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2017 IRS Data Book Shows Chances Of Being Audited

The IRS has published the 2017 version of its annual IRS Data Book, which contains statistical information about the IRS and taxpayer activities during the previous year. The IRS Data Book helps illustrate the breadth and complexity of the U.S. tax system. According to the Data Book, during fiscal year 2017 (Oct. 1, 2016 to Sept. 30, 2017), the IRS collected overall more than US$ 3.4 trillion from taxpayers, processed more than 245 million tax returns and other forms, and issued more than $436 billion in tax refunds.

The IRS also audited almost 1.1 million tax returns during fiscal year 2017.  Almost 90% of the audited returns were individual income tax returns. While the percentage of overall returns audited was relatively low at 0.5% overall, the percentages were significantly higher for two types of taxpayers – wealthy individuals and individuals filing international returns.

Audits Of The Wealthy

For 2017, as in past years, the higher your income, the more likely that the IRS would audit your return.  According to the Data Book, this is how the numbers shook out for individual nonbusiness returns:

Positive Income :  % of Returns Audited

Less than $200k :  ~0.3%

Between $200k and $1m :  ~0.8%

$1m or more :  ~4.4%

Audits Of International Returns

Expats should take careful note of the very high percentage of international returns that were audited in 2017 – namely 5.2%. This represents a likelihood that is more than ten times higher than the overall average of 0.5%.

The IRS’s crackdown on taxpayers living overseas through FATCA and other means clearly played a major role in the audit focus on international tax returns.

Outlook For 2018 And Beyond

The audit percentages in the 2017 Data Book give a good indication as to the likelihood of being audited in 2018 and beyond. It is possible, however, that 2018 will see a jump in audits of international returns due to foreign bank account information flowing into the IRS from FATCA partner countries and new foreign-related provisions under Trump’s tax reform.

For these reasons, it has become more important than ever for expats to file their U.S. taxes timely and accurately. At Expat Tax Professionals, our team of experts will carefully prepare your tax return, so that if you end up getting audited, your return will withstand the scrutiny of the IRS.

Have a question? Contact Ephraim Moss.

Your comments are always welcome!


Mr. Moss is a Tax partner in a boutique U.S. tax firm specializing in the areas of international taxation and expatriate taxation. The practice focuses on servicing U.S. individuals and small business located outside the U.S. with their U.S. and international tax matters and includes both tax planning as well as annual tax compliance (tax return preparation). He has extensive experience with filing delinquent returns under the IRS Streamlined procedure, FBARs, FATCA reporting (Form 8938), reporting interests in foreign corporations (Form 5471) and partnerships (Form 8865) as well as foreign trust reporting (Form 3520 and Form 3520/A). He works very closely with clients utilizing the various international tax treaties in order to maximize benefits through smart tax planning. Previously he held a senior position in the international tax practice of Ernst & Young. He is an attorney licensed in the State of New York.