Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration
September 21, 2015
TIGTA - 2015-28
Contact: David Barnes
WASHINGTON – The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) today released its annual review of the Internal Revenue Service’s (IRS) performance during the 2015 Filing Season. The objective of this review was to evaluate whether the IRS timely and accurately processed individual paper and electronically filed tax returns.
The IRS was challenged by the late enactment of tax provisions that were set to expire, TIGTA found. To reduce the impact on the filing season, the IRS took steps prior to the enactment of extender legislation to prepare for the extension. This allowed the IRS to begin accepting and processing tax returns on January 20, 2015, as expected.
As of May 8, 2015, the IRS had received approximately 137.3 million tax returns, up slightly from 136.2 million returns filed during the same period in 2014. More than 120.2 million of the returns were filed electronically, up from nearly 117.4 million e-filed in 2014. TIGTA also found that the IRS issued more than 100.3 million refunds totaling more than $270.9 billion, compared to nearly 101.2 million refunds totaling more than $272.4 billion in 2014. The average refund increased slightly to $2,701 in 2015, compared with $2,693 during the same period last year.
The IRS reported that it had identified 163,087 tax returns as of May 2, 2015, with more than $908.3 million claimed in fraudulent refunds, and had prevented the issuance of approximately $787 million (86.6 percent) in fraudulent refunds. In addition, the IRS reported that expanded use of controls to identify fraudulent refund claims before they are accepted into the processing system identified approximately 77,000 fraudulent electronically filed tax returns and approximately 16,000 fraudulent paper tax returns as of April 30, 2015.
Finally, the IRS continues to offer more self-assistance options that taxpayers can access 24 hours a day, seven days a week. These included the IRS2Go mobile application and various forms of social media, including YouTube, Twitter, Tumbler, and Facebook. As of April 30, there have been 949,028 new views of IRS YouTube videos and a 24 percent increase in Twitter followers. The IRS also reported almost 327.8 million visits to its website (www.irs.gov) as of May 9, 2015.
However, the number of taxpayers assisted through the IRS’s toll-free customer assistance telephone lines decreased in 2015. IRS assistors answered approximately 8.3 million calls and provided a 37.6 percent Level of Service with a 23.5 minute Average Speed of Answer. In 2014,
IRS assistors answered approximately 11.1 million calls and provided a 70.8 percent Level of Service with a 14.4 minute Average Speed of Answer.
Other significant findings include:
• The number of tax return preparers who do not provide the required due diligence form when filing an Earned Income Tax Credit claim continues to decline.
• The IRS’s efforts to limit the number of direct deposits into a single bank account has not prevented preparers from using the split refund option to divert $2.3 million of their clients’ refunds into preparer-controlled bank accounts.
TIGTA recommended that the Commissioner, Wage and Investment Division, revise computer programming to ensure that no more than three direct deposits are made to a single bank account, and that tax returns for which the IRS incorrectly denied taxpayers the educator expense deduction are reviewed to ensure that the individuals receive the tax benefits to which they are entitled.
The IRS agreed with both recommendations and stated that it has revised programing for two of the conditions identified and corrected the affected accounts with educator expense deductions.
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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