The IRS maintains “Audit Technique Guides” for use by its examiners in auditing different types of businesses. These guides identify the issues that the auditor should be reviewing and the types of documentation the auditor should review in addressing these issues.
The taxpayer can use these Guides to his advantage in several ways. Naturally it is always helpful to have your opponent’s playbook before the game. While an auditor might not be bound strictly to the principles in the Guide (it is advisory rather than mandatory), you can point to its guidelines if there are points of disagreement as to what the auditor wants to review or the scope of the audit. Always remember, too, to verify that the years to be examined are not closed (generally tax years more than 3 years absent fraud and with timely filed returns). You can similarly point to the Internal Revenue Manual (I.R.M.) as “persuasive” authority that you are correct on a particular point of tax law.
With that background, the Service has recently updated its guides for audits of Attorneys and Business Consultants. One particular area of interest is in the Attorney guide on the subject of attorney-client privilege. The guide correctly recognizes that an attorney and his or her client have the right to assert this privilege against the IRS. The Service may be able to overcome this privilege in some cases by issuing a summons, if there is evidence of fraud or in criminal matters. The tax attorney must carefully review the information to be produced, however, consistent with his or her ethical obligations to his clients, and insist that the Service strictly adhere to its procedures for issuing summons to acquire protected communications. The Service may not audit an attorney as a fishing expedition for information about the attorney’s clients.
As a tax attorney I often represent other professionals against the IRS and Florida Department of Revenue in federal income tax, and Florida sales tax, use tax and employment tax audits. If you would like more information about defending your legal rights in this area please visit me at http://www.goodattorneysatlaw.com/tax.html.
For the IRS Attorney Audit Technique Guide see http://www.irs.gov/businesses/small/article/0,,id=241098,00.html