The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and Security Summit partners recently issued a reminder to tax professionals to watch for signs of data theft that could lead to the filing of fraudulent tax returns. Warning signs include receiving unexpected copies of tax transcripts or IRS notices and experiencing network slow-downs or lock-outs.
The Taxpayer First Act signed into law by President Trump requires the IRS to make important changes that will benefit taxpayers and improve tax administration.
In a recent tax controversy forum hosted by New York University, the Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General to the Department of Justice Tax Division (DOJ-Tax), Richard Zuckerman, said that his team is increasing its focus on individuals attempting to use bitcoin and other digital assets to evade taxes. DOJ-Tax is currently prosecuting several criminal cryptocurrency cases, and Zuckerman noted that others are already in process.
National Taxpayer Advocate Nina Olson, who will retire on July 31, 2019, recently released her final report to Congress, summarizing the 2019 filing season and identifying objectives for FY 2020. Top on her list of goals is the improvement of services to taxpayers, with a move towards a "taxpayer-centric strategy" designed to reduce anxiety and increase trust in our federal tax system.
The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) recently released a report finding that accuracy-related penalties are not often proposed in audits of large businesses, and the penalties are generally not sustained on appeal. Between FY 2015 and FY 2017, TIGTA found that of the $773 million in proposed penalties that went to the Office of Appeals, there was a reduction of those penalties totaling $765 million. Of some 4,600 business return exams studied, which resulted in additional tax assessments of $14 billion, only 6 percent had accuracy-related penalties assessed.
The IRS is doing more than protecting taxpayer data and detecting cyber fraud. It is educating tax professionals on cybersecurity at its annual Nationwide Tax Forums. Certain education seminars at this year's Forums will focus on addressing "basic cyber hygiene" and how to manage and prevent cyber threats to businesses, as well as the foundations of information security programs. Forum dates across the country and registration details are available here.
The IRS has established a plan to modernize its systems with an eye toward better service to taxpayers. Cybersecurity is a top priority for the IRS in 2019, as is protecting taxpayer data. The newly released plan outlines a six-year strategy to expand taxpayers' access to their own information and customer support options, to increase secure systems available for tax practitioners' use, and to streamline implementation of new tax provisions.
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Large Business and International division (LB&I) recently announced three new compliance campaigns focused on offshore private banking, captive services providers, and information returns filed by individuals concerning foreign corporations (Forms 5471), with plans to first use audits and letters to address these compliance issues. According to its press release, the IRS has records that identify taxpayers with transactions or accounts at foreign private banks, which it will use to address compliance issues within that campaign.
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and its Security Summit partners recently announced the results from their last 3 years of fighting tax-related identity theft. The summit first met in 2015, and the first initiatives were enacted in 2016. Since 2015, the number of taxpayers reporting they were victims of identity theft has decreased 71 percent. The number of confirmed identity theft returns stopped by the IRS declined by 54 percent in the same period.