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Mar 23, 2016

Can a CPA Represent You if You Get Audited by the IRS?

By Maureen Renzi, Vice President - Communications


estimatedtaxes_thumbMoneyLife100An IRS audit of your taxes can be a nerve-racking experience. It is something you do not want to enter into on your own. But who can stand beside you, or for you, in front of the IRS? Can a certified public accountant (CPA) represent you, a client, during an IRS audit? According to Julius Green, CPA, president of the Pennsylvania Institute of Certified Public Accountants, the answer is simple: yes. CPAs are specifically identified by the IRS as professionals permitted to represent their clients before the IRS. According to Circular 230, which is the IRS document defining tax preparation regulation, CPAs may:

  • Communicate with the IRS on behalf of a taxpayer
  • Represent a taxpayer at conferences, hearings, or meetings
  • Prepare, file, or submit documents
  • Provide clients with written tax advice on one or more federal tax matters.

In Pennsylvania, CPAs must adhere to the IRS’s regulations published in Circular 230 as well as a Code of Professional Conduct and licensing requirements set forth through the Pennsylvania State Board of Accountancy. To obtain a CPA license in Pennsylvania, CPAs must graduate from college with an accounting degree and specified core courses, pass a rigorous national exam, and have specified work experience. To maintain a CPA license, these professionals must complete 80 hours of continuing education credits every two years.

Everyone hopes that there is no need for an audit, but if you get questions from the IRS related to a tax return CPAs have these quick tips:

  • Don’t ignore the request. Contact your CPA immediately and share the correspondence.
  • Have your CPA respond promptly to the IRS, including answering requests and providing information.
  • Be organized.
  • Provide only the information requested. Period.
  • Carefully review any assessed penalties for errors. The IRS can make math errors too.
  • Never give the IRS the only copy or the original of a document.

If an IRS agent presents you with a bill, you have the option to agree and sign the document, or dispute the amount using one of the available dispute alternatives including filing a formal Protest with IRS Appeals. A CPA can help you decide the best course of action for you.

Not all tax preparers are created equal, and it’s critical that you know your needs and hire the person who best helps you reach your financial goals. There are some key tax traits that may indicate that it’s time for a CPA to help with your taxes. You can find this information and more at www.picpa.org/consumers.

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  • Taylor Hansen | Sep 17, 2020
    My current company is getting audited and we're worried about losing money and if we should hire a CPA for our situation. It really helped when you said to have a CPA respond immediately to the IRS and to give the information requested. We'll have to find a qualified CPA that has experience dealing with audits. https://pacifictaxrelief.com/irs-representation
  • Rhianna Hawk | Oct 12, 2018
    My workplace is getting audited, and my boss is somewhat stressed about it and is considering hiring a CPA to help represent us during the process. It's good to know that the Circular 230 does state that a CPA is allowed to represent us in hearings, submit documents, and provide tax counseling, all of which will be extremely beneficial to make sure that our audit goes smoothly. The fact that CPA's are required to go through so much schooling and training to be certified is also very comforting, and I'll pass that information on to my boss so that he knows that a CPA really does have the expertise we need. 

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    Statements of fact and opinion are the authors’ responsibility alone and do not imply an opinion on the part of PICPA officers or members. The information contained in herein does not constitute accounting, legal, or professional advice. For professional advice, please engage or consult a qualified professional.