The gap between taxes owed and taxes collected by the Internal Revenue Service could be approaching $1 trillion, IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig told members of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform’s Government Operations Subcommittee as he advocated for more funding for the agency.
During an April 21, 2022, hearing of the subcommittee, Rettig noted updated tax gap figures for the three-year period of 2012-2014, along with projections through 2019, will be released this summer. However, those projections do not account for the growth in cryptocurrency, which could be widening the tax gap beyond the current calculations and projections. "What is not in those estimates is virtual currencies, and there is over a $2 trillion market cap for virtual currencies," Rettig testified before the committee. "Last year, there was over $14 trillion in transactions in virtual currencies and the United States, if you view relative GDP, is somewhere between 35 and 43 percent of that $14 trillion." He said that knowledge generated from John Doe summons activity in these space reveals "that the compliance issues in the virtual currency space are significantly low." "The tax gap estimates that the IRS prepares are based on information that the IRS is able to determine, not information that we know is out there but we are not able to determine," Rettig said, adding that the agency is trying to get more information about virtual currencies through adding questions on the Form 1040, first on Schedule L and then moving it to page one of the Form 1040 last year "to try to enhance compliance." He added that the agency is looking to get more into that area. The comments on the tax gap and the need to be able to tackle compliance in the cryptocurrency space underscores the agency’s need for more funding as requested in the White House budget request for fiscal year 2023. In his written testimony submitted to the committee, Rettig noted that the agency "can no longer audit a respectable percentage of large corporations, and we are often limited in the issues reviewed among those we do audit. These corporations can afford to spend large amounts on legal counsel, drag out proceedings and bury the government in paper. We are, quite simply, ‘outgunned’ in our efforts to assure a high degree of compliance for these taxpayers." He wrote that it is "unacceptable" that corporations and the wealthiest individuals have such an advantage to push back on the nation’s tax administrator. "We must receive the resources to hire and train more specialists across a wide range of complex areas to assist with audits of entities (taxable, pass-through and tax-exempt) and individuals (financial products; engineering; digital assets; cross-border activities; estate and gift planning; family offices; foundations; and many others)," his written testimony states. Rettig wrote that the agency current has fewer than 2,000 revenue officers, "the lowest number of field collection personnel since the 1970s," to handle more than 100,000 collection cases in active inventory. He continued: "In addition to our active inventory, we have over 1.5 million cases (more than 500,000 of which are considered high priority) awaiting assignment to these same 2,000 revenue officers. We have classified roughly 85 percent of those cases as high priority, many of which involve delinquent business employment taxes." The lack of funding is also hampering criminal investigations. "Much like other operating divisions in the IRS, CI is close to its lowest staffing level in the past 30 years. With fewer agents, we have fewer cases and fewer successful convictions," he stated in the written testimony. Much of this also is compounded by the ancient IT infrastructure at the agency, another reason Rettig advocated during the hearing for more funding. "Limited IT resources preclude us from building adequate solutions for efficiently matching or reconciling data from multiple sources," he wrote. "As a result, we are often left with manual processes to analyze reporting information we receive." Retting specifically highlighted the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act, which Congress enacted in 2010 but, according to Retting, has yet to appropriate the funding necessary for its implementation. "This situation is compounded by the fact that when we do detect potential non-compliance or fraudulent behavior through manually generated FATCA reports, we seldom have sufficient funding to pursue the information and ensure proper compliance," he wrote. "We have an acute need for additional personnel with specialized training to follow cross-border money flows. They will help ensure tax compliance by improving our capacity to detect unreported accounts and income generated by those accounts, as well as the sources of assets in offshore accounts."
Internal Revenue Service Commissioner Charles Rettig remained positive that the agency will be able to return to a normal backlog of unprocessed returns and other mail correspondence by the end of the year and noted progress on hiring more people to help clear the backlog.
"With respect to our current 2022 filing season, we are off to a healthy start in terms of tax processing and the operation of our IT systems," Rettig told members of the Senate Finance Committee during an April 7 hearing to discuss the White House budget request and update the panel on the current tax filing season. "Through April 1, we have processed more than 89 million returns and issued more than 63 million refunds totaling more than $204 billion." Getting that backlog cleared has been bolstered in part by a direct hiring authority given to the agency in the recent passage of the fiscal year 2022 omnibus budget, Rettig told the committee. The effectiveness of that hiring authority was highlighted in his written testimony submitted prior to the hearing, where Rettig stated that in-person and virtual job fairs near processing facilities in Austin, Kansas City, and Ogden, Utah, attracted eligible applicants for more than 5,000 vacancies and "we have been able to make more than 2,500 conditional offers at the conclusion of the interviews." Rettig said the direct hiring authority is only related to those lower paygrade processing/customer service positions and the agency is going to ask Congress to expand that authority, although he did not specify what types of positions would be hired as part of that expansion.
The IRS addressed the following common myths about tax refunds:
The IRS has informed taxpayers that the agency issues most refunds in less than 21 days for taxpayers who filed electronically and chose direct deposit. However, some refunds may take longer. The IRS listed several factors that can affect the timing of a refund after the agency receives a return.
A manual review may be necessary when a return has errors, is incomplete or is affected by identity theft or fraud. Other returns can also take longer to process, including when a return needs a correction to the Child Tax Credit amount or includes a Form 8379, Injured Spouse Allocation, which could take up to 14 weeks to process. The fastest way to get a tax refund is by filing electronically and choosing direct deposit. Taxpayers who don’t have a bank account can find out more on how to open an account at an FDIC-Insured bank or the National Credit Union Locator Tool.
Further, the IRS cautioned taxpayers not to rely on receiving a refund by a certain date, especially when making major purchases or paying bills. Taxpayers should also take into consideration the time it takes for a financial institution to post the refund to an account or to receive it by mail. Before filing, taxpayers should make IRS.gov their first stop to find online tools to help get the information they need to file. To check the status of a refund, taxpayers should use the Where’s My Refund? tool on IRS.gov. The IRS will contact taxpayers by mail when more information is needed to process a return. IRS representatives can only research the status of a refund if it has been: 21 days or more since it was filed electronically; six weeks or more since a return was mailed; or when the Where's My Refund? tool tells the taxpayer to contact the IRS.
Additionally, taxpayers whose tax returns from 2020 have not yet been processed should still file their 2021 tax returns by the April due date or request an extension to file. Those filing electronically in this group need their Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) from their most recent tax return. Those waiting on their 2020 tax return to be processed should enter zero dollars for last year's AGI on the 2021 tax return. When self-preparing a tax return and filing electronically, taxpayers must sign and validate the electronic tax return by entering their prior-year AGI or prior-year Self-Select PIN (SSP). Those who electronically filed last year may have created a five-digit SSP. Generally, tax software automatically enters the information for returning customers. Taxpayers who are using a software product for the first time may have to enter this information.
The IRS reminded educators that they will be able to deduct up to $300 of out-of-pocket classroom expenses when they file their federal income tax return for tax year 2022. This is the first time the annual limit has increased since 2002.
For tax years 2002 through 2021, the limit was $250 per year. The limit will rise in $50 increments in future years based on inflation adjustments. For 2022, if an eligible educator is married and files a joint return with another eligible educator, the limit rises to $600 but not more than $300 for each spouse.
Educators can claim this deduction even if they take the standard deduction. Eligible educators include anyone who is a kindergarten through grade 12 teacher, instructor, counselor, principal, or aide in a school for at least 900 hours during the school year. Both public- and private-school educators qualify. Educators can deduct the unreimbursed cost of:
Qualified expenses do not include expenses for homeschooling or nonathletic supplies for courses in health or physical education. The IRS also reminded educators that for tax year 2021, the deduction limit is $250. If they are married and file a joint return with another eligible educator, the limit rises to $500 but not more than $250 for each spouse.
Taxpayers who may need to take additional actions related to Qualified Opportunity Funds (QOFs) should begin receiving letters from the IRS in April. Taxpayers who attached Form 8996, Qualified Opportunity Fund, to their return may receive Letter 6501, Qualified Opportunity Fund (QOF) Investment Standard. This letter lets them know that information needed to support the annual certification of investment standard is missing, invalid or the calculation isn’t supported by the amounts reported. If they intend to maintain their certification as a QOF, they may need to take additional action to meet the annual self-certification of the investment standard requirement.
To correct the annual maintenance certification of the investment standard, taxpayers should file an amended return or an administrative adjustment request (AAR). If an entity that receives the letter fails to act, the IRS may refer its tax account for examination. Additionally, taxpayers may receive Letter 6502, Reporting Qualified Opportunity Fund (QOF) Investments, or Letter 6503, Annual Reporting Of Qualified Opportunity Fund (QOF) Investments. These letters notify them that they may not have properly followed the instructions for Form 8997, Initial and Annual Statement of Qualified Opportunity Fund (QOF) Investments. This may happen if it appears that they may not have properly followed the requirements to maintain their qualifying investment in a QOF with the filing of the form.
Finally, if these taxpayers intend to maintain a qualifying investment in a QOF, they can file an amended return or an AAR with a properly completed Form 8997 attached. Failure to act will mean those who received the letter may not have a qualifying investment in a QOF and the IRS may refer their tax accounts for examination.
The IRS informed taxpayers that it will send Notices CP2100 and CP2100A notices to financial institutions, businesses, or payers who filed certain types of information returns that do not match IRS records, beginning mid-April 2022. These information returns include:
These notices inform payers that the information return is missing a Taxpayer Identification Number (TIN), has an incorrect name or a combination of both. Each notice has a list of payees or the persons receiving certain types of income payments with identified TIN issues. Taxpayers need to compare the accounts listed on the notice with their account records and correct or update their records, if necessary. This can also include correcting backup withholding on payments made to payees. The notices also inform payers that they are responsible for backup withholding. Payments reported on these information returns are subject to backup withholding if:
The IRS has issued a guidance stating that government employees who receive returns or return information pursuant to disclosures under Code Sect. 6103(c), are subject to the disclosure restrictions, like all designees who receive returns or return information pursuant to taxpayer consent. Further, government employees who receive returns or return information pursuant to disclosures under Code Sec. 6103(k)(6) or (e), other than Code Sec. 6103(e)(1)(D)(iii) (relating to certain shareholders), are not subject to the disclosure restrictions with regard to the returns or return information received.
Section 2202 of the Taxpayer First Act (TFA), P.L. 116-25, amended Code Sec. 6103(a)(3) and (c) to limit redisclosures and uses of return information received pursuant to the staxpayer consent exception. Code Sec. 6103(c), as amended by the TFA, explicitly prohibits designees from using return information for any reason other than the express purpose for which the taxpayer grants consent and from redisclosing return information without the taxpayer’s express permission or request. Further, Code Sec. 6103(a)(3), as amended by the TFA, imposes disclosure restrictions on all recipients of return information under Code Sec. 6103(c). The TFA did not amend Code Sec. 6103(e) or (k)(6), or Code Sec. 6103(a) with respect to disclosures under Code Sec. 6103(e) or (k)(6).Disclosure Restrictions
The IRS cited seven situations where disclosure restrictions of Code Sec. 6103(a) would or would not be applicable with regard to returns or return information received as a result of disclosure under:
Rev. Rul. 2004-53, I.R.B. 2004-23, has been modified and superseded.
The IRS has provided a waiver for any individual who failed to meet the foreign earned income or deduction eligibility requirements of Code Sec. 911(d)(1) because adverse conditions in a foreign country precluded the individual from meeting the requirements for the 2021 tax year. Qualified individuals may exempt from taxation their foreign earned income and housing cost amounts.
The countries for which the eligibility requirements have been waived for 2021 are Iraq, Burma, Chad, Afghanistan and Ethiopia. Accordingly, an individual who left the following countries beginning on the specified date will be treated as a qualified individual with respect to the period during which that individual was present in, or was a bona fide resident of the country: (1) Iraq on or after January 19, 2021; (2) Burma on or after March 30, 2021; Chad on or after April 17, 2021; (4) Afghanistan on or after April 27, 2021, and; (5) Ethiopia on or after November 5, 2021. Individuals who left the above mentioned countries must establish a reasonable expectation that he or she would have met the requirements of Code Sec. 911(d)(1) but for those adverse conditions. Further, individuals who established residency, or were first physically present in Iraq, after January 19, 2021, are not eligible for the waiver. Taxpayers who need assistance on how to claim the exclusion, or how to file an amended return, should consult the section under the heading "Foreign Earned Income Exclusion" at https://www.irs.gov/individuals/international-taxpayers/us-citizens-and-resident-aliens-abroad; consult the section under the heading How to Get Tax Help at the same web address; or contact a local IRS office.
The Supreme Court reversed and remanded a Court of Appeals decision and held that Code Sec. 6330(d)(1)’s 30-day time limit to file a petition for review of a collection due process (CDP) determination is an ordinary, nonjurisdictional deadline subject to equitable tolling in appropriate cases. The taxpayer had requested and received a CDP hearing before the IRS’s Independent Office of Appeals pursuant to Code Sec. 6330(b), but the Office sustained the proposed levy. Under Code Sec. 6330(d)(1), the taxpayer had 30 days to petition the Tax Court for review. However, the taxpayer filed its petition one day late. The Tax Court dismissed the petition for lack of jurisdiction and the Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit affirmed, agreeing that Code Sec. 6330(d)(1)’s 30- day filing deadline is jurisdictional and thus cannot be equitably tolled.
The Supreme Court analyzed the text of Code Sec. 6330(d)(1) and stated that the only contention is whether the provision limits the Tax Court’s jurisdiction to petitions filed within the 30-day timeframe. The taxpayer contended that it referred only to the immediately preceding phrase of the provision: a "petition [to] the Tax Court for review of such determination." and so the filing deadline was independent of the jurisdictional grant. The IRS, on the contrary, argued that "such matter" referred to the entire first clause of the sentence, which includes the deadline and granting jurisdiction only over petitions filed within that time. However, the Supreme Court held the nature of the filing deadline to be nonjurisdictional because the IRS failed to satisfy the clear-statement rule of the jurisdictional condition. It also stated that where multiple plausible interpretations exist, it is difficult to make the case that the jurisdictional reading is clear. Moreover, Code Sec. 6330(e)(1)’s clear statement—that "[t]he Tax Court shall have no jurisdiction . . . to enjoin any action or proceeding unless a timely appeal has been filed"—highlighted the lack of such jurisdictional clarity in Code Sec. 6330(d)(1).Equitable Tolling of Filing Deadline
The Supreme Court remanded the case to the Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit to decide whether the taxpayer was entitled to equitable tolling of the filing deadline. However, the Supreme Court did emphasize that Code Sec. 6330(d)(1) did not expressly prohibit equitable tolling, and its 30-day time limit was directed at the taxpayer, not the court. Further, the deadline mentioned in the provision was not written in an emphatic form or with detailed and technical language, nor was it reiterated multiple times. The IRS’ argument that tolling the Code Sec. 6330(d)(1) deadline would create much more uncertainty, was rejected. The Supreme Court concluded that the possibility of equitable tolling for relatively small number of petitions would not appreciably add to the uncertainty already present in the process.
The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has issued a report on IRS’ performance during the 2021 tax filing season. The report assessed IRS’ performance during the 2021 filing season on: (1) processing individual and business income tax returns; and (2) providing customer service to taxpayers. GAO analyzed IRS documents and data on filing season performance, refund interest payments, hiring and employee overtime. GAO also interviewed cognizant officials.
GAO found that the IRS faced multiple challenges and struggled to respond to an unprecedented workload that included delivering COVID-19 relief. The IRS began the 2021 filing season with a backlog of 8 million individual and business returns from the prior year. The IRS reduced the backlog of prior year returns, but in December 2021, had about 10.5 million returns to process from 2021. The IRS suspended and reviewed 35 million returns with errors primarily due to new or modified tax credits. GAO found that some categories of errors occur each year, however, the IRS does not assess the underlying causes of taxpayer errors on returns. Additionally, the IRS paid nearly $14 billion in refund interest in the last 7 fiscal years, with $3.3 billion paid in fiscal year 2021. However, the IRS does not identify, monitor, and mitigate issues contributing to refund interest payments.Recommendations
GAO made six recommendations, including that the IRS should assess reasons for tax return errors and refund interest payments and take action to reduce them; modernize its “Where's My Refund” application; address its backlog of correspondence; and assess its in-person service model. The IRS agreed with four recommendations and disagreed with two. The IRS said its process for analyzing errors is robust and that the amount of interest paid is not a meaningful business measure.
In an ever-changing tax and financial environment, it is imperative to engage seasoned professionals for insight and expertise. We deliver results through diligent and detail-oriented work, regular communication with our clients, and fostering personal relationships. We also transmit periodic newsletters and e-alerts to provide the latest financial news and reminders. To learn more about whether we could fit your tax or accounting needs or merely join our mailing list to receive financial updates, news, and resources, click the link below.Contact Us