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.
The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) recently released its Semiannual Report to Congress for the period October 1, 2018 through March 31, 2019. During this period, TIGTA completed 20 audits and 1,068 investigations concerning taxpayer data security, identity theft and impersonation fraud, tax compliance, and IRS efficiency. Of particular concern for this report and future monitoring was the effect of the lapse of appropriations for the IRS just before the start of the first tax season to incorporate changes from the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 (TCJA).
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.
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) recently announced that, starting May 13, 2019, only natural persons with a Social Security number or an individual taxpayer identification number may request an EIN as the "responsible party" on the application. Entities will no longer be able to use their own EINs to obtain additional EINs.
The Treasury Inspector General of Tax Administration (TIGTA) recently released its interim report on the 2019 federal tax filing season. As of March 1, 2019, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) had received over 59 million tax returns and issued approximately $142 billion in refunds on over 46 million of those returns. A vast majority - 95 percent - of filers e-filed their returns this season.