Understanding IRS Audits of Corporate Jet Deductions and Usage Skip to main content

Corporate jets offer unparalleled convenience and efficiency for business travel, but with these benefits come complex tax implications. The IRS has recently increased its scrutiny of corporate jet usage, particularly focusing on how these expenses are reported and deducted for tax purposes. This article delves into the intricacies of IRS audits on corporate jet usage, providing a comprehensive understanding of what businesses need to know, the criteria used in these audits, and what to expect during the audit process.

What To Know About IRS’s New Jet Use Audit Campaign

In February, the IRS announced a new campaign to increase audits on the use of private jets by high-income taxpayers, large corporations, and significant partnerships. This initiative is part of a broader effort to ensure compliance and proper deduction of business expenses related to jet usage. The campaign stems from a growing emphasis on scrutinizing high-net-worth taxpayers, following the IRS’s announcements in 2023 about utilizing Inflation Reduction Act funding to target the top 1% of taxpayers.

IRS Commissioner Danny Werfel highlighted the importance of this campaign, stating, “These aircraft audits will help ensure high-income groups aren’t flying under the radar with their tax responsibilities.” The focus is on ensuring that business deductions for jet usage are accurately reported and that personal use of corporate jets is appropriately accounted for and taxed.

The IRS’s renewed focus means that private jet owners—whether individuals, corporations, or partnerships—must ensure their compliance with existing tax laws. This includes maintaining accurate records and documentation to support their claims of business use versus personal use of these jets. Failure to do so could lead to significant tax liabilities and penalties.

Understanding IRS Audit Criteria

The IRS employs specific criteria when selecting cases for audit, particularly concerning corporate jet usage. One primary aspect is the differentiation between business and personal use of the aircraft. Under I.R.C. § 162(a), taxpayers can deduct ordinary and necessary expenses incurred in carrying on a trade or business. However, accurately distinguishing between business and personal use of a jet is critical and often complex.

For example, according to Treas. Reg. § 1.162-2(b), if a taxpayer travels to a destination for both business and personal purposes, only the expenses related to the business portion of the trip are deductible. The “primary purpose test” helps determine the nature of the trip based on facts and circumstances, which can be challenging for taxpayers to apply consistently.

Moreover, recent IRS guidance, such as IRC Memorandum 202117012, offers some leniency for sole proprietors using private jets. Sole proprietors can use the primary purpose test rather than the more burdensome method of tracking and allocating seat hours or miles flown, simplifying the process of determining deductible expenses.

In addition to scrutinizing direct business use deductions, the IRS also examines other tax-efficient strategies employed by jet owners, such as charitable contributions involving private jets. For instance, under I.R.C. § 170, deductions are allowed for the fair market value of donated property, which can include flight hours or the jet itself. However, these donations must comply with stringent documentation and reporting requirements to withstand IRS scrutiny.

Disputing the IRS can be overwhelming; let our team of experts represent you.

Get Expert Advice


The Audit Process: What to Expect

Preparation is crucial for surviving an IRS audit with minimal disruption. The audit process typically begins with the IRS notifying the taxpayer of the audit, followed by a detailed examination of records related to the business use of the jet. Key documents include travel logs, expense records, and any supporting documentation that proves the business purpose of each trip.

During the audit, the IRS will closely examine how the taxpayer has allocated jet expenses between business and personal use. They will look for contemporaneous records that detail the purpose of each flight, including who was on board and the business reason for their travel. Accurate and detailed records can significantly impact the outcome of the audit.

The IRS’s focus on personal use means they will also assess whether the taxpayer has appropriately reported any personal use of the jet as taxable income. This includes evaluating if the value of personal trips has been correctly included in the individual’s income and whether the company has appropriately adjusted its deductions for such usage.

The potential consequences of failing an IRS audit can be severe, including the disallowance of deductions, imposition of penalties, and back taxes owed. Therefore, businesses should work proactively with tax advisors and attorneys to ensure their records are in order and that they understand the IRS’s expectations.

To mitigate the risks associated with an IRS audit on corporate jet usage, businesses should adopt several best practices:

  1. Maintain Detailed Records: Ensure that all flights are meticulously documented, including the purpose of each trip, the passengers on board, and their business roles. This information should be recorded in real-time to avoid discrepancies later.
  2. Understand and Apply Tax Rules: Familiarize yourself with relevant tax codes and regulations, such as I.R.C. § 162(a) and Treas. Reg. § 1.162-2(b), to ensure that deductions are appropriately claimed.
  3. Consult with Tax Professionals: Regularly consulting with tax advisors and tax attorneys is essential for ensuring compliance with IRS guidelines, especially when it comes to the complex issue of jet usage. Tax professionals can offer valuable insights and help prepare for potential audits, providing a layer of protection and expertise that can be crucial. If you’ve undergone an audit and disagree with the findings, a tax professional for IRS audit reconsideration can be invaluable. These professionals are skilled in navigating the intricacies of tax law and can assist in presenting new information or correcting errors from the original audit, potentially leading to a favorable outcome by reducing or eliminating any proposed additional taxes. Additionally, having support from a tax professional for IRS audit support is crucial, particularly for high-stakes issues like jet usage. They can guide you through the audit process, ensuring that all documentation and evidence are meticulously prepared and presented, thereby safeguarding your interests and ensuring compliance with all applicable tax laws.
  4. Prepare for Personal Use Adjustments: Recognize that any personal use of the jet needs to be reported as income and ensure that the value of such use is accurately calculated and included in the appropriate tax returns.
  5. Stay Informed on IRS Announcements: Keep abreast of IRS announcements and changes in audit strategies to remain compliant and prepared for any changes in the IRS’s focus areas.
  6. Implement Internal Controls: Establish robust internal controls to monitor jet usage and ensure that all relevant documentation is maintained and easily accessible. This includes coordinating with the flight department and company executives to accurately track the business purpose of each flight.

By following these strategies, businesses can better prepare for IRS audits and minimize the risk of unfavorable outcomes. Understanding the intricacies of the IRS’s criteria and audit process is essential for maintaining compliance and defending deductions related to corporate jet usage.


The IRS’s increased focus on auditing corporate jet usage underscores the importance of proper documentation and compliance with tax regulations. With the new audit campaign targeting high-income taxpayers and large entities, businesses must be vigilant in their record-keeping and tax reporting practices. By understanding the IRS’s criteria, preparing for the audit process, and implementing effective compliance strategies, businesses can navigate these audits with confidence and avoid significant tax liabilities.

Bennett Thrasher’s experienced team of tax professionals specializing in IRS tax controversy are well-equipped to assist businesses in these efforts. We  can provide comprehensive audit support, ensuring that all documentation and compliance measures meet the stringent standards set by the IRS. Our expertise in navigating complex tax regulations allows businesses to address potential audit issues proactively, minimizing the risk of penalties and additional tax assessments.

Moreover, Bennett Thrasher offers tailored strategies to enhance compliance and streamline the audit process. Our team’s in-depth knowledge of tax law and audit procedures enables us to identify and rectify any discrepancies in advance, ensuring businesses are well-prepared for any scrutiny. By partnering with Bennett Thrasher, your business can leverage our extensive experience and specialized skills to maintain robust tax practices and confidently manage the challenges posed by increased IRS audits.


We’re Here to Help

Bennett Thrasher’s tax controversy practice can represent and advise you through the controversy process to resolve your tax audits, collection issues, and other tax-related disputes. For more information, you can contact James Pickett, the director in charge of the tax controversy practice, or call 770.396.2200.