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How Would Enlarging the IRS Effect Taxpayers and Audits?

The Inflation Reduction Act is very comprehensive in its coverage. The proposal that is endorsed by Democrats includes provisions that will cut the costs of prescription drugs for consumers, encourage more energy efficiency, levy a minimum tax on some firms, and several other changes.

The Internal Revenue Service will also receive an additional $79.6 billion in funding over several years.

This is primarily to assist the agency in its efforts to crack down on individuals who evade paying taxes. Furthermore, this may reawaken people’s awareness of the tax gap as well as the discourse surrounding it.

What exactly does “tax gap” mean?

The gap refers to the total amount of taxes that are legally owed by individuals and businesses but are not collected from them. The primary cause of this problem is tax evasion.

This deficiency contributes to the enormous fiscal deficits that the nation currently faces. The revenue can be increased without the tax rates having to be raised if the gap is closed.

Because the Internal Revenue Service has not produced an estimate in almost ten years, it is difficult to determine the size of the shortfall.

According to the most recent analysis conducted by the IRS, which covered the tax years 2011 through 2013, the average gap was estimated to be $441 billion each year.

After accounting for additional tax income that was collected as a result of late payments and enforcement actions taken by the IRS, such as audits, this figure decreased to $381 billion.

To put it another way, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) collects around 84 cents for every dollar of tax that is owed, or 86 cents when late payments and enforcement actions are included.

As a result of inflation, a booming economy, the advent of difficult-to-trace cryptocurrencies, and various other variables, the present disparity in dollar terms is probably considerably larger now than it was a few years ago. Some estimates put the annual amount closer to one trillion dollars.

The disparity in wealth: These characteristics are typical of wealthy people in the United States. How do you compare?

How significant is the importance of compliance?

Since the Internal Revenue Service only audits a small percentage of taxpayers in the United States each year—less than one per cent—it is imperative that the general public pay all or the majority of what they owe voluntarily to effectively support the government.

In a posting on its website, the agency stated that “Small losses in compliance cost the nation billions of dollars in missed revenue and shift the tax burden away from those who don’t pay their taxes onto those who pay their fair share on time, every year.”

On the other hand, this particular IRS post doesn’t seem to think that this is a particularly major issue.

According to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), “generally speaking, the tax-gap estimates extending back decades consistently suggest that the United States has a relatively high and stable voluntary tax compliance rate.”

It’s important to keep in mind that it’s more possible that some people underpay their taxes simply because they don’t fully comprehend all of the complicated regulations than because they intentionally try to trick the system.

According to research that was published in 2021 by the Tax Foundation, an analyst there named Alex Muresianu stated that “noncompliance due to inadvertent errors on the part of taxpayers is included in the tax gap but is not deemed tax evasion.”

According to one study that Muresianu cited, which monitored the tax gap as a percentage of Gross Domestic Product, the United States does not appear to be a tax scofflaw haven like Italy.

Instead, it ranks closer to highly compliant nations such as Canada, Switzerland, Luxembourg, and New Zealand. This is according to the findings of the study.

How might the Internal Revenue Service put this money to use?

Audits and other forms of enforcement would receive the lion’s share of new funds from the law, receiving $45.6 billion of the additional $79.6 billion through 2031; however, other areas would also see improvements as a result of the legislation.

A total of approximately $25.3 billion would be allocated to operational support, which includes things like information technology, security, rent, and other expenses, while another $4.8 billion would be used to modernise IRS business systems, which are responsible for overseeing the administration of taxpayer services, operations, cybersecurity, and other areas.


In addition, there is a meagre $3.2 billion allocated to improve the dreadful taxpayer services provided by the IRS.

According to the Congressional Research Service, IRS representatives answered 59% of the phone calls they received in 2019, but that number decreased to 18% this year. Unprocessed tax returns constitute another source of concern.

To put it another way, money would increase by 69% for enforcement, 53% for operational support, and 153% for the modernisation of business services; yet, it would only increase by 9% for customer service.

Muresianu suggested that the increase might not be sufficient to assist the IRS in interacting much better with the general public, particularly if the number of audits increases. During an interview, he made the statement that “taxpayer services should go hand in hand with enforcement.”

Even tax professionals, such as Tom Wheelwright, a certified public accountant and financial author in Chandler, often have to wait hours to speak with an IRS representative by phone.

This is a significant increase from the few minutes that were required in previous years. He believes that the IRS should devote more resources to improving customer service and modernising its ageing information technology infrastructure rather than spending as much money on law enforcement.

He posed the question, “Why don’t they fix the problem with the customer service before they go for new customers?”

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Ought you should be more concerned about audits?

When it comes to the subject of whether or not this will result in additional audits for regular taxpayers, the responses tend to fall along party lines. Some Republicans believe that the increased money will cause the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to become more aggressive and conduct more audits.

The extra money is seen by Democrats as an opportunity to provide the Internal Revenue Service with the resources to enforce the tax rules, while also enhancing customer service and bringing the agency’s computer systems into the 21st century at the same time.

The rich taxpayers are most likely to be the focus of enforcement activity.

According to Lisa Featherngill, national director of wealth planning at Comerica Bank, “They really would be looking at major organisations and individuals making $400,000 or more annually” as their target audience.

“They would also be looking for unreported revenue,” such as earnings made from trading cryptocurrencies, the phrase “they would also be looking for”

Wheelwright advises proprietors of small businesses to exercise caution. Already, he has referred to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) as a “bully” in certain circumstances because it will occasionally refuse to acknowledge valid business deductions, thereby compelling taxpayers who object to taking their complaints to court.

The agency might become more aggressive if additional auditors were hired. He recommends that proprietors of commercial enterprises hold on to all receipts, maintain accurate records, and, in general, “cross all your t’s and dot all your i’s.”

However, according to Wheelwright, employees who earn wages that are subject to tax withholding and third-party reporting do not need to be concerned about an increase in audits if they earn less than $400,000 per year. This is because the threshold at which audits begin to become more common is lower.

Do taxpayers have to pay for anything else?

Nevertheless, a simple public perception of a more watchful IRS could be enough to have a deterrent effect on tax evaders. Muresianu had a prediction that more individuals would behave themselves if the rules were followed.

According to Featherngill, taxpayers would wish to give it some serious consideration before making aggressive use of deductions or other chances to reduce their tax liability.

She stated, “Over the past several years, the public has been aware that the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is low on resources, particularly for audits.”

Wheelwright expresses his thoughts more directly when he says, “Because people haven’t been audited, some have gotten lazy.”

Even if the vast majority of Americans do not face a noticeably increased danger of audit, they nevertheless run the chance of having their bills go up.

According to Muresianu, taxpayers might choose to pay expert tax return preparers more money to avoid making mistakes, or they might forego real benefits because they are afraid of making a mistake. Some people may feel driven to put in more time and effort to compile their own tax returns.

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According to Wheelwright, owners of small businesses, in particular, should make sure they have access to reliable tax preparation assistance. In addition, they should probably prepare themselves to pay a higher price for it, given that many older CPAs and other financial experts are retiring at this time anyway.

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