The news late last year that IRS audits of individuals dropped to an 11-year low made for gloomy revenue projections for tax collections. But it also made many taxpayers happy who, understandably, do not want to be audited. Even if you think you’ve reported everything and done it properly, providing receipts is maddening, and often seems dangerous. Taxes are complex, and gray areas abound.
But your odds of audit are low, and dropping even further. The IRS is auditing only 0.84% of individual taxpayers, less than 1 in 100. An audit might be in person or by correspondence, but there’s a small chance of either. Recently, the IRS Commissioner has suggested that the tax audit picture for the IRS may be gloomier still. And although that is bad for American tax revenue figures, the average taxpayer is relieved.
IRS Commissioner John Koskinen made a reflective speech to the National Press Club March 24, 2016, here, revealing some startling statistics:
Our budget for this fiscal year is about $900 million below 2010. Since 70 percent of our budget is personnel, we have absorbed these cuts mostly by not replacing employees who leave for other jobs, or who retire, like Angelo or Bill. If it’s a critical position, we may shift another employee into that slot. But it’s still a net drop in the size of our workforce. As a result, we expect the IRS workforce to shrink by another 2,000 to 3,000 full-time employees this year. That will add up to about 17,000 full-time employees lost through attrition since 2010.
These losses have been felt all across the IRS. For example, our compliance programs have suffered as a result of underfunding. The portion of our full-time workforce that has been lost since 2010 includes over 5,000 key enforcement personnel. These are the people who audit returns and perform collection activities, as well as the special agents in our Criminal Investigation division who investigate stolen identity refund fraud and other tax-related crimes.
As you might imagine, these staffing losses have translated into a steady decline in the number of individual audits over the past six years. Last year, in fact, we completed the fewest audits in a decade. Plus, our audit coverage rate in 2015 was the lowest since 2004. That trend line of fewer audits will continue this year.
Not surprisingly, audit revenue has continued to decline as well. In cutting the IRS budget, historical collection results suggest that the government is forgoing more than $5 billion a year in enforcement revenue, just to achieve budget savings of a few hundred million dollars. In weakening our compliance programs, these cuts also create risk for our system of voluntary compliance.
This is bad for America’s tax system, but it is unlikely that Republicans will be moved to increase the IRS budget. This is the same IRS Chief whom the Republicans had wanted to impeach. Oversight Committee Chair Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah introduced a resolution to impeach Commissioner Koskinen. Mr. Chaffetz and his colleagues also wrote to President Obama requesting Koskinen’s removal. The resolution claims that the IRS chief violated the public trust by:
- Failing to comply with a subpoena resulting in destruction of key evidence.Commissioner Koskinen failed to locate and preserve IRS records in accordance with a congressional subpoena and an internal preservation order. The IRS erased 422 backup tapes containing as many as 24,000 of Lois Lerner’s emails – key pieces of evidence that were destroyed on Koskinen’s watch.
- Failing to testify truthfully and provided false and misleading information.Commissioner Koskinen testified the IRS turned over all emails relevant to the congressional investigation, including all of Ms. Lerner’s emails. When the agency determined Ms. Lerner’s emails were missing, Commissioner Koskinen testified the emails were unrecoverable. These statements were false.
- Failing to notify Congress that key evidence was missing.The IRS knew Ms. Lerner’s emails were missing in February 2014. In fact, they were not missing; the IRS destroyed the emails on March 4, 2014. The IRS did not notify Congress the emails were missing until June 2014 – four months later, and well after the White House and the Treasury Department were notified.
As America’s taxpayers reflect on low audit rates, it is worth noting that a low audit rate is likely to embolden some taxpayers and tax advisers. They may feel like they are in the clear. Statistically speaking, they might be. But someone is going to get audited. If you are fully prepared for an audit, with documentation, receipts, log books, perhaps even a tax opinion, you probably won’t need them. That is the odd karma about being prepared.
No one wants to be audited. And it is understandable that no tax collector is likely to be liked. On that point, the IRS Commissioner included some zingers in his latest speech, noting that, “a recent poll even showed that 12 percent of taxpayers liked Vladimir Putin better than the IRS.”
For alerts to future tax articles, email me at Wood@WoodLLP.com. This article is not legal advice.
via The Tax Lawyer http://ift.tt/22TUmiy