How to prepare for an IRS tax audit in Washington

Being audited by the IRS may be stressful for people in Washington, but knowing how to prepare may help reduce their stress.

In 2014, fewer than one percent of the nation's taxpayers were audited by the Internal Revenue Service, Time Inc. reports. However, the possibility of such a review is a concern that is shared by many people in Washington and elsewhere. While not all of the anxiety of an audit may be avoided, knowing how to prepare may help eliminate some of the stress associated with undergoing an IRS audit.

Think about the possible questions

When being audited by the IRS, people can expect to be asked questions. In order to help represent themselves appropriately, it helps if they are able to provide thorough, professional responses. By thinking about the questions they may be asked ahead of time, taxpayers may consider how they will answer. This may help ensure they explain their claims clearly, which may aid in resolving their issues without having to pay additional taxes.

Be aware of the auditor's role

IRS auditors are not necessarily looking to cause trouble for taxpayers, but they are trying to get an explanation for issues on their income taxes. Even if an auditor seems to be an ally, people should keep the essence of the auditor-taxpayer relationship in mind as they go through the process. Those being audited are advised to be honest and forthcoming, but are cautioned not to volunteer anything more than what is asked of them.

Gather supporting data

Depending on the circumstances, the IRS may perform a correspondence examination, in which people are asked to send in additional information for review. In other cases, they may be asked to come into a local office to discuss issues with their taxes in an office audit.

Regardless of the type of audit that is being conducted, taxpayers in such situations may need to provide documentation to support their claims. This may include receipts, tax returns and bills, as well as mileage logs, spreadsheets and any additional summary information. Upon being notified they are being audited, people should begin gathering such documents. If they no longer have the information, they may contact the appropriate organization or office to try to obtain copies.

Keep thorough records

Trying to piece together their financial records when being audited may be challenging for taxpayers. In some cases, they may not be able to locate or obtain the data they need. Thus, it is suggested that people maintain primary and secondary records throughout the year. Taxpayers are advised to have the current year's records on file, in addition to their records for the previous three years.

Seek legal guidance

Depending on the outcome of an audit, people in Washington may owe more money or face other issues. Therefore, it may be of benefit for taxpayers to consult with an attorney if they are being audited by the IRS. A lawyer may explain their rights, as well as guide them through the process and help them understand what to expect.