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Using a QuickBooks File During an Audit: How to Protect Yourself

The advancement of technology has revolutionized numerous aspects of our lives, including the realm of tax and accounting. With the advent of online tax programs and dedicated accounting software like QuickBooks, maintaining accurate financial records has become more convenient than ever before. However, it’s important to recognize that the IRS has also embraced technology and is increasingly incorporating QuickBooks files into their audits. As a business owner, it’s crucial to be prepared and take steps to safeguard yourself when facing an IRS audit that involves your QuickBooks files. Here are some effective strategies to consider:

Disclose Only What Is Requested

Remember that you are not obligated to provide the IRS with more information than they specifically ask for. If they request records for a specific year, refrain from volunteering files from other years. It’s crucial to provide them with precisely what is requested, and nothing more. This approach helps you maintain control over your sensitive financial data and minimizes the risk of unnecessary scrutiny.

Consider Technical Assistance

If you’re confident in your understanding of QuickBooks, you may be able to manage the audit process independently. However, if you require assistance, various online resources are available for a fee. These resources include certified QuickBooks experts who can provide guidance and support throughout the audit. They can help you navigate the complexities of the audit process, ensure compliance with IRS requirements, and present your financial records accurately and effectively. The best solution when it comes to dealing with the IRS is normally hiring a professional firm like Molen & Associates to ensure you put your best foot forward with the IRS.

Safeguard Your Files and Records

Under no circumstances should you provide the IRS agent with the administrator password to your QuickBooks files. Instead, create an external account user and provide the agent with that login information. By doing so, you maintain control over your QuickBooks data while still fulfilling the IRS’s request for access. Additionally, it’s crucial to prioritize the security of your information during the audit process. If the IRS agent requests a hard copy of the information, avoid sending it via email. Instead, make a copy of the requested data on a DVD or CD and submit it in person to the agent. This method ensures a more secure transfer of sensitive financial data.

Explore Alternatives

In the event of an audit, there are alternative methods you can employ when providing information from your QuickBooks files. One option is to supply the requested data in Excel spreadsheets instead of handing over the entire QuickBooks data file. By providing the information in a more accessible format, you can simplify the review process for both the IRS agent and yourself. Additionally, if you have concerns about sharing the complete QuickBooks backup file, you can ask your tax professional to submit QuickBooks reports to the agent instead. This way, you can provide the necessary information while still maintaining some level of control over your data. Remember, it’s essential to discuss these alternatives with your tax professional to ensure compliance with IRS requirements and to make an informed decision based on your specific circumstances.

Regularly Back up Your QuickBooks Files

One proactive step you can take to safeguard your QuickBooks files and ensure the integrity of your financial data is to establish a regular backup routine. By creating regular backups, you can maintain an up-to-date copy of your files that can be easily accessed and restored if needed. This practice not only protects you during an audit but also safeguards your financial records against potential data loss or system failures. Implementing automated backup processes or using cloud-based solutions can provide an added layer of security and convenience.

Seek Professional Assistance

Dealing with any IRS audit can be daunting, which is why it’s highly recommended to engage the services of a tax professional. Whether or not your QuickBooks files are involved in the audit, having experienced CPAs, EAs or tax advisors by your side can significantly aid you throughout the process. Tax professionals can help you navigate the complexities of tax laws, provide guidance on responding to IRS inquiries, and ensure that your rights as a taxpayer are protected. They have extensive knowledge of the audit process and can work with you to develop a comprehensive strategy for addressing the IRS’s requests while minimizing potential risks and issues.

Ensuring that your books are accurate and up to date is essential not only for your day-to-day business operations but also for minimizing the stress and worry that can accompany an IRS audit. By utilizing a professional tax and accounting service, you can benefit from their expertise in bookkeeping, financial statement preparation, and compliance with tax regulations. Professional services can help you maintain organized and accurate financial records, which serve as the foundation for your business’s financial health. When your books are done correctly and consistently, you can have peace of mind knowing that you are well-prepared for any potential audit. These professionals can provide ongoing support, helping you navigate tax laws, identify potential issues, and implement best practices for bookkeeping. By investing in professional services, you can focus on running your business while having confidence in the integrity and accuracy of your financial records.


Navigating an IRS audit involving your QuickBooks files can be a challenging process. However, by following the strategies outlined above, you can better protect yourself and your business during this period of scrutiny. Remember, at Molen & Associates, we specialize in helping business owners overcome tax and accounting challenges. Our team of experts is well-versed in handling audits and can provide you with the necessary guidance and support to navigate through the complexities of an IRS audit. Don’t face an audit alone—let our experienced professionals assist you in resolving your tax and accounting headaches while ensuring compliance and peace of mind.


The IRS provides a list of 17 Questions and Answers as to the details of how and why they are using electronic records during audits. Please see the full text here or the summarized questions and answers below:

Q1. Why is the IRS using electronic accounting records in examinations?
A: Electronic records reduce burden, provide a complete set of accounting records, and increase efficiency for the IRS.

Q2. How and when will the IRS request electronic accounting software records?
A: The IRS will request electronic records using Form 4564, Information Document Request (IDR), early in the examination.

Q3. How does the IRS address concerns about sharing administrator usernames and passwords?
A: Taxpayers can create temporary passwords for IRS access, preserving their original password.

Q4. What if a taxpayer uses accounting software that is not readable by the IRS?
A: The IRS can work with the taxpayer to find alternative solutions or determine the best course of action.

Q5. Will backup files be requested in every examination involving electronic accounting software?
A: Backup files will be requested in most cases, but the examiner’s judgment will be used to determine their necessity.

Q6. How will the electronic data be used during an examination?
A: Examiners can use the data to analyze, test, and investigate items of interest while evaluating the reliability of the records.

Q7. What is the IRS’s legal authority for requesting electronic files and accounting records?
A: Legal authority is based on specific Internal Revenue Code sections and relevant regulations.

Q8. What if a taxpayer refuses to provide electronic accounting software files?
A: Taxpayers are responsible for maintaining books and records and presenting them when requested. The IRS has the authority to summon information if necessary.

Q9. What if the taxpayer’s representative refuses to provide electronic files?
A: Representatives are generally required to submit requested records unless they believe the information is privileged.

Q10. What if a taxpayer creates a new file instead of providing an exact copy?
A: Creating a new file does not satisfy requirements, and the original file is needed for proper examination.

Q11. Why should a taxpayer submit an accounting software backup file instead of exporting selected reports to Excel?
A: The backup file allows the IRS to review and test the original records for evaluation of internal controls and integrity.

Q12. What will the IRS do with data from periods not under examination?
A: Data from periods not under examination will generally not be used, but specific transactions relevant to the examination may be reviewed.

Q13. Can the IRS request electronic accounting records for periods not under examination?
A: The IRS may request data from the month prior to and after the tax year under examination, potentially expanding the period if necessary.

Q14. Can a taxpayer condense or “clean up” the electronic data file before submission?
A: Old transactions can be condensed, but the working file should not include transactions for periods under examination.

Q15. How does the IRS ensure the security of sensitive information in electronic records?
A: The IRS follows strict procedures to protect taxpayer information and takes violations seriously.

Q16. What if the backup file contains privileged or protected information?
A: The issue of privileged communications is the same for electronic and paper records. Guidelines are provided for discussions with the examiner.

Q17. Can the IRS obtain health information protected under HIPAA?
A: Yes, the IRS may obtain protected health information under specific guidelines.

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