(BPT) - There are few things in life more feared than a tax audit. Just the thought of being summoned to appear before the IRS and going through tax returns and old receipts is enough to throw most people into a panic.
A 2016 survey conducted by Harris Poll on behalf of Hyatt Legal Plans, "Improving Employee Wellness through Legal Benefits," found that 46 percent of respondents that were audited in the last five years said that they needed legal support. Navigating through an IRS audit can be a stressful experience and, with recent research finding the hourly rate to use an attorney averaging $290 an hour, it can very expensive too, according to the National Law Journal and ALM Legal Intelligence, Survey of Law Firm Economics from 2013. Fortunately, many Americans may already have access to affordable help for IRS audits.
Here are some things that can make the process of an IRS audit easier:
* Good records
If you do end up being audited, you will likely have to produce receipts for the things you took as deductions, such as charitable donations or self-employment expenses, for example. As long as you've kept all important receipts over the years, you can feel safe knowing that you can show proof for any deductions. As a general rule, you should hold on to any receipts or important documents related to your taxes for up to seven years.
Whether or not you used an accountant to prepare your taxes, you may want to bring along someone to represent you before the IRS. Many accountants will do it if they prepared your return, but if you're going on your own, an attorney can step in and provide representation. Many attorneys specialize in tax matters and can provide guidance and expertise during an IRS audit.
* Have a legal plan
If the cost of using an attorney is intimidating, you can breathe easier if you are one of the many individuals with a prepaid legal plan through their employer that gives them access to attorneys for a low monthly fee. Legal plan members can contact attorneys for assistance with every step of an IRS audit, helping them to gather the necessary documents, discussing the audit process and appearing before the IRS if needed.
"Legal plan members can feel safe during tax time knowing that if the IRS ever comes calling, they have someone to turn to," says Ingrid Tolentino, CEO of Hyatt Legal Plans. "For as little as $20 a month, group legal plans provided through an employer cover using an attorney for nearly any tax issue that comes up, from tax collection issues to tax audits."
For more information about how legal plans work, visit www.legalplans.com.
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