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Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration

Press Release


December 29, 2010
TIGTA - 2010-82
Contact: Karen Kraushaar
(202) 622-6500
karen.kraushaar@tigta.treas.gov
TIGTA-PAO@tigta.treas.gov

The IRS Should Strengthen Its Controls to Verify Refunds to Nonresident Aliens

WASHINGTON – The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) should take immediate action to strengthen its controls over the processing of refunds issued to nonresident aliens to prevent such individuals from receiving erroneous refunds, according to a report publicly released today by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA).

Failure to address the problem could result in significant losses to the Federal Government as the questionable refunds issued to nonresident aliens are high and the probability of recovering fraudulent refunds from nonresidents living outside the United States very low, according to the report.

“If the IRS does not take immediate steps to improve its ability to verify refunds to nonresident aliens before the refunds are sent out of the United States, the problem could increase significantly,” warned J. Russell George, Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration. “TIGTA discussed the control weaknesses we identified with the IRS and it is working on actions to address them,” he added.

Nonresident aliens of the United States (U.S.) who receive U.S. sources of income must report and pay taxes on that income and file the U.S. Nonresident Alien Income Tax Return (Form 1040NR) with the IRS. This income is also subject to income tax withholding. In 2009, the IRS processed approximately 598,000 Forms 1040NR for Tax Year 2008. The total taxes withheld on these returns amounted to more than $2.4 billion and refunds amounted to more than $712 million.

TIGTA performed an audit to determine whether IRS controls ensured that only eligible nonresident aliens receive refunds. TIGTA found that inaccurate and fraudulent Forms 1040NR were not detected during processing. As a result, TIGTA identified a significant number of control weaknesses in the processing of refunds claimed on Forms 1040NR. In some 40 cases of questionable refunds issued to nonresident aliens, the refunds were very high, totaling more than $2.3 million.

TIGTA made six recommendations to the IRS in its report, and the IRS agreed with all of those recommendations.

To review the report, including the scope and methodology, go to: http://www.treas.gov/tigta/auditreports/2010reports/201040121fr.pdf.

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