Welcome to TaxBlawg, a resource from Chamberlain Hrdlicka for news and analysis of current legal issues facing tax practitioners. Although blawg.com identifies nearly 1,400 active “blawgs,” including 20+ blawgs related to taxation and estate planning, the needs of tax professionals have received surprisingly little attention.
The Wall Street Journal's Tax Blog gives “tips and advice for filers,” and Paul Caron’s legendary TaxProf Blog is an excellent clearinghouse for academic and policy-oriented news. Yet, tax practitioners still lack a dedicated resource to call their own. For those intrepid souls, we offer TaxBlawg, a forum of tax talk for tax pros.
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People are always asking how long the IRS can wait from the time you file your return to conduct an audit of your income and expenses. The simple, most definitive answer is "it all depends," so let's take a look at the rules.
The time in which the IRS must conduct its audit is governed by what's known as a "statute of limitations." That statute doesn't begin to run until you actually file a return. Once you file a return, the IRS has three years from the time the return was filed (or, April 15th of the year in which you file, if it is filed early) to conduct and complete an audit. That means that the IRS has to select your return for examination, conduct whatever level of audit it is going to perform, and either get an agreement from you to an additional amount of tax or a refund, secure an extension of limitations period from you, or issue you a document known as a "Notice of Deficiency" (indicating what it has determined your correct tax liability to be and giving you ninety days to go the United States Tax Court).
If it fails to complete one of these actions within three years, in most situations the proverbial “ballgame” is over and it will be too late for the IRS to assert an additional tax liability for that year. The filing of an amended return does not extend the period in which an audit must take place. As you might expect, however, there are exceptions.
I suspect that the answer of most readers will be "why would I want the IRS to find me in any event?" In fact, I can recall one client who actually asked me to have him removed from what he described as "the IRS mailing list."
Believe it or not, while it's always nice to be left alone, there are situations where it is important that the IRS have your correct address. For instance, what if there's a refund you're due, and the IRS is about to send you a check? Similarly, if you are in an audit or owe the IRS money, there are a variety of notices that the Internal Revenue Code requires the IRS to send to your "last known address," and if it sends them to that address, but you do not receive them, you will miss the opportunity to respond, as the law does not require that you actually receive the documents for them to be effective.