The IRS recently announced that it plans to increase audits of small businesses in the hopes of closing a $450 Billion gap. This announcement is interesting because it come on the heals of a recent report that most audits of small businesses turn up nothing. The eight significant audit areas the IRS will be concentrating are:
1. Fringe benefits. The IRS is completing its final year of research on employment tax compliance. Early findings from these audits indicate that employers are not reporting employees’ personal use of company vehicles on Forms 1099 or W-2. Look for the IRS to investigate the use of all company cars, especially luxury autos, in its audits.
2. High income/high wealth taxpayers. The IRS defines high income/high wealth taxpayers as those who bring in a total income of more than $200,000 a year. Total income includes all gross receipts and sources of income before expenses and deductions. Through 2013, the IRS will focus on taxpayers with a total positive income of more than $1 million who file a Schedule C business return. Last year, the IRS audited 12.5% of all individuals with incomes of more than $1 million, a significant increase from 8.4% in 2010.
3. Form 1099-K matching. The IRS announced that it will start Form 1099-K matching in late 2013. The IRS provided a reprieve from merchant card reporting on business returns for 2011 Schedule C and Forms 1065, 1120S and 1120; however, the IRS plans to change its approach after 2012 returns are filed. The IRS has indicated that it plans to pilot a business-matching program that can address a large amount of small business noncompliance.
4. Credit for small business employee health insurance. This credit, first available on 2010 returns, is now coming under IRS scrutiny. The IRS will examine small business employers and for compliance with eligibility requirements.
5. International transactions. The IRS will continue to focus on the international tax gap. The IRS’ third voluntary initiative for foreign bank account reporting is under way, and the IRS will be looking to aggressively pursue taxpayers who hide assets overseas. The IRS will also focus on offshore transactions for large and small businesses.
6. Partnerships. This is a new area of emphasis for the IRS. Expect the IRS to target large loss partnerships and specific abuses that emerge from early findings in this project.
7. S corporations. The IRS is interested in S corporation audits in which losses are taken in excess of basis on shareholder returns. The IRS will review basis computations in these audits to determine whether tax preparers are properly completing due diligence requirements before deducting losses on Form 1040. The IRS is also interested in the use of S corporation distributions to avoid payment of Social Security taxes. The IRS will focus on S corporations with income, distributions and little or no salary paid to officers.
8. Proper worker reclassification. Almost all business audits also include employment tax issues. In particular, the IRS is interested in worker status. The IRS understands that businesses have an economic incentive to misclassify workers as independent contractors rather than employees. It costs about 30% less for a business to employ an independent contractor than an employee. The IRS thinks there is significant noncompliance in worker classification and will continue to focus its field examination resources in this area.