The tax statute of limitations limits the time during which an action can be brought by the IRS for an audit. The general rule is that IRS has three years from the filing date to audit a tax return. 26 U.S.C. §6501(a) and Treas. Reg. §301.6501(a)-1(a). Similarly, under Treas. Reg. 301.6501(a)-1(b) no proceeding in court by the IRS without assessment for the collection of any tax can begin after the expiration of three years.
However, if the taxpayer fails to report on his tax return an amount in excess of 25% of the gross income (as stated on the filed tax return), then the statute of limitations is increased to six years. 26 U.S.C. §6501(e).
If the tax return was prepared by the IRS under the authority of section 26 U.S.C. §6020(b) the statute of limitations simply does not apply. See 26 U.S.C. §6501(b)(3). Likewise, the statute of limitations does not apply in the case of a false tax return or fraudulent tax return filed with the IRS with intent to evade any tax. See 26 U.S.C. §6501(c)(1).
This essay states only the general rules. The statute spells out numerous exceptions to these general rules. Therefore, even though most of the situations are resolved by the general rule, it is best to consult your tax attorney to see if your situation fits into one of the exceptions.
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