What is an audit?

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Jul 16, 2021

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An audit is an investigation to determine whether the information provided to the government on the information/tax return is correct – and as a result the audit can determine whether the proper amount of tax was paid. The burden of proof during the audit is on the taxpayer – you have to prove to the government that all of the information on the return (the amounts of income, the exclusions, exemptions, deductions and credits) is true and correct. Bear in mind that although you have the burden of proof, that does not mean that you are compelled to show every document to the government agent – some documents are simply none of their business. Some audits are conducted by mail, some require you to go to the government agency’s office, and other audits require that the government’s agent go out and meet with you at your home or business.

Some audits are relatively routine matters. Many audits result in no change – the required information on the return was accurate and there is no change in the amount of tax. While some audits do result in an assessment, some audits actually result in a refund.

Whether you need outside assistance with an audit depends on your particular circumstances. If your tax matters are simple, you may be able to handle it yourself. But if your tax matters are complex or if you don’t fully understand taxes, you should get a professional to assist you.

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