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Does representation matter in IRS office audits?

ABSTRACT. Tax practitioners often represent clients before the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). It is generally assumed that clients enjoy significant benefits when represented by a tax practitioner during an IRS audit, such as limitations on the final assessment of tax and penalties. To the best of our knowledge, there is no research that directly analyzes the impact of taxpayer representation on IRS audit outcomes because there is no data on whether the taxpayer was represented.

This research provides empirical evidence regarding one of the perceived benefits of representation--a reduction in the final tax assessment by the IRS--and is a first step in determining when an individual should hire a professional representative for an IRS office audit. The results indicate that the final tax assessment is significantly less for taxpayers with representation during an IRS office audit, both in dollars and as a percentage of the potential deficiency.

INTRODUCTION

Tax practitioners often represent clients before the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and it is assumed that these clients can expect to see significant benefits during the audit as a result. (1) Articles suggest that a potential benefit from representation is a reduction in the final IRS assessment of tax and penalties (Evanson 1995; Sommers 1995; Hicks 1991).

To the best of our knowledge, however, there is no research that directly analyzes the impact of taxpayer representation on IRS audit outcomes because there is no data on whether the taxpayer was or was not represented. The IRS makes available information regarding the Individual Taxpayer Compliance Measurement Program (TCMP) audits, but the file does not include information regarding whether the taxpayer was represented during the audit. (2)

In a TCMP audit, the IRS audits every line item on the tax return in order to determine the level of compliance for each separate item. In contrast, office audits involve an "in-person" interview and records review with the auditor at the IRS office. (3) Historically, individuals were more likely to be subject to an office audit than a TCMP audit. (4) An office audit is often used for middle-income individual taxpayers including those with small sole proprietorships. The office audit notice usually identifies specific items or areas of interest and requests the taxpayer to support those items, thereby significantly reducing the audit's scope.

This research uses data on 45 taxpayers subject to office audits by the IRS from the Federal Student Tax Clinic operated by the University of North Texas (UNT). This unique dataset provides the opportunity to obtain empirical evidence regarding the impact of tax-payer representation on IRS audit outcomes and to analyze specific audit adjustments for a sample of office audits. This research provides information regarding a much more typical IRS audit than a TCMP audit. Although the study involves student representatives, the students were well prepared for the audit issues identified in the IRS audit notice and had a significantly greater level of knowledge than the taxpayers. (5)

Research regarding the benefits of taxpayer representation during IRS office audits is important for several reasons. First, it provides empirical evidence regarding one of the perceived benefits of representation, a reduction in the final tax assessment by the IRS. This research is a first step in addressing whether an individual should hire a professional representative for an IRS office audit. Since hiring a professional representative is costly, a rational individual would perform a cost benefit analysis and make the decision to hire a professional representative only if the expected tax savings from representation is greater than the cost of representation. This paper provides empirical evidence that representation results in a significant reduction in the final tax assessment from an office audit, both in dollars and as a percentage of the potential deficiency. This information should assist individuals in estimating their expected tax savings from representation. Given an estimate of the expected tax savings from representation, the individual can then compare it to the expected cost of representation to decide whether to hire a professional representative.

This research also provides descriptive statistics of IRS office audit information from a sample of audits. Hite and Hasseldine (2003) examine a large sample of IRS office audits to determine whether there are more audit adjustments on returns completed by paid-preparers than on self-prepared returns. Their study separated audit adjustments into two categories, deduction adjustments and income adjustments. Our results are consistent with Hite and Hasseldine's (2003) findings that most adjustments come from deduction errors rather than income errors. Our study extends Hite and Hasseldine (2003) by separating the audit adjustments into specific types of deduction and income adjustments, providing additional descriptive information.

Our results indicate that representation during an office audit benefits the taxpayer, providing empirical evidence to augment the popular perception. Specifically, we find that taxpayers who are represented see a final tax assessment that is approximately $1,300 lower than those who are not represented (or 40 percent of the potential deficiency determined using the items identified for audit in the IRS notice). This study indicates that well-prepared students significantly reduce the final tax deficiency, adding to Hite and Hasseldine's (2003) evidence "on the positive role that qualified accountants play in terms of decreasing deduction adjustments."

The remainder of the paper is organized as follows. The second section reviews prior research regarding IRS audits and taxpayer compliance and develops the research hypothesis. The third section develops the empirical models, and the fourth section describes the sample. The fifth section reports the empirical results, and the final section summarizes and provides conclusions.

BACKGROUND

The public press offers numerous articles regarding how to handle an IRS audit that attempt to answer the question of whether you need a representative. The articles argue that the answer depends on (1) the nature of the audit, (2) the issues involved, and (3) the experience and personality of the taxpayer. Generally, such articles in the public press indicate that the taxpayer should retain a tax expert for an IRS audit if that taxpayer cannot substantiate an income or expense item, or if a legal issue is involved (Sommers 1995). Another concern is whether the taxpayer may inadvertently create an issue by saying too much or saying the wrong thing (Weiner 2001; Anderson 1999; Szabo 1994).

Roberts (1995) investigates whether the presence of a CPA representative during an audit influences an IRS agent in his decision to assess negligence penalties on a taxpayer. He found that representation by a CPA had no significant impact on the agent's decision to assess negligence penalties. Roberts' (1995) study is the only academic research that has addressed the impact of representation during an IRS audit and is limited to the specific issue of negligence penalties.

In order to identify other factors that may influence the dollar amount of IRS audit adjustments, it is necessary to review the tax practitioner research and research using the TCMP files. Research on tax practitioners has focused on two areas: (1) the demand for tax return preparation services and (2) whether tax return preparers impact the level of compliance. On the issue of paid preparers affecting the level of compliance, the research suggests that returns prepared by CPAs and lawyers have a higher level of noncompliance than do those prepared by other paid professionals or by the taxpayers themselves (Dubin et al. 1992; Erard 1993). Long and Caudill (1987) find that the reported income tax liability is relatively lower on returns completed by paid-preparers compared to those prepared by taxpayers. Klepper et al. (1991) conclude that tax practitioners as a single group promote compliant reporting on unambiguously defined line items and noncompliant reporting on ambiguously defined items. Contrary to research utilizing TCMP data, Hite and Hasseldine (2003) examine a sample of IRS office audits and find that CPA prepared returns had fewer audit adjustments than self-prepared returns. This research implies that the use of a paid preparer may impact the dollar amount of IRS audit adjustments. Therefore, a control variable for paid preparer is included in this study.

Other research utilizing the TCMP data files provides insight regarding factors other than representation during audit that may influence the dollar outcome of the office audit. Feinstein (1991) found that Schedule C filers are significantly more likely to evade than the average taxpayer. Madeo et al.'s (1987) study on taxpayer compliance behavior indicates that the source of income (wages versus self-employment income) is critical in determining taxpayer compliance. These findings suggest that potential audit adjustments for Schedule C fliers may be greater than for other taxpayer groups. Therefore, a control variable for Schedule C is included in this study.

HYPOTHESIS AND EMPIRICAL MODELS

Research Hypotheses

The purpose of this research is to provide evidence regarding one of the potential benefits of taxpayer representation during an IRS audit, namely the reduction in the final tax liability determined during office audits. (6) In order to determine if representation results in actual dollar benefits, we test the following hypothesis:

H1: Final tax deficiencies are relatively lower for taxpayers with representation during IRS audits than for taxpayers without representation.

Statistical Framework

Selection bias results whenever there is non-random sampling. The term self-selection bias is used when the non-randomness arises from individual choices. In this study, individuals chose whether to use a representative based on their perception of the relative costs and benefits of representation, resulting in a potential self-selection bias. OLS procedures that ignore the non-randomness of the sample may be biased. The most widely used methodology for addressing self-selection bias is the two-stage process employing a correction term that was originally developed by Heckman (1976, 1979). (7)

The first stage involves the representation decision. The individuals in our study faced a choice regarding representation during an IRS audit. Define a latent variable R* for individual i that reflects his/her preference for representation and let it be denoted by [R.sub.i]*. The individual selects representation if [R.sub.i]* > 0 and remains unrepresented if [R.sub.i]* < 0. Our model hypothesizes the [R.sub.i]* is a linear function of variables describing the individual's characteristics, including income level and audit issues, along with a random error term:

(1) [R.sub.i]* = [theta][Z.sub.i] - [[epsilon].sub.i]

where [[epsilon.sub.i] is normally distributed with zero mean and unit variance, [Z.sub.i] is a vector of explanatory variables and [theta] is an unknown vector of coefficient parameters. The latent variable is not observed. Instead we observe:

[R.sub.i] = 1 if [R.sub.i]* > 0, i.e., [theta][Z.suib.i] > [[epsilon.sub.i]

or:

[R.sub.i] = 0 if [R.sub.i]* [greater than or equal to] 0, i.e., [theta][Z.sub.i] [greater than or equal to] [[epsilon.sub.i].

The second stage addresses the item of interest, the potential benefit of representation during IRS audits. For an individual, [y.sub.i] denotes the outcome of the IRS audit, which is a function of explanatory variables including the representation variable and a random error term:

(2) [y.sub.i] = [beta][X.sub.i] + S[delta][R.sub.i] + [u.sub.i]

where [u.sub.i] is normally distributed with zero mean, X denotes a vector of variables that impact the final audit outcome, R is the representation dummy variable described above, and [beta] is a vector of unknown parameters.

The parameters in Equation (2) cannot be estimated directly by OLS because the presence of self-selection bias causes [u.sub.i] to be correlated with [[epsilon].sub.i]. The covariance matrix of [[u.sub.i], [epsilon].sub.i]] is assumed to be normally distributed, and the conditional mean of the error term [u.sub.i] can be shown as follows (Heckman 1976; Lee 1982; Maddala 1983):

[MATHEMATICAL EXPRESSION NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII.]

where [[sigma].sub.[epsilon]] = Cov[[u.sub.i], [[epsilon].sub.i]], [PHI] is the cumulative distribution of the standard normal function,

and [theta] is its density function. The term [- [phi][[theta]Zi]/[PHI][theta]Zi]], known as the Mills ratio and designated as [lambda], represents the selectivity correction term for the sample.

Using Heckman's two-stage process, the representation choice equation is estimated using Probit analysis. The estimated value of [??][Z.sub.i] is then used to generate the Mills ratio ([lambda]) for each sample observation. In the second stage, the Mills ratio ([lambda]) is added to Equation (2), which is then estimated using OLS. Equation (2) is rewritten as follows:

(3) [y.sub.i] = [beta][X.sub.i] + [delta][R.sub.i] + [[sigma].sub.[epsilon]] [??] + [w.sub.i]

where [w.sub.i] is a random error term with zero mean and constant variance. A natural test for self-selection bias arises, since the coefficient of [??] estimates the degree of covariance between the error terms in Equations (1) and (2). A statistically significant selection coefficient [??] implies that unobserved factors leading some individuals to choose representation are correlated with unmeasured factors that concurrently affect the audit outcome.

Model Specification Representation Choice Model

The representation choice model used to develop the Mills ratio to control for self-selection bias is as follows:

(4) [MATHEMATICAL EXPRESSION NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII.]

where REP is a dummy variable coded 1 if a student represented the taxpayer during the office audit, or 0 otherwise. PDEFIC equals the potential tax deficiency calculated based on the specific items identified in the IRS audit notice, reduced by the tax effect of errors on the return as originally filed. Higher potential tax deficiencies may influence a taxpayer's decision to seek representation. PAID is a dummy variable coded 1 if a paid preparer signed the original return filed by the taxpayer, or 0 otherwise. ORGSCHC is the income or loss originally reported on Schedule C. ERR is a dummy variable coded 1 if the tax return as originally filed contained an error, or 0 otherwise. If the tax return as originally filed includes an error, then taxpayers may be less likely to select representation because they may be concerned that the representative will disclose the error to the IRS. The sample section includes additional discussion of tax return errors.

Potential Benefit of Representation Models

The model for testing the potential benefit of representation during IRS audits on the dollar amount of the final tax assessment is as follows:

(5) [MATHEMATICAL EXPRESSION NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII.]

where DEFIC is the final tax assessment (refund) resulting from the audit reduced by the tax effect of gross income adjustments and errors on the return as originally filed. PDEFIC equals the potential tax deficiency calculated based on the specific items identified in the IRS audit notice and reduced by the tax effect of errors on the return as originally filed. REP is a dummy variable coded 1 if a student represented the taxpayer during the office audit, or 0 otherwise. PAID is a dummy variable coded 1 if a paid preparer signed the original return filed by the taxpayer, or 0 otherwise. SCHC is a dummy variable coded 1 if the return included a Schedule C, or 0 otherwise. The selection term, [lambda], determined from the representation equation, is included to correct for self-selection bias.

Our hypothesis regarding the benefit of representation on the final tax deficiency predicts a negative sign on REP. PDEFIC provides a control for differences in the magnitude of the audits based on the original items identified by the IRS for audit. We expect taxpayers with greater dollar amounts of items identified for audit to pay a larger final deficiency suggesting a positive sign for PDEFIC. PAID controls for the potential impact of tax return preparers on the level of compliance (Erard 1993; Dubin et al. 1992; Long and Caudill 1987). The research regarding the impact of paid preparers on reporting is mixed, so we do not predict a sign for PAID (Hire and Hasseldine 2003; Dubin et al. 1992; Klepper et al. 1991). If taxpayers filing a Schedule C are more likely to evade taxes, then we predict the sign on SCHC to be positive (Feinstein 1991; Madeo et al. 1987).

We adjusted the amount of potential tax deficiency (PDEFIC) and/or final tax deficiency (DEFIC) for the tax effect of gross income adjustments and return errors where representation during the audit could not impact the audit outcome. For example, the final tax deficiency includes adjustments to gross income not considered in the calculation of the potential deficiency. The gross income adjustments resulted when the taxpayer failed to include on the return amounts reported to the IRS on Forms 1099 as originally filed (see complete discussion in the "Results" section). In addition, the final tax deficiency and potential tax deficiency amounts include adjustments for errors made on the return as originally filed. A review of the taxpayer files found that one taxpayer included an office-in-home deduction even though the Schedule C already showed a net loss, two cash-basis taxpayers deducted bad debt expenses on Schedule C, and three taxpayers reporting net income on Schedule C failed to pay self-employment tax. Since representation during the audit would not impact these adjustments, we adjusted the amount of DEFIC and/or PDEFIC in Equation (5).

SAMPLE

From 1993 through 1997, UNT operated a Federal Student Tax Clinic (Tax Clinic) in conjunction with the Dallas (Texas) District Internal Revenue Service. (8) The IRS included a notice of the Clinic's availability in the letter they sent notifying taxpayers of an impending office audit. Taxpayers interested in using the service contacted the Tax Clinic and were assigned to a student representative by the clinic director. UNT provided the service free of charge. (9) All of the returns referred to the Tax Clinic were office audit cases.

Graduate tax students pursuing the Master of Science degree in accounting with a specialty in tax operated the Clinic while a member of the graduate accounting faculty and a CPA supervised its operation. The students contacted each taxpayer who had requested assistance, reviewed the taxpayer's returns, researched potential issues, and met with them to discuss the upcoming audit. The director worked with the student representatives after they met with the taxpayers to ensure that all the potential problems and opportunities on the returns were identified prior to their audit appointments. If a taxpayer chose to have student representation at the audit, then the director reviewed the proposed audit changes before the taxpayer agreed to the adjustments. The Tax Clinic followed the procedures outlined in Price (1995). The Appendix contains these procedures.

The Tax Clinic worked 32 cases during the 1995-96 academic year and 49 cases during the 1996-97 academic year for a total of 81 cases. (10) Of the 81 files, only 45 contained a complete set of information necessary for this study. Of the 36 other cases, 24 were individuals who set up an initial appointment, but either did not show up at all or decided not to use the Tax Clinic after the initial appointment. In 11 of the 36 cases, information regarding the final agreed-upon audit adjustments was not included in the file. In the final case, the file included information regarding the final audit adjustments, but did not include the tax return as originally filed.

Each of the 45 files that contained the information necessary for the study included: (1) a projection of the anticipated refund or deficiency based on the initial letter notifying the taxpayer of the audit, (2) the actual refund or deficiency agreed to by the taxpayer, (11) (3) the individual items originally questioned by the IRS, (4) the individual items resulting in actual audit adjustments, (5) information about whether a paid tax return preparer originally prepared the return, (6) information about whether the audit was extended into other tax years or issues and (7) information about whether the taxpayer was represented by a student during the audit. Taxpayers utilizing the services of the Tax Clinic signed a consent form allowing use of their information for educational and research purposes. Of the 45 taxpayers included in the study, 31 taxpayers requested student representation and 14 tax-payers declined student representation during the office audit. The taxpayers declining representation attended the audit by themselves. None of them hired another representative.

Taxpayers generally declined representation for one of three reasons. First, the taxpayer was uncomfortable with the fact that the student knew all of the potential problems with the return and could potentially disclose that information to the IRS auditor. Although the students explained that they could not disclose problems without the taxpayer's permission, the taxpayer still did not want the student to attend the meeting. Second, after working with the student to understand the audit process and potential issues, the taxpayer was comfortable attending the audit alone. Third, in a few cases, the tax return contained obvious errors that the Clinic director concluded must be disclosed to the IRS. (12) When the taxpayers refused to allow disclosure of the errors, the Clinic director did not allow the students to attend the IRS meetings.

RESULTS

Descriptive Statistics and Univariate Tests

Table 1 shows whether the taxpayer used a paid preparer and summarizes the filing status of the returns included in the final sample. Twenty-eight returns (62 percent) indicated married filing jointly, ten returns (22 percent) selected head of household, five returns showed single filing, and two returns chose married filing separately. Of the ten head of household returns, the IRS questioned the dependency exemption on seven returns (70 percent). Paid preparers signed eight (18 percent) of the returns, while the individual tax-payer prepared the remaining 37 (82 percent). (13)

Table 2 provides descriptive statistics for specific line items from the sample returns. The average taxable income for the sample was $18,792, an indication that the sample generally consists of lower- and middle-income taxpayers. Taxable income as originally reported ranged from -$9,002 to $82,582, with five returns reporting negative taxable income, 26 returns reporting taxable income between $0 and $25,000, nine returns with taxable income between $25,000 and $50,000, and five returns reporting over $50,000 of taxable income. A Schedule C was included in 37 of the 45 returns (82 percent). The Schedule C income (loss) reported ranged from -$17,915 to $47,461, with 24 returns reporting a loss, 10 returns reporting net income between $0 and $25,000, and three returns reporting net income between $25,000 and $50,000. Of the 13 returns reporting net income on Schedule C, nine paid self-employment tax on the return as originally filed, one reported net income of less than $400 (the threshold amount for paying self-employment tax), and three reported net income over $400 but failed to calculate self-employment tax.

The t-tests for differences between the returns with and without representation indicate no significant differences between the groups for adjusted gross income, taxable income, and total tax. Total tax equals the tax computed on taxable income less tax credits plus self-employment tax. The only significant difference between the two groups of returns is the net income (loss) reported on Schedule C (t = -1.98, p = .0540). The group without representation reported an average of -$6,933, and the group with representation reported an average of $1,767. (14)

Table 3 summarizes the specific items identified in the IRS audit notice, the number of IRS notices including each item, and the average dollar amount claimed on the return as originally filed. The most frequently questioned items were deductions taken on Schedule C, with 36 (80 percent) of the 45 audit notices identifying at least one Schedule C deduction. Of the 37 returns that contained a Schedule C, deductions were questioned on 36 of them and self-employment tax was questioned on the other return. Car and truck expenses were questioned most frequently (16 returns), followed both by depreciation expense and other expenses (13 returns each). The IRS questioned travel, meal, and entertainment expenses on 12 returns, cost of goods sold on nine returns, and phone/utility expenses on eight returns. The combined average dollar amount identified for audit on a Schedule C was $13,560. (15) The largest individual item was wage/labor expense ($10,013).

Twenty-two taxpayers reported itemized deductions on their returns as originally filed (Table 2). The IRS questioned the itemized deduction amount on nine returns. The most frequently identified item for audit was employee business expenses (identified on five returns). (16) The combined average dollar amount of itemized deductions identified for audit was $7,683, and the largest individual item was employee business expenses ($7,751).

The IRS questioned the number/qualification of dependents on ten returns. Eight tax-payers claimed the child care credit (Table 2), and it was identified as an audit issue on five returns. The earned income credit was originally claimed by three taxpayers (Table 2) and was identified as an audit area on all three returns. The IRS specifically identified self-employment tax as an audit issue on one return. Although not specifically identified in the IRS notice, some of the previously discussed Schedule C adjustments may impact both the amount of self-employment tax and the deduction for one-half of self-employment tax.

The t-tests of differences in potential audit adjustments between taxpayers with representation and those without representation indicate that none of the differences between the groups are significant. Even though individual items identified for audit differed in the two groups, the overall potential difference in total tax was not significantly different between the groups with and without representation. This statistic suggests that any difference in final audit adjustments between the two groups is not explained by a difference in the tax impact of potential adjustments identified in the IRS audit notices.

Table 4 summarizes the actual agreed-upon audit adjustments for the sample returns. Adjustments to gross income were made on seven returns. Gross income increased on five returns, three due to unreported interest income, one due to an unreported state income tax refund and one due to underreported gross receipts on Schedule C. Gross income decreased on two returns. One taxpayer originally double reported Schedule C gross receipts as wage income and a second taxpayer did not originally report a loss on sale.

Thirty-one taxpayers agreed to Schedule C expense adjustments, with an average adjustment of $4,758. The other five taxpayers ended up with no Schedule C adjustments. Car and truck expenses were adjusted on 15 returns, with an average adjustment of $2,307. (17) All nine taxpayers agreed to itemized deduction adjustments (Table 3), with an average adjustment of $4,348. (18) Seven taxpayers agreed to adjust the number of dependents claimed including five taxpayers originally identified by the IRS. The other two taxpayers provided support for dependents not claimed on the original return. The child care credit was adjusted on only one return. No adjustments were made to the earned income credit. On the one return with an identified self-employment tax issue, the taxpayer agreed to a $5,568 adjustment. Ten additional taxpayers agreed to self-employment tax adjustments because of adjustments to Schedule C. (19) For all 10 returns, disallowed Schedule C deductions increased net earnings from self-employment, which increased self-employment tax.

A t-test of the overall difference in actual tax deficiency between taxpayers with representation and those without representation indicates that taxpayers without representation paid a significantly higher tax deficiency (t = 2.98, p = 0.07) than taxpayers with representation. This test supports HI indicating that the final assessments of taxpayers represented during an IRS audit are lower than those of taxpayers not represented. The t-tests of differences in the specific audit adjustments between the two groups are significant for the adjustment to Schedule C expenses (t = 3.38, p = 0.05). Reviewing the total dollar amount of potential audit adjustments (averages reported on Table 3) and the actual dollar amount disallowed as a result of the audit (averages reported on Table 4), only 55 percent of Schedule C deductions were allowed for taxpayers without representation, while 78 percent of Schedule C deductions were allowed for taxpayers with representation. The differences between itemized deduction and dependency exemption adjustments are not significant.

Regression Results

Table 5 reports the descriptive statistics for the regression variables. The Probit estimate of the representation choice equation (Equation (4)) is presented in Table 6, Panel A and the OLS estimate of the impact of representation equation (Equation (5)) is reported in Panel B. The results in Panel A indicate that the representation model is significant. The only significant explanatory variable is the income or loss on the Schedule C as originally filed. This is consistent with the univariate tests indicating that the only significant difference between the "with representation" and "without representation" groups is the average Schedule C net income (loss).

Table 6, Panel B reports the results for Equation (5) analyzing the impact of representation on final tax deficiencies. The results are consistent with the prediction that representation reduces the final tax deficiency. Specifically, the significant, negative coefficient on REP indicates that taxpayers with representation during the office audit paid final tax deficiencies that were lower by an average of $1,329. As expected, a significant positive relation exists between the control variable, PDEFIC, and the actual deficiency. This is consistent with taxpayers who have a larger potential deficiency based on the items identified for audit paying a larger final assessment. The remaining control variables, PAID and SCHC, are not significant, so the final audit deficiency is not related to the use of a paid preparer or the presence of Schedule C. (20) The selection variable, X, is not significant. This indicates that the sample does not show evidence of covariation between unobserved factors in the decision of whether to choose representation.

Sensitivity Analysis

The impact of representation on the final audit adjustment in Equation (5) may be influenced by the relative size of the potential versus final tax deficiency. In order to evaluate the impact of representation without this potential confounding effect, we utilize a change model where the dependent variable (CHANGE) is the difference between the potential audit deficiency (PDEFIC) and the final tax deficiency (DEFIC) as a percentage of the potential audit deficiency (PDEFIC). If representation during audit results in a relatively lower final tax deficiency, then the difference between the potential audit deficiency and the final tax deficiency should be greater for taxpayers with representation and, therefore, we predict a positive sign on REP. The resulting model is as follows:

(6) CHANGE = [[alpha].sub.0] + [[alpha].sub.1]REP + [[alpha].sub.2]PAID + [[alpha].sub.3]SCHC + [[alpha].sub.4] [[lambda].sub.i] + [w.sub.i].

REP, PAID, SCHC, and [lambda] are the same as Equation (5). Since the research on paid preparers is mixed, we do not predict a sign for PAID. We predict a negative sign on SCHC. The selection variable (h) is again included to correct for self-selection bias.

Table 7 reports the results for regression Equation (6) analyzing the impact of representation on the change between the potential and final tax deficiency. The coefficient on REP is positive and significant. The results indicate that the difference between the potential audit deficiency and the final tax deficiency is approximately 40 percent greater for taxpayers with representation. The coefficients on PAID and SCHC are not significant. (21) The change model provides additional support for the hypothesis that final tax deficiencies are significantly lower for taxpayers with representation during IRS audits.

The final tax deficiency refund) and the potential tax deficiency in Equation (5) include self-employment tax. When adjusted self-employment income is greater than $400, adjustments that increase Schedule C net income automatically increase self-employment tax. Arguably, representation matters only with respect to the potential Schedule C adjustments and not for the automatic adjustments to self-employment tax. To test the sensitivity of our results to self-employment tax adjustments, we removed self-employment tax adjustments from the final tax deficiency and the potential tax deficiency variables in Equation (5). The results are reported in Table 8.

The coefficient on REP remains significant and negative. Therefore, HI is still supported after reducing the final deficiency and/or potential audit deficiency for the automatic adjustments to self-employment tax. Consistent with Equation (5), the significant positive relation for the potential deficiency (APDEF NO SE) continues, and the coefficients on PAID, SCHC, and X remain insignificant.

The final tax deficiency (refund) and the potential tax deficiency in Equation (5) depend not only on adjustments to taxable income, but also on the taxpayer's current year marginal tax rate. Representation can only impact the adjustment amount. To test the sensitivity of our results to the impact of marginal tax rates, we use the final adjustment to taxable income and the potential adjustment to taxable income as the dependent and independent variables in Equation (5). (22) The results are reported in Table 9. The coefficient on REP remains significant and negative. Therefore, H1 is still supported based on adjustments to taxable income rather than total tax.

CONCLUSIONS AND LIMITATIONS

The study examines the potential benefit of taxpayer representation during an IRS office audit on the final tax assessment. Because data on representation during IRS audits is not readily available, previous IRS audit research focuses on other factors influencing the final audit outcome, including income sources and the use of a paid preparer. Our access to specific audit information on a limited number of IRS office audits allows us to analyze the potential benefits of taxpayer representation.

Overall, the results indicate that representation during an office audit results in a final tax assessment that is approximately $1,300 lower for our sample of taxpayers. The change model suggests that the final deficiency is 40 percent lower for taxpayers with representation. The descriptive analysis extends the work of Hire and Hasseldine (2003) by detailing the specific deductions identified for audit by the IRS and the resulting adjustment for each type of deduction.

The representatives in this study were not tax professionals, but students without prior experience representing taxpayers before the IRS. Although they lacked experience, the students did extensive research on the issues involved in the audit and were coached by the Tax Clinic director (a CPA specializing in individual and corporate taxation with an accounting doctorate), who had been a Revenue Agent for six years. Therefore, the students had a significantly greater level of tax knowledge than the taxpayers they represented. We find that well-prepared students significantly reduce the final tax deficiency, adding to Hite and Hasseldine's (2003) evidence "on the positive role that qualified accountants play in terms of decreasing deduction adjustments."

The study involves a small sample of taxpayers subject to office audits in the Dallas IRS District, thereby limiting the generalizability of the results. (23) However, given the limited availability of data regarding representation, the analysis adds to our knowledge regarding IRS audits and the benefits of representation. We believe our results provide a useful foundation for addressing the issue of when an individual should hire a professional representative for an IRS office audit. Since hiring a professional representative is costly, a rational individual would do a cost benefit analysis and make the decision to hire a professional representative only if the expected tax savings from representation is greater than the cost of representation. This paper provides empirical evidence that representation results in a significant reduction in the final tax assessment from an office audit both in dollars and as a percentage of the potential deficiency.

APPENDIX

Procedures for the UNT Federal Student Tax Clinic

The University of North Texas (UNT) Federal Student Tax Clinic was operated in conjunction with the Dallas District (Dallas, Texas) Internal Revenue Service. Most of the returns assigned to the tax clinic were office audit cases requiring the taxpayer and representative to travel to a local IRS field or district office for examination. The IRS included notice of the clinic's availability in all letters notifying a taxpayer of an impending office audit.

The clinic director had the primary responsibility for all operational aspects of the tax clinic program. The UNT clinic director is a member of the graduate accounting faculty and is also a CPA. Graduate tax students pursuing the Master of Science degree in accounting with a tax specialty staffed the clinic. Students participated in the clinic when enrolled in the graduate corporate tax course, which was taught by the clinic director. Participation in the clinic was mandatory and usually constituted 10 percent of the students' grade in the course. Enrollment in the corporate tax class was limited to 25 students but averaged 20 students per semester.

Variability of student caseload was experienced from semester to semester. However, all students worked at least one case but never more than two. There were always enough cases to assign each student at least one case. The percentage of the student's grade for participation in the clinic was adjusted depending on the number of cases completed. The clinic director would not accept additional cases from the IRS after each student was assigned a second case. Managing the caseload was coordinated with the local IRS.

A summary of the procedures utilized for each case follows:
Step                         Procedure

1     Each student is given a clinic file that outlines clinic
      objectives and procedures, responsibilities of student
      participants, a copy of Circular 230 governing practice before
      the IRS, and several forms that must be completed at various
      stages in working assigned cases.

2     Taxpayers call the clinic secretary after receiving notice of an
      IRS audit and request assistance. The clinic secretary completes
      a "Taxpayer Information" form that includes background
      information on the taxpayer and the tax return including the
      items to be substantiated during the audit. The clinic secretary
      delivers the case file to the clinic director who assigns the
      case to the student.

3     The student:

      a. Immediately contacts the taxpayer to set up the pre-audit
         conference. Conferences are held at any location that is
         mutually agreeable to the student and the taxpayer. Taxpayers
         are reminded to bring to the conference a copy of tax returns,
         the IRS appointment letter, and substantiation for the items
         being questioned.

      b. Reviews the basic rules of the tax law related to the areas
         marked on the checklist in preparation for the consultation
         with the taxpayer.

4     The student conducts the pre-audit conference with the taxpayer
      in an informal, yet professional manner. The option of having the
      student accompany the taxpayer to the audit is discussed during
      this conference. Students are required to keep the discussion
      pointed at the objectives as follows:

      a. Go over the entire return, not just the items marked on the
         checklist.

      b. Learn as much as possible about the taxpayer's business
         affairs. Think about income and deductions on the return and
         use them as a basis for questions.

      c. Try to think of tax benefits missed by the taxpayer.

      d. Look at the taxpayer's substantiation and think of other
         sources of evidence if they are needed. Stress the need for
         well-organized supporting documents.

      e. Make notes as necessary during the conference, especially
         about points of law that require additional research.

5     Following the conference(s) with the taxpayer, the student
      prepares a "Pre-Audit Consultation Report" showing questionable
      items uncovered during the pre-audit conference. For each item
      listed on the form, students are required to discuss:

      a. Relevant facts uncovered.

      b. The precise issued posed by the facts.

      c. Conclusions and authorities to support them.

      d. Recommended advice to the taxpayer.

6     Students arrange a conference with the clinic director prior to
      the taxpayer's audit appointment. The director reviews the file,
      including the return and student report. The purpose is to
      uncover additional problems and opportunities on the return.

      If the taxpayer requests representation, then the student and the
      director decide whether the student should accompany the taxpayer
      to the audit. If the student attends the audit, then the taxpayer
      must sign a Power of Attorney.

      Regardless of whether the taxpayer requests representation, after
      the pre-audit conference, the student relays the results of the
      review with the clinic director to the taxpayer before the audit.

7     Taxpayers are instructed that they are not to agree to audit
      changes until the clinic director has had a chance to review the
      proposed adjustments.

8     The office audit usually closes the case. Following the audit,
      the student completes the "Post-Examination Report" that shows
      the outcome of the audit and contains an evaluation of the clinic
      services by the taxpayer. A comparison of the actual adjustments
      and clinic director's and student's expectations are also
      summarized in this report.

9     The final requirement for the student is preparation of a memo to
      the file. This memo summarizes the facts, issue(s), discussion of
      authorities, conclusions, and recommendations given to the
      taxpayer as well as a summary of the actual outcome of the case.
      Additionally, the student makes written comments on the tax
      clinic experience. All completed cases are passed to the clinic
      director who closes and files the case.

Adapted from Price (1995, 420-421).

TABLE 1
Filing Status and Use of Paid Preparer for Taxpayers with and without
Representation during the IRS Office Audit

                            Without           With
                         Representation   Representation       Total
                         Number    %      Number    %      Number     %

Filing Status
  Single                    1       7        4      13        5      11
  Head of Household         3      21        7      23       10      22
  Married Filing Joint      8      58       20      64       28      62
  Married Filing            2      14        0       0        2       5
    Separately

    Total                  14     100       31     100       45     100

Use of Paid Preparer
  Paid Preparer             2      14        6      19        8      18
  Prepared by Taxpayer     12      86       25      81       37      82

    Total                  14     100       31     100       45     100

TABLE 2
Dscriptive Statistics
Returns as Originally Filed for Taxpayers with and without
Representation during the IRS Office Audit

                               Without Representation

                  n     Mean   Median      Min.     Max.   Std. Dev.

Wages            12   35,834   35,772     2,272   61,397     19,846
Interest          5      981      571       422    1,762        640
Dividends         3      843      709       154    1,667        765
Capital Gains     5   11,175    2,614    -3,000   27,906     14,955
Retirement        1   59,070   59,070        NA       NA         NA
  Income
Other             3    4,277    7,283    -2,410    7,957      5,800
  Income (a)
Schedule C       14   -6,933   -7,221   -17,915    8,554      8,789
Adjustments       4      495      552       229      647        187
  for AGI
AGI              14   33,374   32,211     5,317   69,908     16,619
Itemized          6   11,701   12,030     3,950   18,429      5,142
  Deductions
Taxable Income   14   20,031   21,686    -5,583   49,129     15,655
Self              2      928      928       647    1,209        397
  Employment
  Tax
Child Care        1      480      480        NA       NA         NA
  Credit
Earned Income     1      508      508        NA       NA         NA
  Credit
Total Tax (b)    14    3,602    3,520         0   11,493      3,096

                               With Representation

                                                                  Std.
                  n     Mean   Median      Min.          Max.     Dev.

Wages            30   28,880   25,174       765        90,674   12,952
Interest         10      568      134        20         3,210      975
Dividends         9      925      217         2         2,938    1,108
Capital Gains     4   10,296    4,507        41        32,128   14,733
Retirement        3   19,049   22,190     3,648        31,308   14,095
  Income
Other            10    4,445    1,270    -7,986        38,596   12,986
  Income (a)
Schedule C       23    1,767   -6,467   -15,273        47,461   16,728
Adjustments      10    1,666    1,013       249         6,308    1,840
  for AGI
AGI              31   33,807   26,054     3,125       101,348   24,147
Itemized         16   12,070   11,043     8 088        20,901    3,439
  Deductions
Taxable Income   31   17,514    7,978    -9,002        82,582   22,907
Self              7    1,561    1,018       498         4,814    1,493
  Employment
  Tax
Child Care        7      710      730       480         1,008      230
  Credit
Earned Income     2      860      860       552         1,168      435
  Credit
Total Tax (b)    31    3,381    1,564    -1,168 (c)    18,324    4,767

                    TOTAL

                  n     Mean

Wages            42   30,867
Interest         15      706
Dividends        12      905
Capital Gains     9   10,784
Retirement        4   29,054
  Income
Other            13    4,445
  Income (a)
Schedule C       37   -1,525
Adjustments      14    1,331
  for AGI
AGI              45   33,673
Itemized         22   11,969
  Deductions
Taxable Income   45   18,792
Self              9      816
  Employment
  Tax
Child Care        8      681
  Credit
Earned Income     3      976
  Credit
Total Tax (b)    45    3,322

(a) Other income includes rental income (loss), partnership income
nonemployee compensation, and ordinary loss reported on Form 4797.

(b) Total tax equals tax computed on taxable income less tax credits
plus tax credits plus self-employment tax.

(c) Refund of Earned Income Credit.

TABLE 3
Potential Audit Adjustments Identified in IRS Audit Notice for
Taxpayers with and without Representation during the IRS Office Audit

                              Without             With
                          Representation      Representation

                           # of    Average     # of    Average
                         Returns    Amount   Returns    Amount

Schedule C                  13      13,614      23      13,529
  Car and Truck              5       4,433      11       6,141
  Depreciation               4       4,174       9       3,394
  Other Expenses             7       6,063       6       5,897
  Travel, Meals, and         5       4,149       7       4,378
    Entertainment
  Cost of Goods Sold         4       5,842       5       4,231
  Phone/Utilities            1       1,456       7       1,470
  Legal and Prof. Fees       2       1,628       5       1,353
  Office Exp/Supplies        3       4,079       4       4,266
  Repairs                    3       5,544       4       1,751
  Office in Home             1       3,761       4       3,167
  Advertising                2       1,001       2       5,941
  Interest                   1       2,846       3       2,610
  Rent                       1       2,200       3       3,337
  Wages/Labor                0           0       4      10,013
  Bad debts                  1       1,200       1         348
  Employee Benefits          1       4,346       0           0
Adjustments for AGI          0           0       1       1,155
Itemized Deductions          1       8,709       8       7,555
  Employee Business          1       3,032       4       8,931
    Exp
  Charitable                 0           0       3       5,160
    Contributions
  Medical                    0           0       2       4,811
  Interest                   1       5,677       0           0
Dependents                   3       3,233       7       8,214
Child Care Credit            0           0       5         831
Earned Income Credit         1         508       2       1,210
SE Tax                       0           0       1       6,706
Total tax                   14       3,273      31       3,730
  adjustment (b)

                               Total

                           # of    Average
                         Returns    Amount   t-statistic (a)   p-value

Schedule C                  36      13,560         0.79         0.432
  Car and Truck             16       5,607
  Depreciation              13       3,634
  Other Expenses            13       5,986
  Travel, Meals, and        12       4,282
    Entertainment
  Cost of Goods Sold         9       4,947
  Phone/Utilities            8       1,468
  Legal and Prof. Fees       7       1,471
  Office Exp/Supplies        7       4,186
  Repairs                    7       3,376
  Office in Home             5       3,285
  Advertising                4       3,471
  Interest                   4       2,669
  Rent                       4       3,109
  Wages/Labor                4      10,013
  Bad debts                  2         774
  Employee Benefits          1       4,346
Adjustments for AGI          1       1,155
Itemized Deductions          9       7,683        -1.03         0.311
  Employee Business          5       7,751
    Exp
  Charitable                 3       5,160
    Contributions
  Medical                    2       4,811
  Interest                   1       5,677
Dependents                  10       6,720        -1.08         0.287
Child Care Credit            5         831
Earned Income Credit         3         976
SE Tax                       1       6,706
Total tax                   45       3,588        -0.52         0.602
  adjustment (b)

(a) t-statistic based on all returns in each group.

(b) Total tax adjustment equals difference between "total tax computed
on taxable income after potential adjustments" and "total tax on return
as originally filed plus adjusted tax credits and self-employment tax."

TABLE 4
Actual Audit Adjustments Agreed to with IRS for Taxpayers with and
without Representation during the IRS Office Audit

                              Without              With
                          Representation       Representation

                           # of    Average    # of     Average
                         Returns    Amount   Returns    Amount

Gross Income                 1      5,453        6      -1,602
Schedule C                  12      6,581       19       3,607
  Car and Truck              3      1,697       12       2,460
  Depreciation               2      1,602        6         275
  Other Expenses             5      5,916        7       1,161
  Travel, Meals, and         4      2,860        5         410
    Entertainment
  COGS                       2      2,930        3       2,299
  Phone/Utilities            0          0        1         387
  Legal and Prof. Fees       2      1,121        0           0
  Office Exp/Supplies        2      1,960        5       1,074
  Repairs                    2      3,126        4       1,582
  Office in Home             1      3,761        2       1,771
  Advertising                1      2,000        0           0
  Interest                   1         34        3         -62
  Rent                       1         40        0           0
  Wages/Labor                1      4,346        1       4,515
  Bad Debts                  1      1,200        1         348
  Employee Benefits          0          0        0           0
Adjustments for AGI          0          0        2          44
Itemized Deductions          1      5,677        8       4,181
  Employee Business          0          0        2      13,745
    Exp
  Charitable                 0          0        3       1,288
    Contributions
  Medical                    0          0        3         699
  Interest                   1      5,677        0           0
Dependents                   1      4,900        6       3,525
Child Care Credit            0          0        1       1,008
Earned Income Credit         0          0        0           0
SE Tax (b)                   0          0        1       5,568
Total Tax                   14      1,543       31         780
  Deficiency (c)

                               Total

                          # of     Average
                         Returns    Amount   t-statistic (a)   p-value

Gross Income                 7        -594
Schedule C                  31       4,758       3.38           0.049
  Car and Truck             15       2,307
  Depreciation               8         606
  Other Expenses            12       3,143
  Travel, Meals, and         9       1,499
    Entertainment
  COGS                       5       2,551
  Phone/Utilities            1         387
  Legal and Prof. Fees       2       1,121
  Office Exp/Supplies        7       1,327
  Repairs                    6       2,096
  Office in Home             3       2,434
  Advertising                1       2,000
  Interest                   4         -38
  Rent                       1          40
  Wages/Labor                2       4,431
  Bad Debts                  2         774
  Employee Benefits          0           0
Adjustments for AGI          2          44
Itemized Deductions          9       4,348       1.24           0.268
  Employee Business          2      13,745
    Exp
  Charitable                 3       1,288
    Contributions
  Medical                    3         699
  Interest                   1       5,677
Dependents                   7       3,721       0.88           0.331
Child Care Credit            1       1,008
Earned Income Credit         0           0
SE Tax (b)                   1       5,568
Total Tax                   45       1,031       2.98           0.071
  Deficiency (c)

(a) t-statistic based on all returns in each group.

(b) An additional 10 returns required self-employment tax adjustments
due to changes in Schedule C net income.

(c) Total tax deficiency equals tax due on agreed to IRS audit report.

TABLE 5
Descriptive Statistics for Regression Variables
(n = 45)

Variable (a)    Mean   Median   Std. Dev.     Min.     Max.

DEFIC          1,031      360     1,565     -1,204    6,358
PDEFIC         3,588    2,710     2,677        262   12,339
REP             0.69     1.00      0.47       0.00     1.00
PAID            0.18     0.00      0.39       0.00     1.00
SCHC            0.82     1.00      0.39       0.00     1.00
ADJ DEFIC        762      315     1,733     -3,996    6,358
ADJ PDEFIC     3,321    2,638     2,679       0.00   12,338
CHANGE          0.70     0.85      0.44      -0.47     1.70
ADJ CHANGE      0.76     0.89      0.51      -0.54     2.00
ADEF NO SE       658      315     1,088     -2,252    3,495
APDEF NO SE    2,473    2,030     1,787       0.00    8,166
ADJUST         4,368    2,079     6,857     -8,042   24,710
PADJUST       13,686   11,419     9,413          0   47,224

(a) See Tables 6, 7, 8, and 9 for definition of variables.

TABLE 6
Impact of Taxpayer Representation during Audit on Agreed Upon Audit
Deficiency

Panel A: Representation Choice Equation

Model: [REP.sub.i] = [[alpha].sub.0] + [[alpha].sub.1][PDEFIC.sub.i] +
[[alpha].sub.2][PAID.sub.i] + [[alpha].sub.3][ORGSCHC.sub.i] +
[[alpha].sub.4][ERR.sub.i]

n = 45; Chi-Square Statistic =  8.13

             Intercept   PDEFIC    PAID   ORGSCHC    ERR

               0.946      0.001   0.783    0.001    -2.263
Chi-square     1.93       0.27    0.53     4.78      2.31
p-value        0.165      0.600   0.465    0.028     0.128

Panel B: Impact of Taxpayer Representation Equation

Model: DEFIC = [[alpha].sub.0] + [[alpha].sub.1]PDEFIC +
[[alpha].sub.2]REP + [[alpha].sub.3]PAID + [[alpha].sub.4]SCHC +
[[alpha].sub.5][lambda]

n = 45; F-Statistic = 3.70

                          PDEFIC      REP         PAID       SCHC
              Intercept     (+)       (-)         (?)         (+)

               1598.62     0.319   -1328.58    -395.74    -1035.22
t-statistic      (1.99)   (3.61)     (-4.84)    (-0.66)     (-1.61)
p-value           0.053    0.001       0.001      0.511       0.114

              [lambda]   Adj. [R.sup.2]

              -31.25         .235
t-statistic   (-0.58)
p-value         0.566

REP = 1 if tax payer represented during office audit, 0 otherwise;

PDEFIC = amount of potential tax deficiency calculated based on audit
items identified in initial IRS audit notice;

PAID = 1 if original return signed by paid preparer, 0 otherwise;

ORGSCHC = amount of income or loss originally reported on Schedule C;

ERR = 1 if error on return as originally filed, 0 otherwise;

DEFIC = amount of final tax deficiency (refund) reduced by tax effect
of gross income adjustments and errors on the return as originally
filed; and

PDEFIC = amount of potential tax deficiency calculated based on audit
items identified in initial IRS audit notice reduced by tax effect of
errors on the return as originally filed.

TABLE 7
Impact of Taxpayer Representation during Audit on the Change between
the Potential and Final Tax Deficiency

Model: CHANGE = [[alpha].sub.0] + [[alpha].sub.1]REP +
[[alpha].sub.2]PAID + [[alpha].sub.3]SCHC + [[alpha].sub.4] [lambda]

n = 45; F-Statistic = 3.58

                            REP     PAID     SCHC
              Intercept     (+)      (?)      (-)    [lambda]

                0.15       0.403    0.147    0.341     0.0150
t-statistic    (0.58)     (4.48)   (0.75)   (1.67)    (0.86)
p-value         0.567      0.001    0.455    0.100     0.392

              Adj. [R.sup.2]

                .087
t-statistic
p-value

CHANGE = (PDEFIC -DEFIC)/PDEFIC

See Table 6 for other Nariahle definitions.

TABLE 8
Impact of Taxpayer Representation during Audit on Agreed Upon Audit
Deficiency with Adjustments for Self-Employment Tax

Model: ADEF NO SE = [[alpha].sub.0] + [[alpha].sub.1]APDEF NO SE +
[[alpha].sub.2]REP + [[alpha].sub.3]PAID + [[alpha].sub.4]SCHC +
[[alpha].sub.5][lambda]

n = 45; F-Statistic = 3.07

                           APDEF
                           NO SE     REP        PAID       SCHC
              Intercept     (+)      (-)         (+)        (+)

              1352.79      0.18    -814.58    -338.59    -587.82
t-statistic     (2.49)    (2.04)    (-4.46)     (0.84)    (-0.40)
p-value          0.017     0.048      0.001      0.407      0.169

              [lambda]   adj. [R.sup.2]

               -16.56       0.106
t-statistic     (0.55)
p-value          0.583

ADEF NO SE = amount of final tax deficiency (refund) without
self-employment tax reduced by tax effect of gross income adjustments
and errors on the return as originally filed; and

APDEF NO SE = amount of potential tax deficiency calculated based on
audit items identified in initial IRS audit notice without
self-employment tax reduced by tax effect of errors on the return as
originally filed.

See Table 6 for other variable definitions.

TABLE 9
Impact of Taxpayer Representation during Audit on the Final Adjustment
to Taxable Income

Model: ADJUST = [[alpha].sub.0] + [[alpha].sub.1]PADJUST +
[[alpha].sub.2]REP + [[alpha].sub.3]PAID + [[alpha].sub.4]SCHC +
[[alpha].sub.5][lambda]

n = 45; F-Statistic = 5.94

                          PADJUST      REP        PAID        SCHC
              Intercept     (+)        (-)         (+)         (+)

              6472.53      0.426    -4792.08    -1816.5     -4752.14
t-statistic     (2.13)    (4.66)      (-4.84)     (-0.84)     (-2.06)
p-value          0.039     0.001        0.001       0.405       0.045

              [lambda]   Adj. [R.sup.2]

              -211.63        .359
t-statistic    (-1.04)
p-value          0.304

ADJUST = amount of final adjustments to taxable income reduced by gross
income adjustments and errors on the return as originally filed; and

PADJUST = amount of potential adjustments to taxable income based on
audit items identified in initial IRS audit notice reduced by gross
income adjustments and errors on the return as originally filed.

See Table 6 for other variable definitions.


The authors gratefully acknowledge the helpful comments of the editor, two anonymous reviewers, and workshop participants at the 2002 AAA Annual Meeting in San Antonio. We are grateful for the financial support from James Madison University College of Business.

(1) Weiner (2001) suggests that a face-to-face meeting with an IRS auditor "can turn into a chess game of strategy and psychology, which is why many taxpayers may want to seek professional help and skip attending the audit." Other articles suggest potential benefits include the limitation of the audit to the items originally identified (Anderson 1999; Chaffin and Busby 1998) and a reduced anxiety level on the part of the taxpayer (Sommers 1995; Szabo 1994).

(2) The IRS discontinued the TCMP program in 1998. The last TCMP audits of individual income tax returns were in 1988 (Smith 2001).

(3) Audit methods include examinations by mail (i.e., "mail audits") or through an in-person interview and review of records (i.e., "office audits" or "field audits"). Interviews held at the IRS office are referred to as "office audits." Interviews held at the taxpayer's home, place of business, or accountant's office are referred to as "field audits" (Tax Analysts 1997).

(4) The TCMP survey in 1988 audited approximately 54,000 individual returns (Dolan 1993). In 1995, the IRS audited 1,941,546 individual returns. The three audit methods used included mail audits (1,179,696 returns), office audits (509,420 returns) and field audits (252,430 returns) (IRS 1996).

(5) See the "Sample" section and the Appendix for further discussion of the Federal Student Tax Clinic.

(6) A second potential benefit of representation is to limit the extension of the audit into other areas. Since only 12 audits included in the sample were extended, the analysis of this potential benefit is not included.

(7) For accounting studies using the Heckman procedure see Schaefer and Zimmer (1998) and Shehata (1991). Maddala (1991) analyzes self-selection models in accounting studies.

(8) The clinic closed in 1997 when the Director assumed additional professional responsibilities.

(9) Usually a taxpayer's decision regarding representation during an IRS audit involves a cost benefit analysis since professional representation is generally fee based. Since the Tax Clinic provided free representation, this study provides information regarding the potential tax savings from representation for assisting taxpayers in a cost benefit analysis.

(10) Although the Clinic represented taxpayers for the first time during the 1993-1994 academic year, the files for the two years, 1993-1995, were destroyed before this study began.

(11) All of the taxpayers included in the sample agreed to the audit adjustments determined at the office audit. None of the cases required an Appeals Conference.

(12) Both the "with representation" and "without representation" groups include tax returns with obvious errors. Taxpayers in the "with representation" group allowed the student to disclose the error to the IRS agent.

(13) Of the eight returns signed by paid preparers, H&R Block prepared two, small CPA firms prepared four, and self-employed individuals prepared two returns.

(14) The median Schedule C net income for taxpayers "without representation" is -$7,221 and for taxpayers "with representation" is--$6,467 (Table 2). All three taxpayers reporting Schedule C net income >$25,000 are in the "with representation" group. This explains the much higher average Schedule C net income for such group.

(15) Other Schedule C items identified for audit include legal and professional fees, office expenses or supplies, and repairs (seven returns each), office-in-home deduction (five returns), advertising, interest, and rent (four returns each), bad debts (two returns) and employee benefits (one return).

(16) Charitable contributions on three returns, medical expenses on two returns, and interest expense on one return were also identified as areas of concern.

(17) The largest average adjustment was to wage/labor expense with an average adjustment of $4,431 to two returns. Other frequent Schedule C expense adjustments include other expenses on 12 returns, travel, meals, and entertainment on nine returns, depreciation on eight returns, office expense or supplies on seven returns, repairs on six returns, and cost of goods sold on five returns.

(18) The largest adjustments were made to employee business expenses with an average adjustment of $13,745 on two returns. Charitable contributions and medical expenses were each adjusted on three returns. Interest expense was reduced on one return.

(19) Of the ten returns requiring adjustments to SE tax, seven were represented (average adjustment $1,010) and three were not represented (average adjustment $1,604). Schedule C audit adjustments resulted in six taxpayers going from an original Schedule C loss to Schedule C net income in excess of $400 (four were represented and two were not represented).

(20) Using a DFFITS > 1, we identified two potential outliers for Equation (5). Excluding the outliers, the coefficient on REP is -1,406.09 (t = -5.52).

(21) No potential outliers were identified for Equation (6) (DFFITS > 1).

(22) Since only one final adjustment involved a tax credit, it is appropriate that this sensitivity test focuses solely on the adjustments to taxable income.

(23) All taxpayers in the Dallas IRS District selected for office audit received information regarding the Tax Clinic. Only a small portion of those taxpayers contacted the clinic for assistance.

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Nancy B. Nichols is an Associate Professor at James Madison University and John Ellis Price is a Professor and Vice Provost at the University of North Texas Dallas.

Submitted: December 2001

Accepted: September 2003
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Author:Nichols, Nancy B.; Price, John Ellis
Publication:Journal of the American Taxation Association
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Mar 22, 2004
Words:10635
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