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TIGTA – Additional Consideration of Prior Conduct and Performance Issues Is Needed When Hiring Former Employees

February 6, 2015 Comments off

Additional Consideration of Prior Conduct and Performance Issues Is Needed When Hiring Former Employees (PDF)
Source: Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration
From press release:

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) rehired hundreds of former employees with prior substantiated conduct or performance issues, according to a new report publicly released today by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA).

Most rehired employees do not have performance or conduct issues associated with prior IRS employment. However, TIGTA identified hundreds of former employees with prior substantiated conduct or performance issues ranging from tax issues, unauthorized access to taxpayer information, leave abuse, falsification of official forms, unacceptable performance, misuse of IRS property, and off-duty misconduct.

TIGTA — Report: Law Enforcement Assistance Program Requests Are Not Always Processed Timely and Accurately

February 5, 2015 Comments off

Report: Law Enforcement Assistance Program Requests Are Not Always Processed Timely and Accurately
Source: Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration

An audit report released today identifies several problems with a new program allowing the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to share tax information of identity theft victims with State and local law enforcement agencies.

The IRS’s Law Enforcement Assistance Program (LEAP) began as a pilot program in Florida in 2012 and was expanded in 2013 to help law enforcement officers across the country obtain tax return data vital to their efforts in investigating and prosecuting cases of identity theft.

The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) reviewed whether requests for tax return data under the LEAP are processed timely, accurately, and securely.

Law enforcement officers use Form 8821-A, IRS Disclosure Authorization for Victims of Identity Theft, to obtain consent from the identity theft victim to request tax return information from the IRS. TIGTA reviewed a statistically valid sample of 194 of the 2,481 Forms 8821-A processed between January 3, 2013 and September 27, 2013. Of these, 39 requests had been rejected and another four did not have the date that the information was mailed to the law enforcement officer. Of the remaining 151 requests, 88 requests (58 percent) were not processed within the required 10 business days.

In addition, the IRS did not always maintain documentation of tax return information provided to the law enforcement officers. TIGTA also found that requests for tax return information were not always accurately worked. For the 39 requests that the IRS rejected, eight (21 percent) should not have been rejected. Most requests were erroneously rejected because the assistors incorrectly concluded that a tax return associated with the victim of the identity theft was not filed.

The IRS’s quality reviews usually check to ensure that all actions and required research are performed. However, because management had not established requirements for assistors to use a computer research command code, the quality reviews did not check to ensure that this research was completed.

In addition, 11 (7 percent) of the 155 requests for which the IRS provided the law enforcement officer with tax return information were invalid or incomplete and should not have been processed due to the risk of unauthorized disclosure.

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.”

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.”

TIGTA — Improvements Are Needed to Ensure That the Search and Seizure Warrant Process Is Adequately Documented and That Evidence Is Properly Secured

November 5, 2014 Comments off

Improvements Are Needed to Ensure That the Search and Seizure Warrant Process Is Adequately Documented and That Evidence Is Properly Secured
Source: Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) does not always follow all procedures to ensure that evidence it seizes is properly stored and controlled, according to a report released publicly today by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA).

Each IRS Criminal Investigation (CI) special agent has the authority to perform all duties under all laws and regulations administered by the IRS, including the authority to conduct searches and issue search and seizure warrants.

TIGTA’s audit was initiated to determine whether CI is properly processing search and/or seizure warrants and following the policies for maintaining the chain of custody for any evidence obtained.

TIGTA requested 152 closed search and/or seizure warrant cases from the IRS to review. However, CI management did not provide 91 of these cases. According to CI management, these cases contained grand jury information, were part of an ongoing investigation, or had been sealed by the court.

For 70 of these cases, CI management could not provide any documentation to support that these cases contained grand jury information, were part of an ongoing investigation, or were sealed. As such, TIGTA had to rely on CI management’s verbal statements. This constitutes a significant scope impairment because it prevented TIGTA from fully evaluating CI’s processing of search and seizure warrants and from determining whether the IRS is following established legal requirements to prevent the abuse of taxpayer rights.

However, TIGTA was able to review the remaining 61 closed search and/or seizure warrant cases provided by the IRS and found that 14 cases were missing documentation of the Criminal Tax Counsel’s post-search warrant inventory review, were missing signed affidavits, and/or contained errors on their search warrants.

“Our report found that procedures were not always followed to ensure that seized evidence was properly stored and/or controlled,” said J. Russell George, Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration. “Without maintaining proper documentation and following evidence procedures, evidence may be inappropriately disclosed, lost, tampered with, or stolen.”

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