Will Itemizing on Your Tax Return Make You More Likely to Get Audited?

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  • The IRS may have more opportunities to dig deeper into your taxes when you itemize on your return.
  • As long as you claim legitimate, reasonable deductions, there's no reason to fear an audit.

The quick answer is that it depends.

At this point, you've ideally at least begun the process of filing your 2022 taxes. And you may be on the fence about itemizing on your return versus claiming the standard deduction.

The best move really boils down to a numbers game. If your total personal deductions exceed the standard deduction, then itemizing makes the most financial sense.

But you may be worried that itemizing on your tax return will increase your risk of an audit. Mark Steber, Chief Tax Information Officer at Jackson Hewitt, says that audit fears should not stop you from itemizing and claiming the tax breaks you're entitled to. But it's also important to know which deductions you're eligible to take and to be completely honest about your deductions.

It's all about honesty and accuracy

It could make sense to itemize deductions on your tax return this year if you have many to claim. Some of the deductions you may be entitled to include:

  • Mortgage loan interest
  • Property taxes
  • Medical expenses
  • Expenses related to self-employment income, like a home office, travel costs, office supplies, and equipment

Every time you claim a deduction, you technically open the door to further scrutiny on the part of the IRS. But, says Steber, if your deductions are legitimate, then there's really nothing to worry about.

Let's say you claim a $3,000 deduction for equipment you bought to support your side business, and the IRS sends you a notice after receiving your tax return asking for proof that you bought the items you said you did. In this case, all you need to do is respond to that letter with copies of your receipts, and you shouldn't have a problem.

As Steber says, "If you've done your tax return accurately and you have good documentation, an audit is nothing more than someone asking to see some support."

Another thing to know is that if you're claiming deductions that are reasonable given your income, there's a good chance you won't get audited. Let's say you've claimed $3,000 in deductions against $30,000 of income. That's not an unreasonable percentage. But if you're claiming $28,000 in deductions against $30,000 of income, it might raise more of a red flag.

Similarly, let's say you report an income of $60,000 for 2022 and claim $15,000 in mortgage interest. That amount looks very disproportionate to the income you're reporting (whereas it perhaps wouldn't raise a red flag for someone with a $300,000 income). So in that situation, it wouldn't be surprising for the IRS to want a closer look.

When you make a mistake

Sometimes, tax filers do claim deductions they aren't eligible for -- not to cheat the system, but because they simply don't understand all the rules. This is more likely to happen, says Steber, if you file your taxes on your own, as opposed to using a seasoned tax professional for help.

But even in that case, you're not necessarily going to get in trouble with the IRS. Rather, what might happen is that the IRS may send you a notice seeking to adjust your tax return to eliminate the deduction you claimed erroneously.

As Steber says, "Sometimes, an audit is really just the IRS telling you you claimed a deduction you weren't entitled to." But you're not necessarily going to be hit with penalties for making an honest mistake.

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