS Form 4549 and what you would do after you get this letter from the IRS.
Facing a Tax Audit
While certainly, the IRS tax audit numbers are down if it’s you that’s getting audited you need to know what to do. Before considering what happens after an audit, what should you do if you’re facing an audit?
It’s important to pay attention to what the IRS is asking for from you. Many IRS audits are even done without face-to-face contact. They may request documentation or additional information. Help connect the dots for them and be honest.
If what you’re providing or not providing doesn’t add up, they will keep digging. It’s important to know you can’t evade the IRS, so do your best to comply and cooperate.
After an Audit From the IRS
It might surprise most people to learn that the audit process is often less daunting than imagined. The IRS is grossly understaffed and needs the process to be as seamless as possible for them too.
When the IRS has completed its audit, they will inform you of its outcome. What happens next depends on how you feel about their results.
You can agree with the outcome and do what is being asked of you which might include paying additional taxes and penalties. You can also appeal.
Part of what happens after the audit is the Form 4549 that the IRS sends out. Now let’s take a closer look at this form.
What Is IRS Form 4549?
Following an audit, the IRS will communicate with you about the results. The IRS Form 4549 also called the Income Tax Examination Letter informs the taxpayer about the proposed changes to the tax return, penalties, and interest as a result of the audit.
This letter is intended to inform the taxpayer about not only what the IRS found, but also the proposed changes they made to the taxpayer’s tax form.
The letter will include:
- Adjustments to taxpayer income
- Taxable income adjustments
- Corrected amount of taxable income
- Corrected tax liability
- Other taxes due
- Overpayment or deficiency amounts
- Total tax shown on the return
- Total Corrected Tax Liability
The letter also includes what’s most likely most important to the taxpayer and that’s the balance due.
When Do You Get the IRs Form 4549?
As was already stated the IRS uses Form 4549 when the audit is complete. But there are certain times when they are more likely to use this letter.
If the IRS is proposing income tax changes and expects the taxpayer to agree to them, they’re likely to use this form. This letter is also used as an initial reporting tool.
They might also use this form if there aren’t changes to the tax liability.
There may be times when you don’t agree with proposed changes in the IRS Form 4549, we’ll take a closer look at what to do then shortly.
Role of the States With the IRS
The federal government and the IRS have a full disclosure agreement with the states. Why does this matter as it relates to your taxes?
If the amount of federal tax you pay increases or decreases the IRS will notify your state. This could impact how much you need to pay for state taxes too.
If you underreport income and this is found by the IRS and then reported to the state, you may owe the state more including interest and fees too.
Do You Have to Sign IRS Form 4549?
So, the IRS has delivered to you the IRS Form 4549, now what? Are you required to sign it? What if you don’t really agree with what it says?
The IRS can’t force you to sign that you agree. They can present what they found as they worked through an audit. This will tell you what adjustments they’ve made and if you owe additional monies for late taxes, fees, or fines.
You can choose to not sign the form. If you opt to not sign the form, then the IRS will send you a Notice of Deficiency. This will spell out your options.
If you choose to not respond at all, you should know the IRS might just start to collect through collection and enforcement.
Form 12203 Request for Appeals
Once you receive the IRS Form 4549, you have a few options. You can choose to agree with the findings from the IRS. Perhaps, you realize you made an error and are comfortable with the findings.
In this case, you simply sign IRS Form 4549 and return it to them.
But there’s a fair chance you might not agree. How do you challenge a tax audit?
The process will begin with Form 12203, the Request for Appeals form. You would use this form before you end up in tax court.
Form 12203 tells the IRS you would like another internal review from the Internal Revenue Service Independent Office of Appeals. You can make this request if your proposed changes are less than $25,000.
You will need to submit this form and then supply all supporting information, explanations, or documents that may be necessary in support of your appeal.
Small Case Request
If your adjustment is less than the $25,000 mark, and for most people it is, then you would use the Small Case Request as your next step.
The letter you get from the IRS in response to your audit will detail exactly what steps you need to follow to begin an appeal through a Small Case Request. The IRS expects you to follow directions, so pay attention to what they want you to do.
It should be noted that certain groups are not eligible for a Small Case Request. These groups include employee plans, exempt organizations, S corporations, and partnerships.
The IRS has an appeal procedure. Typically, you will opt to appeal when the IRS has decided you owe more money. In addition to the appeal paperwork, the IRS will ask you to select an appeal procedure from their menu of options.
Each appeal procedure has specific instructions, so again, pay attention to what the IRS wants you to do. Then mail your request to the same office that sent you the response letter.
Let’s take a closer look at the appeal procedure options.
Collection Appeals Program
The Collection Appeals Program is intended to be more quick and easy than some of the other options. It works well for issues related to:
- Rejection of Installment Agreement
- Termination of Installment Agreement
- Modification of Installment Agreement
You would call the number provided by the IRS. You can’t just call and say you disagree. You need to be prepared to offer a viable solution to the disagreement. They want you to be prepared to resolve the issue too.
The thing to note about the Collection Appeals Program is that if you don’t agree with the results, you have opted out of going to tax court by selecting this appeal procedure.
Collections Due Process
The IRS may send you a notice stating you’re entitled to a Collection Due Process (CDP) hearing with the appeals department.
Generally, the IRS usually allows you just 30 days to respond to this option. You would need to complete Form 12153 and then return it to the same address that sent you the CDP notice.
If you make your request in the allotted time, typically the IRS will suspend any tax levy against you while the case is heard in Appeals or in tax court.
Offer in Compromise
An Offer in Compromise is an agreement between you and the IRS where they agree to accept less than what you actually owe.
The IRS doesn’t agree to this option often or easily. They will make you prove where all your assets are and take a careful look at your income sources.
If you want to propose an OIC agreement to the IRS, you need to be working with a tax attorney. Rarely does the IRS accept these offers and it’s even less frequent if you are trying to go it alone against the IRS.
Trust Fund Recovery Penalty
The Trust Fund Recovery Penalty would be used for businesses that have not paid the appropriate amount of employee taxes.
If you find the IRS is going this route, you’re likely in some trouble with the IRS. This is one of the most stringent avenues they use to collect taxes from a business. It can be the demise of a business if not handled carefully.
If the IRS sends your business a letter and uses the Trust Fund Recovery Penalty language, you need to seek tax assistance from a professional quickly.
The Audit Is Done, Now What?
For personal taxes, the IRS follows a certain path for appeals. Often these are done by letter and follow some time period requirements.
Let’s take a closer look at these steps.
Fast Track Settlement
The IRS has a newer program called the Fast Track Settlement option. This is the IRS’s attempt to come to a quick and easy resolution to the dispute.
They assign an IRS mediator to the case in an attempt to try to resolve the dispute. It should be noted, you should choose this route if you also want a quick resolution and are prepared to negotiate. But you can still go on to other appeals if you don’t like the outcome of this option.
30 Day Letter
The first step after an audit typically comes in the form of a 30-day letter. The IRS sends this out with audit results. It gives you 30 days to respond with a request for an appeal.
You can make your request but you also need to be prepared to provide the supporting documentation, evidence, facts, and legal analysis why there should be a different outcome.
Can you get an appeal if you miss the 30 days? Yes, but it is much more challenging.
Notice of Deficiency
The Notice of Deficiency is what’s referred to as the 90/150-day letter. It is often considered a ticket to tax court when sent by the IRS. It puts the taxpayer on the clock, so to speak, to get a response.
It puts forth timelines and expectations for a response. You can request an appeals conference or begin the tax litigation process.
Get Help From Experienced Tax Attorneys
Facing tax troubles especially once the IRS is involved can feel scary and daunting. You certainly don’t want to make a mistake in how you proceed with the IRS. It’s also important to understand your options as you navigate through an audit or an appeal.
Qualified tax attorneys know how to help you work through your tax situation. They know the IRS processes and what options you’ll likely have.
There may be things you haven’t thought of in relation to your taxes. It makes sense to get an experienced tax attorney involved in your case if you face an audit or are trying to fight one. Their expertise might save you some real money.
Understanding the Implications of IRS Form 4549
If you’ve received IRS Form 4549, you’re already going through an audit. Now, you’re finding out what the IRS thinks after digging around in your taxes. Once you have Form 4549, you’ll have to decide what to do next, whether that accepts the IRS findings or appeal.
You might want to work with a tax professional when you read this stage. It makes sense to enlist the help of an expert for your tax issues. Contact us today to get your tax and audit questions addressed. Let us help you with the IRS.