2018 Is Benchmark Year For Upcoming IRS Audit Rates

The Internal Revenue Service will use 2018 as the benchmark year for determining audit rates as it plans to increase enforcement for those individuals and businesses making more than $400,000 per year.

The agency is "going to be focused completely on … closing the gap," IRS Commissioner Daniel said April 27, 2023, during a hearing of the House Ways and Means Committee. "What that means is the audit rate, the most recent audit rate, we have that’s complete and final is 2018. That is the rate that I want to share with the American people. The audit rate will not go above that rate for years to come because for the next several years, at least, we’re going to be focused on work that we’re doing with the highest income filers."

Werfel added that even if the IRS were to expand its audit footprint a few years from now, "you’re still not going to get anywhere near that historical average for quite some time. So, I think there can be assurances to the American people that if you earn under $400,000, there’s no new wave of audits coming. The probability of you being audited before the Inflation Reduction Act and after the Inflation Reduction Act are not changed at all."

He also noted that many of the new hires that will be brought in to handle enforcement will focus on the wealthiest individuals and businesses. Werfel said that there currently are only 2,600 employees that cover filings of the wealthiest 390,000 filers and that is where many of the enforcement hires will be used.

"We have to up our game if we’re going to effectively assess whether these organizations are paying what they owe," he testified. "So, it’s about hiring. It’s about training. And it’s not just hiring auditors, it’s about hiring economists, scientists, engineers. And when I [say] scientists, I mean data scientists to truly help us strategically figure out where the gaps are so we can close those gaps."

Werfel did sidestep a question about the potential need for actually increasing the number of audits for those making under $400,000. When asked about a Joint Committee on Taxation report that found that more than 90 percent of unreported income actually came from taxpayers earning less than $400,000, he responded that "there is a lot of mounting evidence that there is significant underreporting or tax gap in the highest income filers. For example, there’s a study that was done by the U.S. Treasury Department that looked at the top one percent of Americans and found that as much as $163 billion of tax dodging, roughly."

And while answering the questions on the need for more personnel to handle the audits of the wealthy, he did acknowledge that "a big driver" of needing such a large workforce to handle the filings of wealthy taxpayers is due to the complexity of the tax code, in addition to a growing population, a growing economy, and an increasing number of wealthy taxpayers.

As we continue to see an uptick in audits for high income earners, having well-qualified tax professionals as representatives becomes even more essential.  Wilson Tax Law Group, APLC (www.wilsontaxlaw.com) is a boutique Orange County tax controversy law firm that specializes in representation of individuals and businesses before federal and state tax authorities with audits, appeals, FBAR, offshore compliance, litigation and criminal defense.  Firm founder, Joseph P. Wilson, is a former Federal tax prosecutor and trial attorney for the IRS and California Franchise Tax Board.  Wilson Tax Law Group is exclusively comprised of former IRS litigators and Assistant US Attorneys from the US Attorney’s Office, Central District of California, Tax Division and Criminal Division.

For further information, or to arrange a consultation please contact: Wilson Tax Law Group, APLC

Newport Beach and Yorba Linda, California

Tel: (949) 397-2292 (Newport Beach Office)

Tel: (714) 463-4430 (Yorba Linda Office)

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