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12 tax audit red flags

To avoid catching the attention of the IRS, beware of these tax audit red flags.

You claim fishy deductions

taxes red flags swimming pool

Sometimes claiming a tax deduction you know is a stretch just isn't worth the risk of an audit.

One of the most common gambles: Writing off a swimming pool for medical reasons, said John Lieberman, CPA at Perelson Weiner LLP.

"Just because your back hurts doesn't make your pool deductible," he said.

To qualify, you must be able to prove that you purchased the pool solely to help with the treatment of a verifiable medical condition and this remains its primary purpose. If you don't have a doctor's prescription requiring the use of a pool or if you have easy access to a public pool, the deduction likely won't be allowed and it may lead the IRS to take another look at the rest of your return as well.

Related: Wacky tax deductions

A Playboy magazine subscription for a doctor's office, a hip replacement for a dog and pole dancing classes are some other bizarre tax write-offs people have unsuccessfully tried to claim. That said, crazy attempts can occasionally pay off. One taxpayer successfully deducted the cost of caring for the carrier pigeon that he used to communicate with his business partner.

Have you had a nightmare experience with your taxes? From tax preparer mistakes to audits -- or worse, e-mail to share your story.

Illustrations by Kacy Belew
  @blakeellis3 - Last updated March 21 2013 12:52 PM ET

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