tax auditQ: How many years should you keep your income tax returns in case of an audit?

A: You should keep your tax returns a minimum of 7 years. The IRS can come back and audit you for any reason up to 3 years from the filing date, but has the right to go back further if there is a suspicion on fraud.

There are a number of items on your federal income tax return that can trigger an audit. First, individuals with incomes over $100,000 or under $20,000 are more likely to be audited. And, if 1099s and W2 statements don’t match income that is reported on the form, your return might be flagged as well.

Your return might be selected for audit by a computer-generated random list, or if you do business or are linked with another individual whose return has been chosen for an audit, you might also be audited.

If you’re selected for an audit, you will be contacted by mail or telephone. Interestingly, we have discovered that the Georgia Department of Revenue is now contacting Georgia taxpayers by email (which in this era of phishing seems a bit ridiculous), so do not respond to any request for information by email that purports to be from the IRS. The IRS does not use email to correspond with taxpayers.

For more detailed information on audits, check out Publication 556, Examination of Returns, Appeal Rights and Claims for Refund, available at