Most of the time the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) is described as a government watchdog; an entity charged with keeping tabs on the Internal Revenue Service. The Honorable J. Russell George, the guy in charge at TIGTA, describes TIGTA’s role as follows:
[W]e provide the American taxpayer with assurance that the approximately 95,000 IRS employees who collected over $2.9 trillion in tax revenue, processed over 241 million tax returns, and issued $364 billion in tax refunds during FY 2013, do so in an effective and efficient manner while minimizing the risks of waste, fraud, or abuse.
~ J. Russell George’s testimony before the Senate Appropriations Committee on April 30, 2014
Besides providing a neat little collection of IRS statistics, this description very succinctly describes TIGTA’s role in U.S. tax administration. But the organizational structure of this “watchdog” is more complex than would appear in this description. There are three offices within TIGTA, each with different, but overlapping, responsibilities.
TIGTA Office of Audit (OA)
OA recommends improvements to IRS systems and operations, with an emphasis on detection and prevention of waste, abuse, and fraud. OA is also charged with ensuring that the IRS strikes a balance between aggressive tax collection on the one hand, and the fair & equitable treatment of taxpayers on the other.
TIGTA Office of Investigations (OI)
OI has two primary responsibilities. One is to investigate allegations of IRS employee misconduct (including extortion, theft, taxpayer abuses, false statements, financial fraud, and identity theft), which poses a significant threat to the idea of voluntary compliance and trust in the US government. The other is to investigate and (in cooperation with the Department of Justice) put a stop to harassment and threats levied against IRS personnel by disgruntled taxpayers and tax protestors.
TIGTA Office of Inspections and Evaluations (I&E)
There is definitely some overlap in the functions of I&E compared to the functions of the two primary offices (Audits & Investigations) described above. However, I&E can be seen as a “lower-level” investigative arm of TIGTA that provides in-depth reviews and assessments so both TIGTA and the IRS have a better idea of how specific programs and functions are progressing.
You may not think TIGTA has much to do with you as an individual taxpayer, but I’m not sure how much the IRS would care about customer service and average hold times if TIGTA wasn’t monitoring and auditing that and a thousand other daily functions.