Posts Tagged ‘Internal Revenue Service’

IRS Workers Got $1.1 Million in Bonuses Despite Owing Back Taxes

Thursday, April 24th, 2014

originally posted on latimes.com on April 23, 2014

WASHINGTON — The IRS paid a total of about $1.1 million in bonuses over about two years to more than 1,100 employees who had been disciplined for failing to pay their own taxes, according to an inspector general’s report.

Those employees also received awards of more than 10,000 hours of extra time off and 69 faster-than-normal pay grade increases. They were among more than 2,800 IRS employees during that period who got performance awards within one year of disciplinary action, such as suspensions or written reprimands, the report found.

This is bad news for the Internal Revenue Service’s image, “which already has taken some very serious hits over the past couple of years,” said Pete Sepp, executive vice president of National Taxpayers Union.

The Treasury’s inspector general for tax administration noted that the performance awards did not violate the law.

But he said that “providing awards to employees who have been disciplined for failing to pay federal taxes appears to create a conflict with the IRS’ charge of ensuring the integrity of the system of tax administration.” The IRS’ contract with the National Treasury Employees Union says disciplinary action or investigations do not preclude an employee receiving a bonus or other performance award unless it would damage the integrity of the agency.

The inspector general’s report, released Tuesday, found that the more than two-thirds of IRS employees received performance awards in the 2011 and 2012 fiscal years.

The audit was done because new federal guidelines in 2011 required agencies to reduce spending on bonuses and other awards.

IRS spending on bonuses went down in 2012 compared to 2011.

In 2011, the IRS paid $91.6 million in bonuses and granted almost 520,000 hours of extra time off to a total of 70,500 of the agency’s approximately 104,400 employees, the report said. That amounted to awards for 67.5% of employees.

The following year, spending on cash bonuses dropped to $86.3 million and time off awards fell to about 490,000 hours. But the percentage of employees receiving performance awards increased. The agency gave awards to 67,870 of its 98,000 employees in 2012 — or 69.3%.

Throughout that time, many employees who had been the subject of disciplinary action received performance awards.

From Oct. 1, 2010, to the end of 2012, more than 2,800 employees who had been disciplined received more than $2.8 million in cash bonuses and more than 27,000 extra hours of time off, the report said.

Those included 1,146 employees with tax problems, the report said.

The IRS has been under fire since agency officials said last year that employees improperly targeted applications from conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status.

IRS employees disciplined for failing to pay back taxes should not be denied bonuses, but the money should be diverted to pay the penalty, said Sepp of the Taxpayers Union.

“If we’re assuming that the awards are given out on true merit … then say, ‘Sorry you owe $800 on a lien and you’ve exhausted all your appeals your reward is reduced accordingly,’ ” he said.

The inspector general, however, recommended the IRS consider a policy requiring managers to consider disciplinary actions, especially those for failure to pay taxes, before deciding on bonuses and other performance awards.

The agency issued a statement saying that it already was making changes to its bonus policy.

“The IRS takes seriously our unique role as the nation’s tax administrator. We strive to protect the integrity of the tax system, and we recognize the need for proper personnel policies,” the agency said.

The IRS said it had developed a policy linking conduct to performance awards for executives and senior-level employees.

Even without such a policy, during the previous four years “the IRS has not issued awards to any executives that were subject to a disciplinary action,” the agency said.

The IRS said it is considering a similar policy for the rest of the agency’s workforce, but that would have to be negotiated with the National Treasury Employees Union.

A spokesman for the union did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Sepp said he had broader concerns about the large percentage of IRS employees receiving bonuses. “It just doesn’t’ seem in tune with the reality of any workforce, public or private, that more than half of them would get some kind of merit-based award,” he said.

IRS Doing More Audits of Large Partnerships

Tuesday, April 22nd, 2014

Originally Published in ACCOUNTINGTODAY.COM

As the number of large partnerships involving 100 or more direct partners continues to grow, the Internal Revenue Service is taking a closer look at them, according to a new government report.

The report, from the Government Accountability Office, acknowledged that there is no statutory, IRS or industry-accepted definition of a “large partnership.” However, the GAO used a combination of criteria for partner size and asset size used by IRS to define large partnerships as those that reported having 100 or more direct partners and $100 million or more in assets. Due to the growth of large partnerships and the limited publicly-available data on them, the GAO was asked to provide information on the number and characteristics of large partnerships and on those large partnership returns that have been subject to an IRS audit.

The GAO report found that the number of large partnerships increased from 720 in tax year 2002 to 2,226 in tax year 2011. Large partnerships also increased in terms of the average number of direct partners and average asset size.

The IRS had data on two categories of large partnership return audits. First, the number of completed field audits of large partnership returns increased from 11 in fiscal year 2007 to 31 in fiscal year 2013. Second, IRS counted audits closed through its campus function, which increased from 42 to 143 over the same period. “Unlike field audits, campus function audits generally do not entail a review of the books and records of the large partnership return but rather were opened to pass through large partnership return audit adjustments to the related partners’ returns,” the GAO noted.

The percentage of IRS audits that resulted in no change to the taxpayer’s return varied from fiscal year 2007 to 2013 but was 52 percent for campus function audits and 45 percent for field audits in fiscal year 2013, according to the GAO.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden, D-Ore., took note of the findings in the report and said it could play a role in the tax reform efforts. “This is a real problem and serves as yet another example of why Congress needs to get serious about comprehensive, bipartisan tax reform,” he said in a statement. “This includes looking at the growth of large partnerships and working with the proper parties—including the IRS—to put in place a smart framework for auditing and governance. By rebuilding our tax fundamentals, rather than jumping from one fire drill to the next, Congress can better ensure that we have a fair code and enforcement system in place.”

However, the IRS may be constrained in its audit efforts by budget constraints. IRS commissioner John Koskinen said recently that the audit rate for individual tax returns last year was at its lowest rate since 2005, due to budget cuts in recent years, and he expects it to decline further this year (see IRS Audit Rate Hits New Low).

Wyden, along with Senators Carl Levin, D-Mich., and John McCain, R-Ariz., pointed out that the GAO’s preliminary report shows that the IRS is failing to audit 99 percent of the tax returns filed by large partnerships with assets exceeding $100 million.

“The GAO report shines a needed spotlight on how the IRS is auditing large partnerships, and the news isn’t good,” said Levin, chairman of the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations. “The GAO report shows that while the number of these massive partnerships with massive assets has exploded, IRS audits haven’t kept pace.”

According to GAO, “[b]etween tax years 2002 and 2011, the number of businesses organized as partnerships (with 100 or more partners and $100 million or more in assets) increased more than 200 percent, accounting for $2.3 trillion in assets and $68.9 billion in total net income by 2011.”

Yet in 2012, for example, IRS field audits reviewed the books and records of only 0.8 percent of large partnership returns, according to the preliminary report.

“Auditing less than 1 percent of large partnership tax returns means the IRS is failing to audit the big money,” said Levin in a statement. “It means over 99 percent of the hedge funds, private equity funds, master limited partnerships and publicly traded partnerships in this country, some of which earn tens of billions each year, are audit-free. It is obvious something is wrong with the IRS audit program for large partnerships. We literally cannot afford to allow these entities to go unaudited.”

The final GAO report is expected to provide additional qualitative analysis of why the IRS has performed so few audits of large partnerships. It is expected to focus in part on the unified partnership audit procedures in the Tax Equity and Fiscal Responsibility Act (TEFRA), which some view as responsible for making large partnership audits time-consuming and expensive.

“If Congressionally-imposed red tape or budget cuts are partly responsible for the poor audit numbers, we need to find that out and change it,” Levin added.

The IRS told the Associated Press that budget cuts in recent years have led to reductions in its enforcement staff.

“Since Fiscal 2010, the IRS budget has been reduced by nearly $900 million,” the IRS said in a statement. “The IRS has about 10,000 fewer employees than in 2010, affecting our work across our taxpayer service and enforcement categories. Last year, we had 3,100 fewer people in our key enforcement positions than in 2010.”

IRS Reiterates Warning of Pervasive Telephone Scam

Tuesday, April 15th, 2014

Sent In the IRS Newswire

WASHINGTON – As the 2014 filing season nears an end, the Internal Revenue Service today issued another strong warning for consumers to guard against sophisticated and aggressive phone scams targeting taxpayers, including recent immigrants, as reported incidents of this crime continue to rise nationwide. These scams won’t likely end with the filing season so the IRS urges everyone to remain on guard.

The IRS will always send taxpayers a written notification of any tax due via the U.S. mail. The IRS never asks for credit card, debit card or prepaid card information over the telephone. For more information or to report a scam, go to www.irs.gov and type “scam” in the search box.

People have reported a particularly aggressive phone scam in the last several months. Immigrants are frequently targeted. Potential victims are threatened with deportation, arrest, having their utilities shut off, or having their driver’s licenses revoked. Callers are frequently insulting or hostile – apparently to scare their potential victims.

Potential victims may be told they are entitled to big refunds, or that they owe money that must be paid immediately to the IRS. When unsuccessful the first time, sometimes phone scammers call back trying a new strategy.

Other characteristics of this scam include:

• Scammers use fake names and IRS badge numbers. They generally use common names and surnames to identify themselves.

• Scammers may be able to recite the last four digits of a victim’s Social Security number.

• Scammers spoof the IRS toll-free number on caller ID to make it appear that it’s the IRS calling.

• Scammers sometimes send bogus IRS emails to some victims to support their bogus calls.

• Victims hear background noise of other calls being conducted to mimic a call site.

• After threatening victims with jail time or driver’s license revocation, scammers hang up and others soon call back pretending to be from the local police or DMV, and the caller ID supports their claim.

If you get a phone call from someone claiming to be from the IRS, here’s what you should do:

• If you know you owe taxes or you think you might owe taxes, call the IRS at 1.800.829.1040. The IRS employees at that line can help you with a payment issue – if there really is such an issue.

• If you know you don’t owe taxes or have no reason to think that you owe any taxes (for example, you’ve never received a bill or the caller made some bogus threats as described above), then call and report the incident to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration at 1.800.366.4484.

• If you’ve been targeted by this scam, you should also contact the Federal Trade Commission and use their “FTC Complaint Assistant” at FTC.gov. Please add “IRS Telephone Scam” to the comments of your complaint.

Taxpayers should be aware that there are other unrelated scams (such as a lottery sweepstakes) and solicitations (such as debt relief) that fraudulently claim to be from the IRS.

The IRS encourages taxpayers to be vigilant against phone and email scams that use the IRS as a lure. The IRS does not initiate contact with taxpayers by email to request personal or financial information. This includes any type of electronic communication, such as text messages and social media channels. The IRS also does not ask for PINs, passwords or similar confidential access information for credit card, bank or other financial accounts. Recipients should not open any attachments or click on any links contained in the message. Instead, forward the e-mail to phishing@irs.gov.

More information on how to report phishing scams involving the IRS is available on the genuine IRS website, IRS.gov.

You can reblog the IRS tax scam alert via Tumblr.

What do I need to know about the Health Care Law for my 2013 Tax Return?

Tuesday, March 18th, 2014

Originally shared via the IRS Tax Tips Mailing List

For most people, the Affordable Care Act has no effect on their 2013 federal income tax return. For example, you will not report health care coverage under the individual shared responsibility provision or claim the premium tax credit until you file your 2014 return in 2015.

However, for some people, a few provisions may affect your 2013 tax return, such as increases in the itemized medical deduction threshold, the additional Medicare tax and the net investment income tax.

Here are some additional tips:

Filing Requirement: If you do not have a tax filing requirement, you do not need to file a 2013 federal tax return to establish eligibility or qualify for financial assistance, including advance payments of the premium tax credit to purchase health insurance coverage through a Health Insurance Marketplace. Learn more at HealthCare.gov.

W-2 Reporting of Employer Coverage: The value of health care coverage reported by your employer in box 12 and identified by Code DD on your Form W-2 is not taxable. Learn more.

Information available about other tax provisions in the health care law: More information is available on IRS.gov regarding the following tax provisions: Premium Rebate for Medical Loss Ratio, Health Flexible Spending Arrangements, and Health Saving Accounts.

More Information

Find out more tax-related provisions of the health care law at IRS.gov/aca.

Find out more about the Health Insurance Marketplace at HealthCare.gov.

Taxpayers Plan to Use Tax Refunds for Necessary Expenses

Thursday, February 27th, 2014

Originally Published in Accounting Today

About 52 percent of Americans intend to spend their annual tax refund on necessary expenses such as loans, credit cards and other household expenses, while another 30 percent plan to put the money into savings and only 8 percent plan to invest the tax refund money, according to a new survey.

The survey, released Tuesday by the financial services firm Edward Jones, contrasts with a similar survey released Monday by TD Ameritrade, which found greater interest in investing tax refunds, at least among the investors who were polled (see Many Plan to Invest Their Tax Refunds).

The Edward Jones survey polled over 1,000 taxpayers in general. It found that the respondents between the ages of 55 and 64 are most likely to save their refund (43 percent). Respondents who are just a few years younger had a much different opinion, with only 25 percent of those between 45 and 54 years of age planning to save their tax refunds. The survey’s youngest respondents, those between the ages of 18 and 34, are most likely to spend their refund checks on “fun” things such as clothes, entertainment and restaurants (12 percent). This compares to just 5 percent of those 65 and older who would do the same.

Household income has the most influence on the decision to save, spend or invest a tax refund in 2014. Survey respondents with the lowest household income (those making less than $35,000 a year) are the most likely to spend their tax refund on necessary expenses (61 percent). This compares to just over one-third (37 percent) of those with the highest household income ($100,000 or more). The wealthiest respondents are not the most likely to invest their refunds, the survey found. Instead, those with household incomes between $50,000 and $75,000 were the most likely to invest the tax refund money.

In general, households with children are the most likely to spend their tax refunds on everyday expenses, and those with older children are even more likely. Following that point, Americans with no children are the most likely (10 percent) to spend their tax refund on something “fun,” whereas only 1 percent of those with children ages 13 to 17 are willing to splurge.

Americans living in the Northeast are the most likely to invest their tax refunds (11 percent). Those who live in the West are the most likely simply to save their tax refunds (35 percent).

IRS to Begin Accepting Business Tax Returns on Jan. 13

Thursday, December 26th, 2013

orignially posted to www.accountingtoday.com on December 24, 2013

The Internal Revenue Service plans to begin accepting business tax returns on January 13, more than two weeks ahead of the start date for accepting individual tax returns.

The IRS announced last Wednesday that it would begin accepting individual 1040 tax returns on January 31, blaming the 16-day federal government shutdown in October for delaying its annual programming, updating and testing its tax-processing systems (see IRS Sets the Date: Tax Season Starts Jan. 31). However, the IRS posted on its Web site last Thursday that it will also begin accepting 2013 business tax returns on Monday, Jan. 13, 2014. This start date applies to both electronically filed and paper-filed returns.

The business tax returns include any return that posts on the IRS’s Business Master File system. BMF tax returns include a variety of income tax and information returns such as Form 1120 filed by corporations, Form 1120S filed by S corporations, Form 1065 filed by partnerships and Form 1041, the return filed by estates and trusts. It also includes various excise and payroll tax returns, such as Form 720, Form 940, Form 941 and Form 2290. The IRS expects to be able to begin processing any of these business returns on January 13.

The IRS noted that the January 13 start date does not apply to unincorporated small businesses that report their income on Form 1040. The start date for all 1040 filers is Jan. 31, 2014. While the IRS is encouraging these small businesses to begin preparing their returns now, it will not be able to accept these or any other individual returns or begin processing them until January 31. This includes sole proprietors who file a Schedule C, landlords who file a Schedule E and farmers who file a Schedule F.

Further details are available on IRS.gov.

Shutdown Causes IRS to Delay Tax Filing Season

Tuesday, October 22nd, 2013

originally posted on http://money.msn.com on October 22, 2013

WASHINGTON (AP) – Here’s more fallout from the government’s partial shutdown: Early tax filers will have to wait an extra week or two to get tax refunds next year.

The Internal Revenue Service said Tuesday it will delay the start of next year’s filing season by up to two weeks to give programmers time to finish updating the agency’s computers. The 16-day shutdown interrupted their work.

The filing season had been set to start Jan. 21. Acting IRS commissioner Danny Werfel said the agency is working to shorten the delay and will announce the exact start date in December.

The delay will affect early filers, many of whom rush their returns to the IRS so they can quickly get refunds.

The April 15 deadline for filing individual tax returns remains unchanged.

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

IRS Halts Tax Liens and Levies During Shutdown

Sunday, October 13th, 2013

originally posted on www.accountingtoday.com on October 10, 2013

The Internal Revenue Service is putting the brakes on tax liens and levies during the federal government shutdown.

The IRS said in a Web page about the shutdown that it is not sending out levies or liens, either those generated systemically or those manually generated by employees. In a previous Web posting last week, the IRS had suggested that it would continue to send out automated notices of various kinds (see IRS Suspends Tax Refunds and Tax Court Closes during Government Shutdown).

In an effort to clarify the previous information, the IRS noted that taxpayers might still receive levy or lien correspondence with October mailing dates, but those notices were printed before IRS shutdown operations were fully complete. The IRS explained that it is standard practice for such notices to be printed with a future date to allow for mailing time to reach taxpayers.

In addition, the IRS pointed out that other letters related to liens and levies—such as notifications that a taxpayer could potentially be subject to a lien or a levy at a future date—continue to be automatically generated by IRS systems during the appropriations lapse. “However, the IRS emphasizes that these notices are not actual levies or liens; just a notification of potential future action,” said the IRS. For more information on the IRS collection process, see Publication 594.

The IRS also clarified whether its personnel are continuing to take enforcement actions during this period.

“In non-criminal cases, the only enforcement actions the IRS is taking during the appropriations lapse involve isolated instances where we need to take immediate action to protect the government’s interest,” said the IRS. “So any enforcement action in this category—such as seizures—would be extremely limited. For example, where the expiration of the statute of limitations on collection action is imminent. For criminal issues, most IRS Criminal Investigation employees continue to work during this period, similar to other federal law-enforcement agencies.”

Tax Return Processing
The IRS also clarified its procedures for tax return processing. Last week, it noted that individuals and businesses should keep filing their tax returns and making deposits with the IRS, as they are required to do so by law. It urged taxpayers to file electronically because most e-filed returns will be processed automatically. Payments accompanying electronic tax returns will be accepted as the IRS receives them, although the IRS said it would be unable to issue refunds during the shutdown.

The processing of paper returns will be delayed until full government operations resume. Payments accompanying paper tax returns will still be accepted as the IRS receives them, though the IRS will be unable to issue refunds during this time. Paper tax returns will be considered to be timely filed even though the IRS is not processing paper returns, the IRS clarified. Since the U.S. Postal Service is continuing to operate during the shutdown, and they will postmark and deliver mail to the IRS. “Any return postmarked by the due date will be considered timely filed by the IRS even though processing of the return may not occur until after the return due date depending on the length of the lapse in appropriations,” said the IRS.

Tax Transcripts
The IRS also noted that individual taxpayers are able to obtain tax transcripts during the shutdown. “This is an automated process,” said the IRS. “Taxpayers can still use automated tools, including IRS.gov, to request that a transcript of their personal tax records be sent to their address of record; the taxpayer will typically receive transcripts in the mail within five to 10 calendar days.”

However, a third party cannot obtain a tax transcript during the shutdown. The IRS explained that transcript requests from third parties require actions by IRS employees, who are not available due to the current lapse in government appropriations. “During this period, transcript requests by third parties, such as financial institutions, cannot be processed through the Return and Income Verification Services and Income Verification Express Service,” said the IRS. “These processes are not automated. However, individuals requesting their own transcripts can use the automated process, which remains available.” The IRS did not specify whether the transcripts are available to tax practitioners.

Oct. 15 Deadline Still in Effect, IRS Warns

Saturday, October 12th, 2013

originally posted on www.accountingtoday.com on October 8, 2013

The Internal Revenue Service reminded taxpayers that the October 15 deadline remains in effect for people who requested a six-month extension to file their tax return.

While the current government shutdown has shuttered many offices and turned off many services, it “does not affect the federal tax law, and all taxpayers should continue to meet their tax obligations as normal,” the IRS said in a statement.

Over 12 million people filed for automatic six-month extensions earlier in 2013, most of whom will have to file by the October 15 deadline. Some groups do have more time, the IRS noted, including members of the military and others serving in Afghanistan or other combat zones, as well as people in parts of Colorado affected by severe weather, flooding, landslides and mudslides.

The service encouraged taxpayers to e-file their returns, but said that it would accept returns both electronically or on paper, and accept and process payments accompanying either type of return. It will not be able to issue refunds, however, until normal government operations resume.

IRS Streamlines Innocent Spouse Relief

Thursday, September 19th, 2013

originally posted on www.accountingtoday.com – September 17, 2013

The Internal Revenue Service has issued new guidance and streamlined procedures for spouses who are seeking equitable relief from joint income tax liability.

Revenue Procedure 2013-34 supersedes the earlier Revenue Procedure 2003-61. It provides the threshold requirements for any request for equitable relief and sets forth conditions under which the IRS will make streamlined relief determinations granting equitable relief from an understatement of income tax or an underpayment of income tax reported on a joint return, or the operation of community property law.

The revenue procedure also provides a nonexclusive list of factors for consideration in determining whether relief should be granted because it would be inequitable to hold a requesting spouse jointly and severally liable when the original conditions under the Tax Code are not met.

The factors also will apply in determining whether to relieve a spouse from income tax liability resulting from the operation of community property law under the equitable relief provisions.

The revenue procedure applies to spouses who request either equitable relief from joint and several liability under Section 6015(f) of the Tax Code, or equitable relief under Section 66(c) from income tax liability resulting from the operation of community property law.

In 2011, the IRS eliminated the two-year statute of limitations on requests for innocent spouse relief (see IRS Eliminates 2-Year Limit on Innocent Spouse Requests). The new revenue procedure notes that if the requesting spouse is applying for relief from a liability or a portion of a liability that remains unpaid, the request for relief must be made on or before the Collection Statute Expiration Date, or the date the period of limitation on collection of the income tax liability expires, as provided in section 6502. “Generally, that period expires 10 years after the assessment of tax, but it may be extended by other provisions of the Internal Revenue Code.”

The new revenue procedure also provides that if the nonrequesting spouse abused the spouse who is requesting relief from the IRS, or maintained control over the household finances by restricting the requesting spouse’s access to financial information, and because of the abuse or financial control, the requesting spouse was not able to challenge the treatment of any items on the joint return, or to question the payment of the taxes reported as due on the joint return or challenge the nonrequesting spouse’s assurance regarding payment of the taxes, for fear of the nonrequesting spouse’s retaliation, then the abuse or financial control will result in satisfying the factor needed for a streamlined determination even if the requesting spouse knew or had reason to know of the items giving rise to the understatement or deficiency, or knew or had reason to know that the nonrequesting spouse would not pay the tax liability.

Revenue Procedure 2013-34 will be published in Internal Revenue Bulletin 2013-42 on Oct. 7, 2013.