Good news: your odds over getting an IRS audit are low. The latest report on the agency’s enforcement activities show it audited 0.8% of all returns filed by individuals. Yet, your odds vary based on your income and if you’re self-employed and file a Schedule C.

IRS Audit Odds: Higher if You’re Self-Employed

Adjusted Gross IncomeIRS Audit Percentage in 2015
$1 to $25,0001.01%
$50,000 to $75,0000.47%
$75,000 to $100,0000.49%
$100,000 to $200,0000.64%
$200,000 to $500,0001.54%
$500,000 to $1,000,0003.81%
$1,000,000 to $5,000,0008.42%
$5,000,000 to $10,000,00019.44%
$10,000,000 or more34.69%

If you work for yourself and file Schedule C with your return, your audit odds are a bit higher:

Adjusted Gross Income—Schedule CIRS Audit Percentage in 2015
$1 to $25,0000.9%
$25,000 to $100,0002.4%
$100,000 to $200,0002.5%
$200,000 or more2.0%

Reductions in the IRS budget have reduced the number of audits in recent years. But, this doesn’t mean you can get away with wholesale cheating on your taxes.

The IRS uses sophisticated software to choose which returns to audit. Your IRS audit odds will go way up if you: don’t report all your income or take deductions that don’t make sense. For example, the IRS closely watches the mileage deduction because it’s ripe for abuse. A big red flag would be claiming an inflated percentage of business miles.

The best way to handle an IRS audit is to avoid it in the first place by filing on time, filing honestly and paying any taxes you owe. If you’re one of the unlucky few who do have to face an IRS audit, be sure you have the proper documentation to back up your claims.

Building off the example above, if you claimed the mileage deduction above and faced an audit, you better be prepared with a mileage log. This must include:

  • your mileage
  • the dates of your business trips
  • the places you drove for business, and
  • the business purpose for your trips

The government agency will also want to know your total number of miles you drove during the year. This includes business miles, commuting miles and personal driving (drives other than your commute and business). By far, the best way to prove your mileage deduction is by keeping contemporaneous records.

Download MileIQ to start accurately tracking your miles »

(photo credit: Ray Tsang)

Stephen Fishman

Stephen Fishman

Stephen Fishman is a self-employed tax expert and regular contributor to MileIQ. He has dedicated his career as an attorney and author to writing useful, authoritative and recognized guides on taxes and business law for entrepreneurs, independent contractors, freelancers and other self-employed people. He is the author of over 20 books and hundreds of articles, and has been quoted in The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Chicago Tribune, and many other publications. Visit Fishman Law and Tax Files for more information on his work.
Stephen Fishman