What Are the Chances You'll Be Audited by the IRS?

The fear of an audit is a driving force deeply ingrained in the psyche of the American taxpayer. In fact, according to the Internal Revenue Service, it's the third-biggest reason why people pay their taxes and do so honestly, behind personal integrity and the fact that third parties already report certain income information to the feds.  But is our fear ultimately warranted?

You're far more likely to get audited than you are to win the lottery, get struck by lightning, or be attacked by a shark -- that's for sure. But still, only 1% of individual taxpayers were audited in 2013, according to IRS data -- which means the hype probably exceeds the actual risk when all is said and done. That would seem to be especially true this year, as recent budget cuts, and the October 2013 government shutdown, have seriously cramped Uncle Sam's enforcement style.

Nevertheless, it's unwise to take scarce IRS resources as an excuse to misreport and hope you won't be caught. It's simply not right, and definitely not a risk worth taking. Just think about what happened to Al Capone, Willy Nelson, Wesley Snipes, Lauryn Hill, and all of the other famous tax-evaders. Sure, their celebrity likely resulted in increased IRS scrutiny, but as you'll see below, the IRS will ultimately catch up with you regardless of your social status.

WalletHub analyzed historical IRS data in order to determine how audit rates compare across tax brackets, as well as between individuals, small businesses, and large corporations.  We also looked at historical audit results, as well as incarceration statistics, and even how the IRS enforcement division has changed throughout the years. You can find a complete breakdown of our findings below.

Key findings

  • For both consumers and corporations, the smaller the income, the higher the rate of tax evasion.
    •  Audited consumers who make less than $200,000 pay 83% higher penalties (as a percentage of adjusted gross income) than people making more than $200,000.
    • Audited corporations that earn $250,000 to $1 million pay more than 11 times higher penalties (as a percentage of adjusted gross income) than corporations earning $10 million to $50 million.
  • Individual taxpayers have a 1% chance of being audited. The individual audit rate has fallen more than 9% since 2010.
  • Small businesses have a 1% chance of being audited. The small-business audit rate has increased more than 17% since 2009.
  • Large corporations have a 15.80% chance of being audited. The large-corporation audit rate has increased 8.6% since 2009.
  • Individuals making $10 million or more are 3,933% more likely to be audited than those who make $25,000 to $100,000.
  • Corporations with more than $20 billion in annual revenue are 11,300% more likely to be audited than companies with less than $250,000 in revenue.
  • 11% of individual audits result in no additional tax obligation, compared to 28% of small business audits and 27% of large corporation audits.
  • The number of IRS agents dedicated to examinations, collections, and investigations has declined more than 12% since 2010.
  • The annual number of incarcerations for tax crimes has increased more than 117% since 2003.

Take advantage of this little-known tax "loophole"
Recent tax increases have affected nearly every American taxpayer. But with the right planning, you can take steps to take control of your taxes, and potentially even lower your tax bill. In our brand-new special report, "The IRS Is Daring You to Make This Investment Now!," you'll learn about the simple strategy to take advantage of a little-known IRS rule. Don't miss out on advice that could help you cut taxes for decades to come. Click here to learn more.

Read/Post Comments (0) | Recommend This Article (0)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

Be the first one to comment on this article.

Sponsored Links

Leaked: Apple's Next Smart Device
(Warning, it may shock you)
The secret is out... experts are predicting 458 million of these types of devices will be sold per year. 1 hyper-growth company stands to rake in maximum profit - and it's NOT Apple. Show me Apple's new smart gizmo!

DocumentId: 2976060, ~/Articles/ArticleHandler.aspx, 9/4/2015 8:55:01 AM

Report This Comment

Use this area to report a comment that you believe is in violation of the community guidelines. Our team will review the entry and take any appropriate action.

Sending report...


WalletHub is a leading personal finance social network that helps consumers save money on their credit cards, car insurance, bank accounts, mortgages, and many more financial products.

Today's Market

updated 11 hours ago Sponsored by:
DOW 16,374.76 23.38 0.00%
S&P 500 1,951.13 2.27 0.00%
NASD 4,733.50 0.00 0.00%

Create My Watchlist

Go to My Watchlist

You don't seem to be following any stocks yet!

Better investing starts with a watchlist. Now you can create a personalized watchlist and get immediate access to the personalized information you need to make successful investing decisions.

Data delayed up to 5 minutes