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July 1, 2024

So, You’ve Been Audited: Should You Go It Alone or Hire a CPA?

I sincerely hope you have never had to go through an IRS audit – and never have to in the future. But what if that dark day does arrive? Should you go it alone and defend yourself or hire a CPA to be on your side?

The temptation to handle this alone is usually prompted by one of two things. First, the notion is that this is not such a big deal. Other times, people think if they handle it themselves, they will save money.

Unfortunately, neither of these are good reasons to defend yourself in a tax audit against the IRS. While the decision to hire a CPA or tax lawyer does depend on the case and the issues at hand, the procedural setting plays an important role as well. The answer is nearly universal that you should hire a CPA to defend you – or even a tax lawyer if the situation warrants it (sometimes they are one in the same person).

Why it is a Terrible Idea to Defend Yourself in a Tax Audit

There are several reasons why partnering with a pro is a good idea. Let’s look at each one and why.

  1. Working with your CPA, you can go back and forth with your side of the story, dig into the facts, and challenge each other in formulating a response. You essentially have a thinking partner and someone to fact check your side of the situation. Plus, they know how to “handle” the IRS in the messaging of responses.
  2. It is prudent to create some space between you and direct communications with the government. For the same reason, defense attorneys do not want their clients talking directly to the police. It is best if you communicate via your CPA or tax lawyer. Whenever you are in direct communications with the IRS, the chance of making a misstep is greater. Once you have said or written something to the IRS, it is pretty much impossible to backtrack.
  3. CPAs are experienced in advocating for clients and documentation.
  4. Early representation is a must! One of the biggest mistakes taxpayers subject to an audit make is to start off on their own and then end up in an even worse situation than they started. One of the biggest reasons why an audit can cost a lot is because the taxpayer dug themselves into hole that a CPA then later had to get them out of.
  5. Most cases rest on fundamental accounting problems. Someone with expertise and good records can address these problems early and competently. Seeing your own facts and documents through an unbiased and objective lens is not easy for most of us.

Conclusion

Ultimately, the decision to hire a CPA to represent you in a tax audit is a personal one. Exactly how necessary this is depends on the facts and circumstances of each individual situation, but it’s almost never a good idea to go it alone. If you ever find yourself in an audit, seriously consider hiring a CPA – and do it early in the process.


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