IRS has identified 125,000 persons who failed to file tax returns with financial activity topping $100 billion.

Under the Inflation Reduction Act the IRS is receiving $80 billion in new funding over nine years. The $80 billion price tag is more than six times the current annual IRS budget of $12.6 billion. The money will be distributed to IRS over nine years and comes with few strings attached.

IRS Claims Of Collection Enforcement And Examinations

On February 29, 2024 the IRS announced continued progress to expand enforcement efforts and increase scrutiny related to high-income individuals, large corporations, complex partnerships who do not pay overdue tax bills as a result of the additional funding it is receiving under the Inflation Reduction Act.

In its enforcement efforts and increasing scrutiny, the IRS is focusing on high-income taxpayers who have failed to file federal income tax returns in more than 125,000 instances since 2017.

The new initiative begins with IRS CP59 compliance letters going out in March 2024 on more than 125,000 cases where tax returns haven’t been filed since 2017. The mailings include more than 25,000 to those with more than $1 million in income, and over 100,000 to people with incomes between $400,000 and $1 million between tax years 2017 and 2021.  These are all cases where IRS has received third party information—such as through Forms W-2 and 1099s—indicating these people received income in these ranges but failed to file a tax return.

IRS Commissioner Danny Werfel noted Inflation Reduction Act resources allows the IRS “to increase scrutiny on high-income taxpayers as we work to reverse the historic low audit rates and limited focus that the wealthiest individuals and organizations faced in the years that predated the Inflation Reduction Act. At this time of year when millions of hard-working people are doing the right thing paying their taxes, we cannot tolerate those with higher incomes failing to do a basic civic duty of filing a tax return.”

IRS Actions Escalate If Tax Returns Are Not Filed

People who don’t respond to the non-filer letter will receive additional notices and other enforcement actions. Ultimately, this can lead to a variety of IRS compliance activity, including collection and audit action as well as potential criminal prosecution. As part of this, the IRS can also take steps to file what’s known as a Substitute for Return (SFR).

If a person repeatedly fails to respond and does not file, the IRS may create a substitute tax return for the taxpayer. The IRS calculates this substitute tax return based on wages and other income reported to the agency by employers, financial institutions and others. The return factors in the tax, penalty and interest owed by the taxpayer.

This tax return might not give the person credit for deductions and exemptions they may be entitled to receive because the IRS does not know each taxpayer’s situation. In this scenario, the IRS will send a notice of deficiency CP3219N (a 90-day letter) proposing a tax assessment. The taxpayer will have 90 days to file the past due tax return or file a petition in Tax Court. If the person does neither, the IRS will proceed with the proposed assessment.

If the IRS files a substitute return, it is still in the person’s best interest to file their own tax return to take advantage of any exemptions, credits and deductions they are entitled to receive. The IRS will generally adjust the account to reflect the correct figures.

The tax return the IRS prepares for these taxpayers will likely lead to a tax bill, which, if unpaid, will trigger the collection process. This can include such actions as a levy on wages or a bank account or the filing of a notice of federal tax lien. If a taxpayer repeatedly does not file, they could be subject to additional enforcement measures, such as additional penalties and/or criminal prosecution.

New examples of cases closed since the Inflation Reduction Act passed

  • In January 2024, two individuals were sentenced to 25 years and 23 years respectively in prison for conspiracy to commit wire fraud, aiding and assisting the filing of false tax returns and money laundering for their role in promoting a fraudulent tax shelter scheme involving syndicated conservation easements.
  • In December 2023, a Swiss Bank entered into a Deferred Prosecution Agreement (DPA) and agreed to pay approximately $122.9 million to the U.S. Treasury for their role in assisting U.S. taxpayer-clients with evading their U.S. taxes by opening and maintaining undeclared accounts. The bank also maintained accounts of certain U.S. taxpayer-clients in a manner that allowed them to further conceal their undeclared accounts from the IRS. In total, from 2008 through 2014, the bank held 1,637 U.S. Penalty Accounts, with aggregate maximum assets under management of approximately $5.6 billion in January 2008, on behalf of clients who collectively evaded approximately $50.6 million in U.S. taxes.
  • In December 2023, an individual was sentenced to 10 years and 10 months and ordered to pay more than $130,000 in restitution, another was sentenced to 102 months in prison and ordered to pay more than $2.5M in restitution and a third individual was sentenced to four years in prison and ordered to pay more than $2.5M in restitution for their involvement in a RICO Conspiracy for cyber intrusion and tax fraud. These individuals used the dark web to purchase server credentials for the computer servers of Certified Public Accounting and tax preparation firms across the country.
  • In December 2023, an individual was sentenced to 28 months in federal prison and ordered to pay over $470,000 in restitution to the IRS for filing a false tax return while working as a money mule for romance scams. The individual opened and maintained bank accounts to collect proceeds from the schemes and to send the money to himself and others overseas.
  • An individual was sentenced to 57 months in prison for their failure to pay more than $1.35 million of taxes arising from their operation of several restaurants in the Washington, D.C. area. The individual evaded taxes by concealing assets and obscuring the large sums of money they took from the businesses by purchasing property in the name of a nominee entity and causing false entries in the businesses’ books and records to hide personal purchases using business bank accounts.

Importance To Preserve Records

Keep in mind that the IRS has up to three years to select a tax return for audit. For California taxpayers, the Franchise Tax Board has up to four years to select a California State Income Tax Return for audit. In some cases these 3 and 4 year periods are extended to six years. When a taxpayer is selected for audit, the taxpayer has the burden of proof to show that expenses claimed are properly deductible. Having the evidence handy and organized makes meeting this burden of proof much easier.

Essential Records to Have for a Tax Audit

If you are getting ready for a tax audit, one of the most important things to do is gather and organize your tax records and receipts. There’s a good chance that you have a large amount of documents and receipts in your possession. No matter how organized you are, it can be a daunting task to collect the right pieces and make sure that you have them organized and handy for the audit conference.

We have seen many tax audits that hinge on whether or not the taxpayer can provide proper documentation for their previous tax filings. A tax lawyer in Orange County or elsewhere can make sure that the documentation is complete and proper.  By submitting this to your tax attorney in advance of the audit, your tax attorney can review your documentation and determine if there are any gaps that need to be addressed before starting the dialogue with the IRS agent.

So what are the most essential tax records to have ahead of your audit? Here are a few must-have items:

  • Any W-2 forms from the previous year. This can include documents from full-time and part-time work, large casino and lottery winnings and more.
  • Form 1098 records from your bank or lender on mortgage interest paid from the previous year.
  • Records of any miscellaneous money you earned and reported to the IRS including work done as an independent contractor or freelancer, interest from savings accounts and stock dividends.
  • Written letters from charities confirming your monetary donations from the previous year.
  • Receipts for business expenses you claimed.
  • Mileage Logs for business use of vehicle.
  • Entertainment and Travel Logs for business

Appealing Results Of An IRS Tax Audit

Now if your IRS tax audit is not resolved, the results may be challenged. After the Revenue Agent has concluded the tax examination, the agent will issue a copy of the examination report explaining the agent’s proposed changes along with notice of your appeals rights. Pay attention to the type of letter that is included as it will dictate the appeals process available to you.

The “30-day letter”

The “30-day letter” gives you the right to challenge the proposed adjustment in the IRS Office Of Appeals. To do this, you need to file a Tax Protest within 30 days of the date of the notice. The Appeals Office is the only level of appeal within the IRS and is separate from and independent of the IRS office taking the action you disagree with. Conferences with Appeals Office personnel are held in an informal manner by correspondence, by telephone, or at a personal conference.

The “Notice Of Deficiency”

If the IRS does not adopt your position, it will send a notice proposing a tax adjustment (known as a statutory notice of deficiency). The statutory notice of deficiency gives you the right to challenge the proposed adjustment in the United States Tax Court before paying it. To do this, you need to file a petition within 90 days of the date of the notice (150 days if the notice is addressed to you outside the United States). If you filed your petition on time, the court will eventually schedule your case for trial at the designation place of trial you set forth in your petition. Prior to trial you should have the opportunity to seek a settlement with IRS Area Counsel and in certain cases, such settlement negotiations could be delegated to the IRS Office Of Appeals. If there is still disagreement and the case does go to trial, you will have the opportunity to present your case before a Tax Court judge. The judge after hearing your case and reviewing the record and any post-trial briefs will render a decision in the form of an Opinion. It could take as much as two years after trial before an Opinion issued. If the Opinion is not appealed to a Circuit Court Of Appeals, then the proposed deficiency under the Opinion is final and your account will be sent to IRS Collections.

IRS Area Counsel are experienced trial attorneys working for the IRS whose job is to litigate cases in the U.S. Tax Court and look out for the best interests of the Federal government. So to level the playing field, it would be prudent for a taxpayer to hire qualified tax counsel as soon as possible to seek a mutually acceptable resolution without the need for trial, and if that does not happen, to already have the legal expertise in place to vigorously defend you at trial.

What Should You Do?

Protect yourself and contact a trusted tax professional to quickly prepare and file your late tax returns to prevent or mitigate adverse tax consequences that could involve imposition of penalties and even criminal prosecution.  You know that at the Law Offices Of Jeffrey B. Kahn, P.C. we are always thinking of ways that our clients can save on taxes. If you are selected for an audit, stand up to the IRS by getting representation. Tax problems are usually a serious matter and must be handled appropriately so it’s important to that you’ve hired the best lawyer for your particular situation. The tax attorneys at the Law Offices Of Jeffrey B. Kahn, P.C. located in Orange County (Irvine), the San Francisco Bay Area (including San Jose and Walnut Creek) and elsewhere in California are highly skilled in handling tax matters and can effectively represent at all levels with the IRS and State Tax Agencies including criminal tax investigations and attempted prosecutions, undisclosed foreign bank accounts and other foreign assets, and unreported foreign income. Also if you are involved in cannabis, check out what a cannabis tax attorney can do for you and if you are involved in crypto-currency, check out what a Bitcoin tax attorney can do for you.