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Should Sellers Of Small Businesses Give Potential Buyers Their Tax Returns?

Posted By: Joe Ranieri, Business Broker: LA, Orange Counties

Should small business owners/sellers or brokers/agents give potential buyers direct access to past company tax returns and financials (profit & loss statements) either before or pre the due diligence process? Multiple ProIntermediaries and ProAdvisors discuss this topic on this BizBen Discussion.

Tags: buying a business, due diligence, selling a business

As a seller, with regards to due diligence, should I give a buyer "third party authorization" to inspect my tax returns directly from the Internal Revenue Service?

This issue recently came up in a transaction that I was working on. I was selling a mini-mart to a buyer who had been an accountant for 20 years, and he did his due diligence by way of visual observation, register tape, sales tax filings, and was about ready to open escrow when he demanded the seller give him authorization to receive the tax returns directly from the IRS. The buyer was convinced that the tax returns could be fraudulent or doctored from the ones that were officially filed with the IRS. The seller created a counter offer that they would not authorize the buyer to pull tax returns directly from a government agency. The buyer balked, and the deal died.

It's been my general rule that a seller should give as much information about the business as possible during the due diligence period, and a buyer should be completely satisfied. It has been my experience that the majority of buyers do not want "third party authorization" for tax returns directly from the IRS, and are usually satisfied with inspecting the seller's copies, but if the buyer does not feel comfortable and not proceed because of it then that is their choice.

I would like to hear what other ProIntermediaries and ProAdvisors on BizBen have experienced. Thanks.


After a contract is in place and due diligence has begun, tax returns are fair game. And, the prudent buyer receives them directly from the IRS with seller approval. A seller who refuses to allow independent verification of his tax returns, does so at his peril -- the buyer quite rightly should be suspicious and may very justifiably kill the deal.



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