The Treasury Inspector General recently released an audit that the IRS isn’t doing an adequate job of making sure that the highest earners are paying their fair share.
Surveys consistently report that most citizens believe that everyone should pay their fair share of taxes. Party affiliation doesn’t affect their opinion.
“Only 6% of Americans think it is morally acceptable for people not to report all their income on their taxes, according to a January 2013 Pew Research survey. The vast majority of the public (71%) says this practice is morally wrong, while 19% think failure to report income isn’t a moral issue. Few of any partisan persuasion think that not reporting their full income is morally acceptable: Republicans (5%), Democrats (7%) and independents (5%) are about as likely to say this. However, Republicans are more likely than Democrats to call this morally wrong (78% vs. 68%), while Democrats are more likely to frame it as “not a moral issue” (21% vs. 15%).”
IMPACT ON TAXPAYERS
The gross Tax Gap is the estimated difference between the amount of tax that taxpayers should pay and the amount paid voluntarily and on time. The average annual gross Tax Gap is estimated to be $441 billion for Tax Years 2011 through 2013, and approximately $39 billion (9 percent) is due to nonfilers, taxpayers who do not timely file a required tax return and timely pay the tax due for such delinquent returns. According to the IRS, high-income nonfilers, although fewer in number, contribute to the majority of the nonfiler Tax Gap.
WHY TIGTA DID THE AUDIT
In past audits, TIGTA identified serious lapses with the IRS’s nonfiler strategy. This audit was initiated to determine whether the IRS is effectively addressing high-income nonfilers and if the new nonfiler strategy and related plans sufficiently include this segment of nonfilers.
WHAT TIGTA FOUND
The IRS is still in the process of conducting testing; however, the new nonfiler strategy appears to approach nonfiling in a more strategic manner. However, the strategy has not yet been implemented, and TIGTA identified that the new nonfiler program is spread across multiple functions with no one area being primarily responsible for oversight. In addition, more needs to be done to address high-income nonfilers. TIGTA analyzed the Individual Master File Case Creation Nonfiler Identification Process inventory for Tax Years 2014 through 2016 and identified 879,415 high-income nonfilers that did not have a satisfied filing requirement, with an estimated tax due of $45.7 billion. Of the 879,415 high-income nonfilers, TIGTA identified:
. The IRS did not work 369,180 high-income nonfilers, with estimated tax due of $20.8 billion. Of the 369,180 high-income nonfilers, 326,579 were not placed in inventory to be selected for work and 42,601 were closed out of the inventory without ever being worked. In addition, the remaining 510,235 high-income nonfilers, totaling estimated tax due of $24.9 billion, are sitting in one of the Collection function’s inventory streams and will likely not be pursued as resources decline.
. The IRS removed high-income nonfiler cases from inventory, resulting in 37,217 cases totaling $3.2 billion in estimated tax dollars that will not likely be worked by the IRS.
In addition, due to the policy on working single tax year cases without regard to how many returns have not been filed by a taxpayer, the IRS is missing out on opportunities to bring repeat high-income nonfilers back into compliance. TIGTA also identified the top 100 high-income nonfilers for Tax Years 2014 through 2016 that the IRS did not address or resolve, who had estimated tax due totaling $9.9 billion.
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