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IRS — Accumulation and Distribution of Individual Retirement Arrangements, 2011–2012

January 28, 2015 Comments off

Accumulation and Distribution of Individual Retirement Arrangements, 2011–2012
Source: Internal Revenue Service

Twelve tables presenting statistics for taxpayers with individual retirement arrangements (six each for Tax Years 2011 and 2012) are now available. The tables are organized by adjusted gross income, age, and marital status. Information for both traditional and Roth IRAs is provided.

National Taxpayer Advocate Delivers Annual Report to Congress; Focuses on Taxpayer Service and Taxpayer Bill of Rights

January 16, 2015 Comments off

National Taxpayer Advocate Delivers Annual Report to Congress; Focuses on Taxpayer Service and Taxpayer Bill of Rights
Source: Internal Revenue Service

National Taxpayer Advocate Nina E. Olson today released her 2014 annual report to Congress, which expresses concern that taxpayers this year are likely to receive the worst levels of taxpayer service since at least 2001 when the IRS implemented its current performance measures. The report recommends that Congress enact a principles-based Taxpayer Bill of Rights, adopt additional safeguards to make those rights meaningful, and provide sufficient funding to make the “Right to Quality Service” a reality.

In the preface to the report, Olson emphasizes four points:

  • “First, the budget environment of the last five years has brought about a devastating erosion of taxpayer service, harming taxpayers individually and collectively;
  • “Second, the lack of effective administrative and congressional oversight, in conjunction with the failure to pass taxpayer rights legislation, has eroded taxpayer protections enacted 16 or more years ago;
  • “Third, the combined effect of these trends is reshaping U.S. tax administration in ways that are not positive for future tax compliance or for public trust in the fairness of the tax system; and
  • “Fourth, this downward slide can be addressed if Congress makes an investment in the IRS and holds it accountable for how it applies that investment.”

The report says the combination of the IRS’s increasing workload, the erosion of public trust occasioned by the IRS’s use of “tea party” and similar terms in screening applicants for tax-exempt status, and the sharp reduction in funding have created a “perfect storm” of trouble for tax administration and therefore for taxpayers. “Taxpayers who need help are not getting it, and tax compliance is likely to suffer over the longer term if these problems are not quickly and decisively addressed,” Olson wrote.

The report also urges Congress to enact comprehensive tax reform, pointing out that simplification would ease burdens on taxpayers and the IRS alike.

TIGTA — The Internal Revenue Service Does Not Adequately Manage I.T. Security Risk-Based Decisions

December 26, 2014 Comments off

The Internal Revenue Service Does Not Adequately Manage I.T. Security Risk-Based Decisions
Source: Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) does not adequately document its risk-based decisions involving Information Technology security, according to a report released publicly today by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA).

Risk-based decisions are made when the IRS wants to make an exception to its own policies and requirements based on suitable justification and a thorough assessment of evident and potential risks. For decisions related to the security of information systems, exceptions are allowed if meeting the requirement is 1) not technically or operationally possible or 2) not cost effective.

When risk-based decisions are not made within the established guidelines, the organization may be accepting too much risk related to security of its systems and data. Consequently, taxpayer data may not be secured and may be vulnerable to unauthorized disclosure, which can lead to identity theft. Furthermore, accepted weaknesses may result in security breaches, which can cause network disruptions and prevent the IRS from performing vital taxpayer services, such as processing tax returns, issuing refunds, and answering taxpayer inquiries.

The IRS Could Improve its Inventory Controls Over Wireless Devices, TIGTA Finds

December 23, 2014 Comments off

The IRS Could Improve its Inventory Controls Over Wireless Devices, TIGTA Finds
Source: Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration

At the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), more than 94 percent of the employees who had BlackBerry® smartphones, cellular phones, or wireless aircard devices were appropriately assigned them; however, the IRS’s system of records designed to document wireless device inventory was not consistently updated as changes occurred, which resulted in almost 57 percent of inventory records being inaccurate.

That is among the findings of a report released publicly today by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA).

“In Fiscal Year 2013, the IRS spent more than $13.7 million on wireless telecommunication devices and maintained an inventory of more than 49,000 devices that it reported as being in use,” said J. Russell George, Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration. “Effective controls over the assignment of and inventory accounting for these devices is important to ensure proper stewardship of Government funds.”

Anti-Terrorist/Anti-Money Laundering Information-Sharing by Financial Institutions under FINCEN’s Regulations, CRS Legal Sidebar (December 10, 2014)

December 18, 2014 Comments off

Anti-Terrorist/Anti-Money Laundering Information-Sharing by Financial Institutions under FINCEN’s Regulations, CRS Legal Sidebar
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

Information-sharing programs developed by Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FINCEN) to implement section 314 of the USA PATRIOT Act have been designed to aid law enforcement investigation and prosecution of money laundering and terrorist financing. Because funds from criminal activity and funds headed to terrorist organizations must pass through the financial system, the FINCEN information-sharing programs have been the means of quickly identifying financial transactions tied to crimes or terrorist organizations under investigation. The section 314 programs supplement more general Bank Secrecy Act requirements, such as the Currency Transaction Reports (CTRs) on cash transactions of $10,000 or more, and the Suspicious Activity Reports (SARs) on transactions suspected to involve criminal activity.

TIGTA — IRS Needs to Do More to Reduce Risk of Improper Payments of EITC and ACTC

December 12, 2014 Comments off

IRS Needs to Do More to Reduce Risk of Improper Payments of EITC and ACTC
Source: Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration

Although the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is required by law to quantify or identify and take actions to address the root causes of improper payments in Federal programs identified as being at high risk, it has only acknowledged one program – the Earned Income Tax Credit program – as being at high risk for improper payments.

According to a report released publicly today by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA), another tax credit program, the Additional Child Tax Credit, is also at high risk of improper payments, although the IRS has not identified it as such.

The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and Additional Child Tax Credit (ACTC) are refundable credits designed to help low-income individuals reduce their tax burden. The IRS estimated that it paid $63 billion in refundable EITCs and $26.6 billion in refundable ACTCs for Tax Year 2012. The IRS also estimated that 24 percent of all EITC payments made in Fiscal Year 2013, or $14.5 billion, were paid in error.

While the IRS has developed processes to identify improper EITC payments and their root causes, it has not developed processes to quantify or identify the root causes of improper ACTC payments, according to TIGTA’s report. The EITC is used to offset the impact of Social Security taxes on low-income families and to encourage them to seek employment. The ACTC is used to adjust the individual income tax structure to reflect a family’s reduced ability to pay taxes as family size increases.

This audit was initiated because the IRS is required to identify and take actions to address the root causes of improper payments in Federal programs identified as being at high risk for improper payments. Under the Improper Payments Elimination and Recovery Act of 2010, a program is defined as having significant improper payments when improper payments exceed both 2.5 percent of program outlays and $10 million of all program payments made during the fiscal year. The overall objective of this review was to assess the IRS’s efforts to identify and address the root causes of erroneous EITC and ACTC payments.

Using IRS data, TIGTA estimates the potential ACTC improper payment rate for Fiscal Year 2013 is between 25.2 percent and 30.5 percent, with potential ACTC improper payments totaling between $5.9 billion and $7.1 billion. In addition, IRS enforcement data show the root causes of improper ACTC payments are similar to those of the EITC.

TIGTA — IRS Has Insufficient Controls Over the Outside Employment of IRS Employees

December 3, 2014 Comments off

IRS Has Insufficient Controls Over the Outside Employment of IRS Employees
Source: Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has insufficient controls over the outside employment or business activities of its employees, according to a new report released publicly today by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA).

Generally, IRS employees are allowed to engage in outside employment or business activities after obtaining written approval. Effective controls over outside employment can reduce the risk of conflicts of interest that could result in decisions that are not in the best interest of American taxpayers.

The overall objective of TIGTA’s audit was to determine whether the IRS has controls in place to provide reasonable assurance that outside employment requests are documented and reviewed for conflicts with employees’ official duties.

IRS records indicate that, in Calendar Year 2011, nearly 3,000 of the more than 6,000 active, full-time IRS employees who held jobs or participated in business activities outside the IRS did not have approval for outside employment or the activities were not documented on the IRS’s Outside Employment System as required. IRS Human Capital Office management was generally not aware of the number of employees with unapproved outside employment because responsibility has not been assigned for overseeing the overall outside employment process. In addition, the IRS stated that it does not have authorization to use taxpayer information (e.g., Form W 2, Wage and Tax Statement) to identify employees with unapproved outside income because Internal Revenue Code Section 6103 does not clearly provide that tax data can be used for this purpose.

“Our report found that it will be difficult for the IRS to monitor outside employment because 93 percent of the existing records in the database used to compile outside employment requests are out of date,” said J. Russell George, Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration. “Moreover, approval of outside employment requests is not always documented on the database or in Official Personnel Folders, in part because of confusing and incomplete guidance.”

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