If the IRS selects your tax return for audit (also called examination), it doesn’t automatically mean something is wrong.
The IRS performs audits by mail or in person. The notice you receive will have specific information about why your return is being examined, what documents if any they need from you, and how you should proceed.
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 or the amount of your refund.
If you are unable to understand the notice, you can use our Did you get a notice from the IRS? section on our Home page that allows you to enter the notice or letter number to find out more about it, what action you may need to take, and where in the IRS process it falls. Or you can go to our Taxpayer Roadmap directly to see where your tax return is within the IRS process, how the return got there, and what’s next. Once in the Roadmap, you can still look up a specific notice if it isn’t already listed to find out what to do next.
The IRS notice should confirm whether the audit is being conducted by correspondence (by mail) or in person. The actions you need to take will depend on how the audit is being conducted.
You can also visit the IRS Audits page for more information about why your return may have been selected and more details on how far back IRS can go to examine a return, how long it may take, and more. You can also read Publication 3468, IRS Examination Process.
Be aware that IRS audits are still being affected by COVID-19. See the exam guidance memoranda in IRS Operations During COVID-19: Compliance for the most up-to-date information on IRS actions. You should also see the sections for Answered a Notice or letter and Sent a missing form or document for updated information related to expected timing for an IRS reply.
When you review the IRS notice, there may be special circumstances in which the IRS may offer digital alternatives for submitting documentation or working with the IRS examiner. See our NTA Blog: Lifecycle of a Tax Return: Correspondence Audits: Increased Communication Alternatives Are in Progress for more information on two available alternatives. The IRS article, Accelerating Digital Communications to Solve Pandemic Challenges and Improve the Taxpayer Experience, also discusses digital options.
However, taxpayers must be invited to participate in these digital options, Secure Messaging and the Document Upload Tool (DUT). So, again, review your notice carefully to see if one or both of these options are available in your case and for information on how to use them.
If you receive a tax bill for an additional tax amount the IRS assessed (added to your account) or a change in a credit you claimed and you disagree with the subsequent amount the IRS says you owe, see our Audit Reconsideration Get Help page for next steps you can take.
You may request audit reconsideration if you:
You can also see Publication 3598, What You Should Know About the Audit Reconsideration Process, for more details on what you need to do to resolve the issue.
If you need or want assistance in dealing with an IRS audit or reconsideration, you have the right to representation. This means you can hire an attorney, certified public accountant (CPA), or enrolled agent to represent you before the IRS. Know that:
We recommend that you learn about the credentials and qualifications of tax representatives before choosing one. You can also use the IRS Directory of Federal Tax Return Preparers with Credentials and Select Qualifications to help you find tax professionals in your area who currently hold professional credentials recognized by the IRS.
You may be eligible for free representation (or representation for a nominal fee) through a Low Income Taxpayer Clinic. In order to qualify for assistance from an LITC, generally a taxpayer’s income must be below a certain threshold (the income ceilings for the 2022 calendar year can be found on the page link above), and the amount in dispute with the IRS is usually less than $50,000. Each clinic will determine if you meet the income ceilings and other criteria before it agrees to represent you. See Publication 4134, Low Income Taxpayer Clinic List, to find a LITC near you or by calling the IRS toll-free at 800-829-3676.