How Do You Fight Back With Statistics in a Sales Tax Audit?

So statistics, just to give you a brief lesson, are about the integrity of the data that you have. So what you're doing with statistics is you're taking a representative population or an entire data set, let's call it a business's sales over a three-year period, and then you're taking a representative sample, you're trying to create a fair and accurate sample of that population. So if we were to look at the business of sales over a three-year period, the goal would be how do we take a smaller subset of that that we feel is going to be fair and accurate? So here's where CDTFA audits often get into it as we have what we call a data file. So CDTFA and your sales tax auditors have very limited resources. When they do an observation test, when they do a mark of test and when they're using the indirect methods of testing, they're only going to do it for a certain period of time usually two to three days max. And so obviously the challenge is if you're going to take a three day sample or a two day sample, how can that possibly be representative of over a thousand days over the course of a three-year period. Three days, a thousand days, it's not very representative because you can have a variety of things that would go into those three days that could heavily tip the scales in one way or the other. Hopefully in the favor of your taxpayer anyway.

So the way that we counteract this very limited sample is through gathering a better sample. In the course of a sales tax audit, we feel that it's going to come down to one of these indirect methods. Testing will start gathering data immediately, we'll take a one month, we'll take a two month shoot, we'll take a six month sample, if that's what it takes and then within that sample we've got a much better percentage of data that we can rely on to give to the auditor to counteract their assessment. So number one if we're dealing with a month-long sample versus three days, you would think that the month long sample is going to be a better representation of that total population than the two or three day tests that the auditor do. Now it could come out worse with a client depending on what the situation is but you always have that to kind of fall back on so you can take the auditor's sample if it works better in your favor, you can take your sample or you can distinguish between the two. So oftentimes we'll find faults in the auditor's data, we will present our data and then we have a better negotiating platform because we have superior damage. The most important thing and the term that you'll hear me use quite often is something called data integrity. Whoever has the biggest amount of data wins. Whoever's data looks more complete, whoever's data looks more accurate, they will get the nod more often than not. So that's how you beat CDT FA when they run those statistical analyses and how to counteract their data with better data.


Sam Brotman, JD, LLM, MBA

Owner and Director of Legal
Brotman Law