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Published:   |   Last Updated: October 24, 2023

Audits in Person

Most of the time, the IRS accepts tax returns as you file them. However, it selects some for an additional review or audit to determine if you reported your income, expenses, and credits accurately.

If the IRS selects your return for audit (also called examination), it doesn’t automatically mean something is wrong. Once the IRS completes the examination, it may accept your return as filed or propose changes. These changes may affect the amount of tax you owe (a proposed deficiency) or your refund amount.

two people talking over a laptop

What do I need to know?

There are two ways to be audited – by mail, or in person. This article deals with an in-person audit.

The examination may take place in your home, your place of business, an IRS office, or the office of your attorney, accountant, or enrolled agent (a person enrolled to practice before the IRS). If the time or place on the notice isn’t convenient for you, the examiner will try to accommodate you.

When the IRS selects your tax return for audit, it will notify you by mail. Sometimes the IRS will follow-up with you by phone about the notice it previously sent.  The notice will tell you:

  • What part of your return is being examined;
  • The information you need to provide; and
  • Other details about the audit.



What should I do?

Read the letter and follow the instructions

The letter and attachments will list the information you need to gather. If you have any questions or are unsure what you need to provide, contact the examiner.

Make sure the proposed date and time for the meeting are convenient for you. If not, contact the examiner before the proposed appointment to discuss rescheduling.

In the exam

You, the examiner, and your representative (if you have an attorney, accountant, or other eligible person with you) will meet for an initial interview. The interview will cover information about your financial history, business operations, and books and records that aren’t available from other sources. The examiner’s questions will help him or her understand the records you provide.

  • The interview can be suspended at any point if you’d like to obtain professional assistance or speak to your representative.
  • If your business is being audited, the examiner may ask to tour your business to better understand the operation.
  • The examiner will review your documentation.
    • Organize your records as well as possible — it will help speed up the review.
    • If the examiner needs more information, they will request the additional documents in writing.

If you have questions about how the examination is being conducted, you can ask the examiner or ask to speak to their manager.

If you want professional assistance, you can seek out help from an attorney, certified public accountant, or enrolled agent. You also can see if you qualify for assistance from a Low Income Taxpayer Clinic.

Once the IRS’s initial review is complete, it will accept your original return as filed, ask for more information, or propose changes to your tax return.


How will this affect me?

If the IRS accepts your tax return as originally filed, you’re done. If it proposes changes, a few things can happen.

If the IRS doesn’t accept your documentation, you’ll get a letter explaining any proposed changes to your tax return.

Contact the IRS at the number shown on the letter, if you don’t understand the changes. If you do understand them, decide if you agree or disagree with some or all the changes.

If you agree with all the proposed changes:

  • Sign the agreement page of the letter.
    • If you owe any additional tax, penalties, and interest, you should pay it as soon as possible, so the IRS won’t charge you any more interest. If you can’t afford to pay the complete amount, contact the IRS to discuss payment options, or see more information on Payment Plans.
    • If the proposed changes result in a refund, you can generally expect to receive it in six to eight weeks provided there are no other unpaid tax obligations or other debts the IRS collects.

If you don’t agree with some or all the proposed changes:

  • Don’t sign the agreement.
    • Respond to the IRS by the due date on the letter. This could include sending additional documentation or an explanation to support your position.
    • If you need more time to submit your response, call the number on letter before the due date to ask for additional time.

If the IRS’s examiner still proposes changes to your return, you can:

  • Request an informal conference with the examiner’s manager prior to the response date in the letter.
  • Request a conference with the Office of Appeals prior to the date in the letter. Make this request in writing. Include your reasons for disagreeing with the IRS.

If you don’t respond by the due dates on the letters, the IRS may disallow what you claimed on your return and issue a Statutory Notice of Deficiency. This is a legal notice that the IRS is proposing an additional deficiency (balance due). It gives you 90 days (150 days if addressed to you outside the United States) to petition the United States Tax Court (Tax Court) for review of your case. Once you petition the Tax Court, if you haven’t already had a conference with the IRS Office of Appeals, the IRS Office of Chief Counsel may forward your case to Appeals for a conference. Both the Office of Appeals and the Tax Court are generally “prepayment forums” which means you can dispute the proposed adjustment before the IRS assesses or requires you to pay any additional tax.

The 90-day or 150-day deadline to file a petition in Tax Court can’t be extended. If you miss the deadline, you won’t be able to have a judge review your case without first paying the amount due. The 90 or 150 days doesn’t include as the last day a Saturday, a Sunday, or a legal holiday in the District of Columbia.

There are fees to petition to the Tax Court.  If you can’t afford to pay the filing fees, you can ask for a waiver.


Wait, I still need help.

The Taxpayer Advocate Service is an independent organization within the IRS that helps taxpayers and protects taxpayers’ rights. We can offer you help if your tax problem is causing a financial difficulty, you’ve tried and been unable to resolve your issue with the IRS, or you believe an IRS system, process, or procedure just isn’t working as it should. If you qualify for our assistance, which is always free, we will do everything possible to help you.

Visit www.taxpayeradvocate.irs.gov or call 1-877-777-4778.

Low Income Taxpayer Clinics (LITCs) are independent from the IRS and TAS. LITCs represent individuals whose income is below a certain level and who need to resolve tax problems with the IRS. LITCs can represent taxpayers in audits, appeals, and tax collection disputes before the IRS and in court. In addition, LITCs can provide information about taxpayer rights and responsibilities in different languages for individuals who speak English as a second language. Services are offered for free or a small fee. For more information or to find an LITC near you, see the LITC page on the TAS website or Publication 4134, Low Income Taxpayer Clinic List.


Did you know there is a Taxpayer Bill of Rights?

The taxpayer Bill of Rights is grouped into 10 easy to understand categories outlining the taxpayer rights and protections embedded in the tax code.

It is also what guides the advocacy work we do for taxpayers.

Read more about your rights