FIRS Tax Examinations vs. Tax Audits: Understanding the Differences and Implications.

What is a tax audit and to whom is it applicable?


The Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) in Nigeria plays a crucial role in ensuring tax compliance by individuals and businesses. Two common processes employed by FIRS to scrutinize tax returns and financial records are tax examinations and tax audits. In this article, we will clarify the distinctions between these two processes and explore their implications for taxpayers.

Understanding FIRS Tax Examinations and Tax Audits:

  1. Tax Examination: A tax examination is a less formal review of a taxpayer’s records, focusing on specific items in a tax return.
  2. Tax Audit: A tax audit is a more comprehensive and formal examination of a taxpayer’s financial records, encompassing a detailed review of the entire tax return.

Distinguishing Features of Tax Examinations:

  1. Scope: Tax examinations are typically narrower in scope, concentrating on specific items or issues, such as expense deductions, income sources, or tax credits.
  2. Informal Process: Examinations are less formal and may involve correspondence, phone calls, or meetings with tax authorities.
  3. Duration: Examinations are often resolved more swiftly than audits due to their limited scope.

Distinguishing Features of Tax Audits:

  1. Scope: Tax audits are comprehensive, encompassing a thorough review of the entire tax return and all supporting documentation.
  2. Formal Process: Audits involve formal processes, including the issuance of audit notices, interviews, and the potential for on-site visits by tax authorities.
  3. Duration: Audits are generally more time-consuming and can span several months or even years.

Implications of Tax Examinations:

  1. Focused Corrections: Examinations typically result in the correction of specific issues or discrepancies found in the tax return.
  2. Less Disruption: Tax examinations are less disruptive to business operations compared to audits, as they are often resolved through correspondence.
  3. Reduced Exposure: Taxpayers face lower potential penalties and fines for issues identified in examinations compared to audits.

Implications of Tax Audits:

  1. Comprehensive Review: Audits involve a comprehensive review of the entire tax return, potentially leading to significant adjustments.
  2. Resource-Intensive: Audits can be resource-intensive, requiring the cooperation of tax professionals and significant time and effort.
  3. Potential Penalties: Taxpayers may face more significant penalties, fines, or even legal actions for issues identified during audits.
  4. Appeal Process: Taxpayers have the right to appeal audit findings, but the process can be lengthy and involve legal proceedings.


Understanding the differences between FIRS tax examinations and tax audits is crucial for taxpayers in Nigeria. While both processes serve the purpose of ensuring tax compliance, examinations are generally more focused and less disruptive, whereas audits are comprehensive and can be resource-intensive. It’s essential for individuals and businesses to maintain accurate records, cooperate with tax authorities, and seek professional guidance when necessary to navigate these processes effectively. Proactive tax planning and compliance can reduce the likelihood of encountering tax examinations or audits and contribute to a smoother tax compliance journey in Nigeria.

For professional advice on Accountancy, Transfer Pricing, Tax, Assurance, Outsourcing, online accounting support, Company Registration, and CAC matters, please contact Sunmola David & CO (Chartered Accountants & Tax Practitioners) at Lagos, Ogun state Nigeria offices, . You can also reach us via WhatsApp at +2348038460036.