Is online IRS advice a trustworthy strategy for avoiding audits?

In a recent post, we’ve discussed some concerns with the IRS’ treatment of taxpayer questions, including the difficulty in reaching an IRS employee through their hotline. For individuals attempting a proactive approach to their tax questions, there may be another route. 

Specifically, the IRS offers an email service where it provides tax tips at regular intervals. The free advice can also be accessed online via the IRS’ website. Recent postings have addressed back-to-school education tax credits, miscellaneous deductions and hobby taxes, potential tax breaks for military personnel, vacation home rentals, and even advice on how to respond to an IRS Notice.

Can these IRS tips help a taxpayer avoid tax controversies? Not necessarily. For example, the IRS' advice on vacation home rentals provides barely more than an overview. The advice correctly states the law regarding homes that are rented out fewer than 15 days per year. However, its advice is cursory on who might need to report rental income on their tax return, as well as what qualified expenses can be reported as deductions on a Schedule A.

Yet even the IRS' online advice about responding to IRS Notices is insufficient. The IRS website correctly advises individuals against ignoring any IRS mailings. The website also notes that taxpayers have the right to be represented by an attorney or other authorized representative in any dealings with the IRS. However, as we examined in our last entry, whether the post’s assertion that most questions can be answered by calling the IRS may be quite an overstatement. Our law firm focuses on tax law, and many of our clients have expressed how intimidating it can be to receive a notice or other written communication from the IRS. Fortunately, taxpayers can enlist the services of a tax attorney to handle that communication regarding IRS collections cases, tax litigation or other matters.

Source: Accounting Today, “IRS Summertime Tax Tips,” copyright 2015, SourceMedia. 

Related Post: “Are Tax Controversies the Result of Poor IRS Customer Service?” Frost & Associations, July 24, 2015

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