Tax practitioners have always been cautious with the records they provide to the IRS in an audit to control the depth of an IRS inquiry. But IRS agents are starting to request client backup files from small business accounting software such as QuickBooks and Peachtree, and many practitioners are concerned about how much information the IRS is requesting and how it is using that information.
This article explores the IRS’ legal authority and long-standing use of electronic records in audits and takes a closer look into how the IRS requests and uses electronic files. It offers tips for CPA practitioners in responding to IRS requests for small business accounting files and for their clients in adjusting bookkeeping practices to minimize undue IRS inquiry during a small business audit.
In October 2010, partially at the request of tax practitioners during IRS focus groups, the IRS announced it was expanding its audit capabilities by training agents to be proficient in auditing information from files of accounting software commonly used by small businesses. According to the IRS, it has trained 1,100 revenue agents and has given them copies of the software to become proficient in using them and other programs in the future. It also encouraged agents to start requesting electronic files from taxpayers and practitioners. According to the IRS, the push to start using small business accounting files in audits originated with feedback from tax practitioners in 2008 focus groups. Practitioners indicated they wanted the IRS to be more efficient in examining records and reduce the volume of paper involved in audits. The IRS saw this as making audits more efficient for its agents as well.