How to Appeal an IRS Tax Audit

The Internal Revenue Service (“IRS”) accepts most federal tax returns as filed. However, the IRS audits, or examines, some returns to determine if income, expenses, and credits are being reported accurately. During the audit, the IRS may propose adjustments to the tax return, based on any inaccuracies it finds. Most taxpayers agree to changes proposed by examiners, and their case is closed. If you do not agree, however, you can appeal any proposed change to your local Appeals Office, within thirty (30) days of receiving the letter notifying you of the proposed changes and your right to appeal; this is called a “30-day letter.”


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    Choose your venue. You may always appeal proposed changes to your local IRS Appeals Office. In some instances, however, you may also be able to appeal to the United States Tax Court, the United States Court of Federal Claims, or the United States District Court. You may wish to consult with an attorney, Certified Public Accountant (“CPA”), or an enrolled agent, a tax professional enrolled to represent taxpayers before the IRS, to determine which venue is most appropriate in your situation.
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    Decide if you will hire professional representation. Whether appealing to the IRS or the Court, you have the right to professional representation. When appealing to the IRS, or Tax Court, representation may be a CPA, attorney, or enrolled agent. When appealing to the Federal Claims or District Court, representation must be by a licensed attorney. When choosing representation, you may wish to consider:
    • Using the representation of the CPA who prepared your income tax return. If a CPA prepared your return, he or she is already familiar with your financial situation, and may be in the best position to defend you or negotiate on your behalf.
    • Hiring an enrolled agent. Enrolled agents may charge less than CPAs or attorneys, but because of their specialized skills, be more effective in your particular situation.
    • Consulting an attorney. If your case involves complicated issues, you may want to consult with a tax attorney. A tax attorney may be better able to interpret complicated tax law than a CPA or an enrolled agent.
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    Determine if you need to file a written protest or if you qualify for the small case review procedure.
    • You should file a written protest if you are a partnership or S corporation, regardless of the amount in dispute, an exempt organization, or if you qualify for special appeal procedures such as requesting Appeals consideration of liens, levies, seizures, or installment agreements.
    • If the total amount of taxes due for any tax period is not more than $25,000, and you are not a partnership or S corporation, you qualify for the small case review procedure, and may fill out and mail a Request for Appeals Review form to the address on the form, instead of filing a written protest.
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    File the appropriate documents. The documents you will need to file will depend on whether you are making a written protest, filing a Request for Appeals review, or asking the Court to decide the disputed issues.
    • Instructions for filing a written protest are included in the 30-day letter you will receive. Your protest letter should include your name, social security number, address, phone number, and the tax years involved in the dispute. You should also include a statement that you wish to appeal the IRS findings, for example, “I wish to appeal the IRS findings listed below.” Provide the specific findings you disagree with and tell why, including the facts supporting your position, and the tax law on the issue, and include a copy of the 30-day letter to which you are responding.
    • For a Request for Appeals Review, follow the directions on the Request form, which can be located on the IRS’s website at
    • For appeals taken directly to Court, you will need to file a Petition with the Court, as well as a Summons, and other pleadings as required by your particular case and the Court in which you are proceeding. You should consult with an attorney or check with the Court clerk’s office for complete information regarding the forms you will need, and the filing procedure. You may also visit the United States Tax Court for forms and help with your appeal.
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    . Prepare for the Appeal Conference or Court hearing. Follow these steps to prepare:
    • Request a copy of the auditor’s file. You may do this by sending a certified letter to the address you sent your protest letter or Request of Appeals Review form.
    • Gather and organize your documents. Gather all documents, which prove any part of your argument(s), and organize them in manner that allows you to find them, as you need them in order to support your argument.
    • Secure your witnesses. For Court hearings, you may need to issue a Subpoena to each of your witnesses to ensure that he or she is present in Court, and provide a list of witnesses to the IRS. Appeals to the IRS are less formal, and do not require you to subpoena witnesses or provide a witness list in advance.
    • Research the tax laws, which are in dispute. The appeals officer or Judge is going to rely heavily on the law, and what it says should be done in your situation. When the law is on your side, you should know which law, and exactly what it says so that you can point it out at the conference or hearing.
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    Attend the Appeal Conference or Court hearing. Some guidelines for the conference or hearing, which you should follow:
    • Be on time for the conference or hearing. Arriving early is always a good idea, and will allow you time to find where you should be, organize your files, and relax.
    • Dress and groom yourself appropriately. An appeal conference is informal, but you should dress neatly and professionally. A Court hearing is formal, and men should wear slacks, dress shirt, and tie, or a suit and nice shoes. Women should wear slacks or a skirt, dress shirt, and nice shoes. Dresses are also appropriate for women to wear to Court. Blue jeans and sneakers, tennis or gym shoes, or flip-flops are not appropriate for Court. Men should be clean-shaven or neatly trimmed, and women should wear their hair and make-up conservatively.
    • Make your arguments clear and concise, and walk the Judge or appeals officer through each argument step-by-step, providing documentation or testimony in support of each fact and/or conclusion as you present it.
    • Be willing to negotiate. The purpose of an appeal conference is to reach an agreement and settle the matter. If you know which issues are worth fighting about, and are willing to compromise on others, the conference will go more quickly and you may get a better result.
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    Appeal the IRS or Court decision to the appropriate Court, if you do not agree with it. You may appeal an IRS Appeal Office’s decision to the United States Tax Court, United States Court of Federal Claims, or the United States District Court. You may wish to consult with an attorney before taking further action in the Court.


  • If you unreasonably fail to pursue the IRS' appeals system, if your case is intended primarily to cause a delay, or your position is frivolous or groundless, the Tax Court may impose a penalty of up to $25,000.
  • Before filing anything in Court or with an IRS Appeals Office, you should consult with a tax professional such as a CPA, tax attorney, or IRS enrolled agent.

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Categories: Taxes and Fees