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Check your math. More than once. If they do some routine spot-checking and find an arithmetic error, your return may be flagged for closer scrutiny. But if they look it over, sniff it, notice nothing glaringly amiss, and if the math is right, they may move on to more promising material, and then you're in the clear.
File exactly on time, with no extensions and no amendments-if you can possibly do it. This may be just my personal brand of voodoo, but I always file on April 15th. Even if I've got my return done a month or two ahead of time, I hold it until the last minute. I like to think of the thing arriving at the "Service Center" with tons of others and getting stacked up on the desk of some harried clerk, who just might be so exhausted by the time she gets to me she'll glance at it and say, "What the hell, this one looks okay," then chuck it into the "passed" pile and go on to someone else.
Is that a fantasy? Probably. They space out their work during the year, and filing on April 15th isn't going to reduce the audit odds.. .but it might, just a teeny weeny bit. So that's what I do.
Speaking of fantasy, who hasn't dreamed of scrawling some message on the check he sends to the IRS? You know what I mean. Wouldn't you just love to grab a red felt-tip and write across the top of the check, "Drink goat phlegm, you commie sleaze-ball!" Yeah. It's tempting.
But don't do it. Some people actually do that sort of thing, and it's certainly understandable (the writing), but it's an invitation to an audit. Don't deface your check, don't deface your return, and don't send them any funny pictures or antitax literature. Just play it straight, and maybe you'll slip through their slimy clutches for another year.
And finally, if you really want to be audit proof, when you write a column like this, use a pen name. I didn't think ahead, and one of these days, I'll probably regret it.
Warren Salomon is an attorney and tax specialist practicing in Miami.