14 IRS Audit Red Flags for Retirees

Seniors beware: Your actions can increase the chances of the IRS giving your tax return a closer look.

picture of audit letter from IRS with a post-it on it saying "tax attorney 10:00 a.m."
(Image credit: Getty Images)

As you're getting ready to file your 2021 federal tax return, you may be wondering about your odds of an IRS audit. Most people can breathe easy because the vast majority of individual returns escape the IRS audit machine. In recent years, the IRS has been auditing significantly less than 1% of all individual tax returns, and the vast majority of these exams were conducted by mail, meaning most taxpayers never met with an IRS agent in person. The trend has been towards fewer audits from year to year.

That said, your chances of being audited or otherwise hearing from the IRS escalate depending on various factors. Obviously, failing to report income shown on 1099s and W-2s will increase your audit chances. Math errors may draw IRS inquiry (although they'll rarely lead to a full-blown exam). Claiming certain tax deductions is something else that can trigger a closer look at your return. Other actions or activities can boost the odds of an audit, too. So, to be on the safe side, retirees should check out these 14 red flags that could increase the chances that the IRS will give your return unwelcome attention.

Joy Taylor
Editor, The Kiplinger Tax Letter

Joy is an experienced CPA and tax attorney with an L.L.M. in Taxation from New York University School of Law. After many years working for big law and accounting firms, Joy saw the light and now puts her education, legal experience and in-depth knowledge of federal tax law to use writing for Kiplinger. She writes and edits The Kiplinger Tax Letter and contributes federal tax and retirement stories to kiplinger.com and Kiplinger’s Retirement Report. Her articles have been picked up by the Washington Post and other media outlets. Joy has also appeared as a tax expert in newspapers, on television and on radio discussing federal tax developments.