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November 26, 2022

Columbia Law Professor on That Time He Was Audited by the IRS Just For Practice

Imagine going to your doctor and being told you need surgery for some unknown condition you had no idea you had. Maybe you're like most people who are terrified of the idea of getting cut open, rearranged, maybe edited in the midsection, and sewn back up.

As you come back from the anesthesia, you ask how it went. Am I OK? Am I all fixed up?

Your surgeon gives you a smile and assures you everything is just fine. "Actually, you didn't need surgery," he says. "I needed the practice."

Now imagine the surgeon is the IRS and the unneeded procedure is an audit. That's exactly what one Columbia Law professor claims happened to him when the IRS decided to audit his pathetic, all cash charitible contributions.

Inspired by the IRS' closer look at Breitbart News, the professor writes:

It began with a notice that I was being audited for my charitable contributions. This was puzzling as my contributions were entirely in cash. To be sure, I was ashamed that they were pitifully low that year, but this made the audit all the more curious.

Dutifully, I trekked up from the South Side to the federal building in downtown Chicago, and my accountant came in from out of state! Yes, I pay an accountant for my small scale taxes, but read on, and see why he is worth every penny.

So far so good. Having your accountant as wingman at an IRS office is never a bad idea if you can afford the guy's billable time.

Apparently, the person who was working on the audit wasn't there that day, so this guy and his accountant waited for another guy.

Into the little office we crowded: the IRS guy behind the desk, and we in chairs opposite him. He asked some perfunctory questions and then turned to my charitable contributions. He looked at my embarrassingly low contributions, he examined my proof of having made them, and then seemed to weigh some profound question of tax law. The moment of truth had arrived.

At this point, however, I could not help myself. Being a former tax lawyer, but now being merely a client, I foolishly asked the idiotically simple question that had been bugging me all along: “Why am I being audited for cash contributions?”

The IRS man looked at us. Then, calmly and without discomfort, said, “It is a practice audit.”

Oh, you thought you were actually being audited? PSYCH!

I think most taxpayers would rather undergo practice brain surgery than practice IRS audits, but maybe that's just me.

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