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Schedule C IRS Audit | Business Tax Lawyer & Attorney

One of the most common types of IRS audits is the Schedule C IRS audit. In this article, I would like to introduce the readers to the Schedule C IRS audit. In particular, I would like to discuss the type of taxpayers who are affected by an IRS audit of Schedule C and the key legal issues associated with such an audit.

Schedule C IRS Audit: Who is Affected?

A Schedule C IRS audit primarily concerns two groups of taxpayers: owners of sole proprietorships and owners of single-member LLCs. These are the taxpayers who conduct business in either unincorporated form (i.e. sole proprietorship) or the incorporation is disregarded by the IRS (i.e. single-member LLC).

Schedule C IRS Audit: the Focus of the Audit

A typical Schedule C IRS audit focuses on two critical areas: full reporting of revenue and substantiation of expenses.

Generally, the reporting of business revenue should not be too difficult as long as there are sufficient records, but there are exceptions. One of such exceptions is the reporting of foreign income earned by the taxpayer because of the issues of income recognition and currency translation.

Unfortunately, a typical Schedule C IRS audit rarely involves a business with well-kept records. In a purely cash-based business, this is most problematic for obvious reasons – absent records of receipt of cash, it is extremely difficult to recreate an accurate picture of the revenue intake by the business. Similarly, a lot of work will be needed to reconstruct the revenue of a business with multiple revenue conduits, constant transfers between accounts, inexplicable cash withdrawals and deposits, disorganized prepayments and other similar complications.

Schedule C IRS Audit: Substantiation of Expenses

The problems associated with the second part of a Schedule C IRS audit (i.e expenses), however, dwarf the difficulties of revenue identification. The substantiation of expenses is by far the most difficult task in a Schedule C IRS audit. Let’s explore the reasons for this problem in more detail.

During a Schedule IRS C audit, the revenue agent in charge of the audit will only allow a business expenses if it satisfies all of the following three requirements:

1. Expense is Incurred by Business Identified on Schedule C

In this context, the primary problem that plagues taxpayers is the commingling of personal and business expenses. Oftentimes, the taxpayers will pay for business expenses using a personal bank account or a personal credit card. Actually, I have had clients who used credit cards of third parties to pay for business expenses. Proving that these expenses were actually incurred by the business, as opposed to the taxpayer or the third party, can be very challenging.

2. Expense is Supported by Records

The IRS will generally require that a business expense is supported by records. If a taxpayer uses only his own memory as the basis for an expense, an IRS agent is likely to disallow such an expense.

Ideally, the taxpayer should have actual receipts for all business expenses, but IRS agents generally accept bank and credit card statements that would allow them to identify the nature of an expense. The generosity of an IRS agent in this aspect often depends on the general “flow” of a Schedule C IRS audit – i.e. cooperation of the taxpayer, his credibility and the non-willfulness of his prior noncompliance.

3. Expense is Allowable Business Deduction from Income

Even if the audited taxpayer has good records in support of a business expense, the expense must still be an allowable business deduction. The critical issue here is whether the law actually allows the taxpayer to reduce his business income by the expense in question.

In order to qualify for being a deductible business expense, the expense must be both ordinary (i.e. common and accepted in the relevant area of trade or business) and necessary (i.e. helpful and appropriate for your trade or business). It is also should be kept in mind that some of the business expenses are either capitalized or added to cost of goods sold. There are also limitations on certain types of business deductions (such as business meals).

One of the most frequent problems that arise during a Schedule C IRS audit is the issue of personal expenses paid by the business. Personal expenses are never deductible as a business expense. I already described this problem above in the context of business expenses paid through personal accounts or by a third party; here, I am discussing the opposite situation – personal expenses paid using a business bank account or credit card.

It is important to understand that the fact that an expense is paid by a business, does not automatically mean that this is a deductible business expense. An expense still needs to comply with the “ordinary and necessary” requirement and be separated from personal expenses.

Sometimes, it is fairly easy to identify personal expenses, but this is not always the case; on the contrary, a vast number of expenses can be interpreted either as a business expense or a personal expense. For example, if a business owner buys tickets to a baseball game for himself, his family, potential clients and their families, how much of it is deductible? How about a personal membership at a gold club to which the business owner often invites his prospective clients and pays for their games?

The answers to these questions should not be left to the judgment of the IRS agent in charge of the question; instead, the attorney who represents the audited taxpayer should look at the precise facts, IRS revenue rulings and similar cases to promote the argument that will benefit his client.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Professional Help with a Schedule C IRS Audit

If the IRS is auditing the Schedule C of your tax return, you should contact Sherayzen Law Office. Our professional audit team, headed by attorney Eugene Sherayzen, is highly experienced in the IRS audits of Schedule C, especially with respect to upper middle-class and high net-worth clients. We can Help You!

Contact Us Today to Schedule Your Confidential Consultation!

Streamlined Audit Interview | Streamlined Audit Tax Lawyers

In an earlier article, I described the main features of an IRS audit of a voluntary disclosure made pursuant to the Streamlined Domestic Submission Procedures (“Streamlined Submission Audit”). Today, I would like to discuss a very specific feature of this process – Streamlined Audit Interview.

Streamlined Audit Interview: Background Information on Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures

Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures (“SDOP”) is a special offshore voluntary disclosure program initiated by the IRS in 2014. SDOP allows US taxpayers to remedy their past tax noncompliance concerning the reporting of foreign assets and foreign income while paying a highly reduced 5% Miscellaneous Offshore Penalty. The reason for such a lenient treatment is that the taxpayers must certify that their prior noncompliance with US international tax laws was non-willful.

Streamlined Audit Interview: General Description

Virtually every IRS field audit will involve an attempt to interview the audited taxpayer(s). The concept of a Streamlined Audit Interview describes a situation where an audited taxpayer is interviewed specifically in the context of a Streamlined Submission Audit.

Streamlined Audit Interview: Main Differences from Regular IRS Audit Interview

In many ways, a regular IRS audit interview is similar to a Streamlined Audit Interview. In fact, procedurally, there are very few differences: both audits involve the same type of scheduling procedures, same interview format and, with respect to audited tax returns, very similar questions.

The main difference between a regular IRS audit interview and the Streamlined Audit Interview lies in the fact that the latter will involve the examination of the audited taxpayer’s non-willfulness with respect to prior tax noncompliance – i.e. whether the taxpayer carried his burden of proof to participate in SDOP in the first place. In other words, the difference between the two types of audits is in the substantive legal issues to be discussed.

There are also differences in the potential stakes. A failure for the taxpayer to substantiate his original non-willfulness arguments may lead the IRS to impose heavy penalties and even refer the case to the US Department of Justice’s Tax Division for criminal prosecution.

Finally, a Streamlined Audit Interview is likely to involve a much broader spectrum of issues than just amended tax returns. For example, there could be questions concerning FBARs, sources of foreign account balances, US assets purchased with undisclosed foreign funds, et cetera.

Streamlined Audit Interview: Extensive Preparation Is Necessary

A taxpayer should prepare for a Streamlined Audit Interview. It should be remembered that this interview may happen two or even almost three years from the time when the SDOP voluntary disclosure package was originally submitted. Hence, it is important to refresh the memory of the taxpayer so that he would be able to respond to the IRS questions (instead of constantly saying “I have no recollection”, thereby creating an impression as if he had to hide something).

The taxpayer should also be prepared on how to properly answer a question. Again, the idea is to avoid unnecessary suspicions and an impression that he has something to hide. This why the taxpayer’s answers should be firm and clear in order to eliminate any doubt of their meaning.

In every case, there are going to be weak or negative facts. The temptation to avoid a discussion of negative facts is huge, but it should be resisted. The taxpayer should be prepared to speak of them boldly, explain these facts and show how they fit into his overall non-willfulness arguments.

A taxpayer should never be trained in lying to the IRS or obfuscating the facts. Never, under any circumstances, should an attorney allow his client to commit a perjury, especially in the context of a voluntary disclosure based on the taxpayer’s non-willfulness. The outcome of this unethical strategy is likely to be disastrous (the IRS is likely to find out the truth in any case) and may result in criminal charges filed against the client, even if his original tax noncompliance was non-willful.

Being honest is of utmost importance in a Streamlined Audit Interview. This, however, does not preclude an attorney from employing certain strategies as described above to prevent unnecessary complications by the failure of a taxpayer to express himself clearly or creating a temptation on the part of the IRS to go on a “fishing expedition”.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Professional Help With an Audit of Your Streamlined Submission and a Streamlined Audit Interview

If your Streamlined Submission is being audited by the IRS, you should contact Sherayzen Law Office as soon as possible for professional help. Sherayzen Law Office is a highly experienced international tax law firm that specializes in all stages of offshore voluntary disclosures, including IRS audits of a Streamlined Submission and federal court representation.

We can help You! Contact Us Today to Schedule Your Confidential Consultation!

Streamlined Submission Audit | SDOP Audit Tax Lawyer

An increasing number of submissions under the Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures are subject to an IRS audit (hereinafter “Streamlined Submission Audit”). In this article, I will explain what a Streamlined Submission Audit is and what a taxpayer should expect during the Audit.

Streamlined Submission Audit: Background Information on Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures

Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures (“SDOP”) is a voluntary disclosure option offered by the IRS since June of 2014 to noncompliant US taxpayers to settle their past tax noncompliance concerning foreign assets and foreign income at a reduced penalty rate. In order to participate in SDOP, a taxpayer must meet three main eligibility requirements – US tax residency, non-willfulness of prior noncompliance and absence of IRS examination.

SDOP is likely to be the most convenient and the least expensive voluntary disclosure option for taxpayers whose prior tax noncompliance was non-willful. SDOP is very popular; in fact, it has quickly surpassed the traditional IRS Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program (“OVDP”) in the number of participants with over 18,000 submissions just in 2016.

The Origin of the Streamlined Submission Audit

Streamlined Submission Audit originates within the very nature of SDOP. Unlike OVDP, SDOP voluntary disclosures are not immediately subject to a comprehensive IRS review of tax return items (although, there is a review process which may lead to a Streamlined Submission Audit, but it is not as comprehensive as that of the OVDP prior to the Audit). Hence, the IRS reserved the right to audit any SDOP submission at any point within three years after the submission of the original SDOP voluntary disclosure package.

Streamlined Submission Audit: Process

The exact process of a Streamlined Submission Audit varies from case to case, but all of such audits have a similar format: initial letter with request for a meeting, meeting with an interview, review of submitted documents and (very likely) additional requests for information, interview of other involved individuals (such as a tax preparer) and, finally, the results of an audit are provided by the IRS to taxpayer(s) and/or the representative indicated on Form 2848.

A Streamlined Submission Audit commences in a way very similar to a regular IRS audit: a letter is sent to taxpayers and (if there is a Form 2848 on file) to their representative. The letter explains that the IRS decided to examine certain tax returns (usually all three years of amended tax returns) and asks for submission of all documentation and work papers that were used to prepare the amended returns. Additionally, the letter requests that the taxpayers’ representative (or taxpayers if not represented) contact the IRS agent in charge of the audit to schedule the initial meeting.

During the initial meeting, the IRS agent will review (at least to make sure he or she has what is needed) the documents supplied. In larger cases, the IRS will need a lot more time to later examine all of the submitted documents and see if additional documents are needed. If a case is very small, it is possible for an agent to cover everything in the first meeting, but it is very rare.

Also, during an initial meeting, there is going to be an interview of the taxpayer(s). I will discuss the interview separately in a different article.

Once the review of the initial package of documents is concluded, it is very likely that the IRS agent will have questions and additional document requests. The questions may be answered by the taxpayers’ attorney during a separate meeting with the agent; smaller questions may be settled over the phone.

If additional documentation is needed, an IRS agent will send out an additional request to taxpayers and/or their attorney. The answer will most likely need to be provided in writing.

Once the IRS completes its interview of other involved parties and reviews all evidence, it will make its decision and submit the results of the audit to the taxpayers and their tax attorney in writing. The taxpayers’ attorney will need to build a strategy with respect to the taxpayers’ response to the audit results depending on whether the taxpayers agree or disagree with the results of the audit.

Differences Between Streamlined Submission Audit and Regular IRS Audit

At first, it may seem that there are no big differences between a regular IRS audit and a Streamlined Submission Audit. While procedurally this may be correct, substantively it is not.

The greatest difference between the two types of IRS audits is the subject-matter involved. While a regular IRS audit will concentrate on the tax returns only, a Streamlined Submission Audit will involve everything: amended tax returns, FBARs, other information returns and, most importantly, Non-Willfulness Certification. In other words, a Streamlined Submission Audit will focus not only on whether the tax forms are correct, but also on whether the taxpayer was actually non-willful with respect to his prior tax noncompliance.

This difference in the subject-matter examination will carry over to other aspects of a Streamlined Submission Audit: the taxpayers’ interview will focus on their non-willfulness arguments, third-party interviews of original tax preparers become a regular feature (this is very different from a regular IRS audit when tax preparers may never be interviewed), and the final IRS results must necessarily make a decision on whether to challenge the taxpayers’ non-willfulness arguments.

Failure by a taxpayer to sustain his non-willfulness arguments may result in a disaster during a Streamlined Submission Audit with a potential referral to the Tax Division of the US Department of Justice for a criminal investigation.

This is why it is so important for a taxpayer subject to a Streamlined Submission Audit to retain the services of an experienced international tax lawyer to handle the audit professionally.

Contact Sherayzen Law Office for Professional Help With A Streamlined Submission Audit

If your submission under the Streamlined Domestic Offshore Procedures is being audited by the IRS, you need to contact Sherayzen Law Office as soon as possible. Our international tax law firm is highly experienced in offshore voluntary disclosures (including OVDP, SDOP, SFOP, “noisy disclosures”, “quiet disclosures”, et cetera) and the IRS audits of a voluntary disclosure.
In fact, we have handled voluntary disclosure cases at every stage of the process of a Streamlined Submission Audit described above. We can Help You!

Contact Us Today to Schedule Your Confidential Consultation!