Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration
August 26, 2014
TIGTA - 2014-20
Contact: David Barnes
WASHINGTON – Participation in the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) External Leads Program is growing, resulting in the receipt of a significantly larger volume of leads about questionable tax refunds, but the IRS is not always verifying the leads timely, according to a new report by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA).
The IRS’s External Leads Program receives leads about questionable tax refunds identified by a variety of partner organizations that include financial institutions, brokerage firms, government and law enforcement agencies, State agencies and tax preparers. The questionable tax refunds include Treasury checks, direct deposits, and prepaid debit cards.
The overall objective of this review was to assess the effectiveness of the IRS’s External Leads Program in recovering questionable tax refunds.
Since taking over the External Leads Program in January 2010, the IRS’s Wage and Investment Division has performed outreach in an effort to continuously increase the number of organizations participating in this program, TIGTA found. Participation and the number of questionable refunds returned and dollars associated have grown significantly. The IRS measures the External Leads Program’s success by volume and dollars associated with questionable returned refunds.
The program has grown from 10 partner financial institutions returning $233 million in 2010 to 258 partner financial institutions and partner organizations returning more than $576 million in 2013.
“The IRS’s External Leads Program has more than doubled the amount of questionable refunds returned over the past three years, thus saving tax dollars,” said J. Russell George, Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration. “However, opportunities exist to improve the program,” George added.
According to the report, the IRS is not always verifying leads timely, and verification time frame goals differ significantly based on the lead type. The timely verification goals do not take into consideration the burden on legitimate taxpayers whose refund is being held until the verification is completed.
In addition, leads are inconsistently tracked in multiple inventory systems, and the inventory systems do not provide key information such as how the lead was resolved.
TIGTA recommended that the IRS establish more consistent time frames to verify leads; communicate these verification time frames to external partners; develop a process to ensure that leads are verified timely; consolidate the current lead inventory tracking systems into a single tracking system; and ensure that key information is captured as to how each lead is resolved.
The IRS agreed with TIGTA’s recommendations and is evaluating the treatment streams and work processes associated with the various types of referrals received in the External Leads Program to identify appropriate time frames; working to improve the effectiveness of existing reporting capabilities in evaluating program quality and timeliness; and evaluating the feasibility and potential benefits of consolidating the independent inventory tracking databases into one system.
Read the report.
Note: The difference between the date TIGTA issues an audit report to the Internal Revenue Service and the date TIGTA publicly releases the report is due to TIGTA's internal review process to ensure that public release is in compliance with Federal confidentiality laws.
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