Recent news accounts have claimed that federal taxpayers are receiving smaller tax refunds for the 2018 filing season, implying that their taxes are higher as a result of the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. According to research by the Wall Street Journal, however, although refund amounts are indeed lower this year for many individuals, it is not necessarily a result of higher taxes.
On April 18, 2018, Ana Bajo, a California resident, pleaded guilty in the Northern District of California to conspiring to file fraudulent claims for more than $9.7 million in refunds by obtaining the personal information of others and filing more than 2,300 fraudulent income tax returns with her co-conspirators. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) paid over more than $7.5 million as a result of the scheme. Bajo now faces a maximum of ten years in prison, plus supervised release, restitution, and monetary penalties. Her sentencing is scheduled for September 26, 2018.
The Department of Justice has permanently barred a Southern California tax preparer from preparing federal returns for others, following a complaint filed by the government that the tax professional had been filing returns claiming a total of more than $9 million in fraudulent refunds since at least 2009. She agreed to the injunction and pleaded guilty to conspiracy to file false, fictitious, and fraudulent claims, tax evasion, and aggravated identity theft.
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) estimates it is holding about $1.1 billion in unclaimed federal income tax refunds for approximately 1 million taxpayers who did not file a 2014 federal tax return. The deadline to file a 2014 return to collect any refund due is this year's tax deadline, Tuesday, April 17, 2018.
Each year, the IRS publishes statistical data regarding tax return filing, revenue collected and refunded, tax law enforcement, taxpayer assistance, and other important information. In fiscal year 2016, the IRS collected over $3.3 trillion and processed over 244 million tax returns and other forms. It also issued over $426 billion in tax refunds. To review the FY 2016 IRS Data Book, click here: https://www.irs.gov/uac/SOI-Tax-Stats-IRS-Data-Book
On January 31, 2017, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) released its final report on the results of the 2016 tax filing season. As of early May 2016, the IRS had received 139.6 million individual tax returns, over 88% of which were filed electronically. Almost $277 billion was issued related to 101 million refunds. However, TIGTA identified several areas in which claims and credits were inadequately substantiated.
The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) issued a final report on May 17, 2016, after auditing the Internal Revenue Service's handling of amended individual tax returns. It found that examinations of such returns "did not always ensure that claims were properly evaluated" and did not always prevent the issuance of inappropriate tax refunds and abatements. Lack of substantiation was the main cause for this issue.
The California Franchise Tax Board (FTB) has delayed the tax refund process for at least 16,000 state taxpayers in order to complete extra identity verification steps to prevent refund fraud and identity theft. The FTB is sending letters to some taxpayers whose returns were prepared professionally to request confidential information using various form letters to validate their claims for refund.
On March 10, 2016, the Internal Revenue Service ("IRS") announced that it has $950 million unpaid tax refunds due to an estimated one million tax payers who did not file their federal income tax return for 2012. The IRS estimates the midpoint value of a potential refund is $718---half of the refunds will be less and half will be more.
On March 11, 2015, the IRS reported that it has refunds totaling $1 Billion due to taxpayers who did not file a 2011 federal income tax return. California leads the nation with the most refunds due, with over 103,000 taxpayers failing to file their 2011 return.