TREASURY INSPECTOR GENERAL FOR TAX ADMINISTRATION

Office of Audit

Highlights

HIGH-INCOME NONFILERS OWING BILLIONS OF DOLLARS ARE NOT BEING WORKED BY
THE INTERNAL REVENUE SERVICE

Final Report issued on May 29, 2020

Highlights of Reference Number:  2020-30-015 to the Commissioner of Internal Revenue.

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.

WHAT TIGTA RECOMMENDED

TIGTA made seven recommendations, including designating a senior management official with appropriate resources and specific nonfiler duties to address nonfilers, not pausing the nonfiler program, working multiple tax year cases, and not removing high-income nonfiler cases from the inventory without resolution.  The IRS disagreed with one of the recommendations, agreed with two recommendations, and partially agreed with four recommendations.  The IRS disagreed with placing the nonfiler program under its own management structure.  The IRS agreed not to pause the Individual Master File Case Creation Nonfiler Identification Process in the future, absent unusual circumstances.

 

READ THE FULL REPORT

To view the report, including the scope, methodology, and full IRS response, go to:

https://www.treasury.gov/tigta/auditreports/2020reports/202030015fr.pdf.

 

Phone Number   /  202-622-6500

E-mail Address  /  TIGTACommunications@tigta.treas.gov

Website             /  https://www.treasury.gov/tigta