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Additional tax may be assessed by the IRS three years after the due date of the return or the date it was filed, whichever is later.
IRS audits do not happen at random, despite the perception that it might happen at any time. A trigger usually signals to the IRS that a second look is necessary. An audit tends to be triggered by underreported income (when forms 1099 or W-2 don’t match what you’re reporting); tax deductions that appear to be too high considering your income; or inconsistencies from year to year (claiming a home interest mortgage deduction one year and not the next, for example).
An IRS notice will be sent if they think there was a minor error on your part. In the notice, also known as a correspondence or paper audit, you’ll receive instructions to provide supplementary paperwork to support your claims; requests could include receipts for charitable donations or mileage logs for business travel.
Ultimately, you do not have to accept the audit report. Within 30 days of receiving the report, you can appeal it by writing to the IRS.
A simple mistake like entering a wrong social security number or misspelling your own name can trigger an audit. Errors in math are another trigger. Some of these issues can be eliminated by filing electronically.