Representing Yourself Before the IRS

By Alan L. Olsen, CPA, MBA (tax)
Managing Partner
Greenstein Rogoff Olsen & Co. LLP

So you are under audit with the IRS or the Franchise Tax Board. Thinking about representing yourself? I suggest that you think again. As a former IRS agent, some of the easiest adjustments came from individuals representing themselves. Simply put, I would ask questions and then listen to responses. Within the first 15 minutes, I would have enough information in my arsenal to make the person turn over some more tax dollars.

I remember the contractor that I visited at his onsite office location. As I walked through the office, I saw a computer in the office. I said, “Nice computer”. The contractor then responded that he never knew how to really use the computer except for playing games.

Unknowingly, this contractor just admitted that he was not entitled to $3,000 worth of deductions.

Just in case you are still set on representing yourself, then I suggest these strategies for handling the IRS audit:

1. You should understand the procedures for the IRS audits and appeal procedures.

2. Do not volunteer information to the IRS and pretend to be helpful.

3. The IRS will be focused on certain items in your return, stick with the issues under audit, and provide the agent with proper documentation for the expense or income item claimed.

4. Do not allow the IRS to go on fishing expeditions into areas that fall outside the audit.

5. If your return was prepared wrong, discuss the situation with a qualified professional. We all make mistakes. If the mistake was innocent, then admit the mistake and go on.

For help with representing yourself before the IRS, contact us at 510-797-8661 or

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