IRS Collecting Less Revenue "By Force" . . . For Now

According to the latest TIGTA report, enforcement revenue is down at the IRS.  Enforcement revenue is the money collected through enforced collection activities rather than through voluntary compliance.  Enforcement revenue is down because the IRS has decreased the overall number of enforced collection actions (i.e., lien, wage garnishment, bank levy, property seizure).  The number of enforced collection actions is down because the number of IRS enforcement personnel is down.  And the number of enforcement personnel is down because the funding that the IRS used to receive for these positions is down as well.  According to TIGTA:

The 13 percent reduction in enforcement revenue correlates to the 14 percent reduction in the number of enforcement personnel … since Fiscal Year 2010, approximately 8,000 full-time IRS positions have been lost—about 5,000 from front-line enforcement personnel.

But who are considered enforcement personnel?  Auditors?  Revenue Officers?  Call center personnel?  All of the above?  One news source suggests that these 5,000 lost “enforcement” positions are auditor positions, but I would take it to mean something broader than that.  The TIGTA report does not specify.  I think it matters, because 5,000 lost auditor or revenue officer positions is rather significant, and could realistically be responsible for the 13 percent drop in enforcement income.  However, 5,000 fewer Automated Collection Department phone operators would result in extended hold times, but probably not a drastic drop in enforcement revenue.

Maybe 13 percent is not enough to make an appreciable difference from the perspective of a tax practitioner.  The IRS is supposedly issuing fewer liens and levies, but I sure haven’t seen this to be the case.  And it is certainly not something we can count on continuing for too long.

Interesting IRS Stats

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Let’s look back on some of the statistics compiled by the IRS for Fiscal Year 2011 and try to determine what will be reported for FY 2012.  Will we see any new tax relief trends?  My source is the Statistics of Income tax stats found in the “IRS Data Book.”

  • Number of new deliquent tax accounts in FY 2011: 8,011,000 (17,000 more than 2010)
  • Number of untimely filed returns by end of FY 2011: 3,862,000 (162,000 more than 2010)
  • Number of Offers in Compromise filed: 59,000 (2,000 more than 2010)
  • Number of Offers in Compromise accepted: 20,000 (6,000 more than 2010)
  • Number of Federal Tax Liens filed: 1,042,230 (54,146 less than 2010)
  • Number of levy notices served on 3rd parties: 3,748,884 (142,066 more than 2010)
  • Number of seizures: 776 (171 more than 2010)

The only stat that appears to be on a downward trend is the filing of Federal Tax Liens.  This is good news for taxpayers.  For several years now advocacy groups have been questioning the efficacy of tax liens as a collections tool; maybe the IRS is finally listening.

More and more taxpayers continue to file and pay late, and incur tax debt.  And the IRS tries to keep pace by increasing active collection activities.

What about the Offer in Compromise acceptance rate?  You see a lot of percentages thrown around by tax attorneys and tax resolution firms.  But according to IRS’ figures, they accepted 25% in 2010 and 34% in 2011.  This is probably the most encouraging data of all. Let’s hope this trend continues and the IRS accepts event more offers in compromise when the statistics are available for FY 2012.

IRS Still Not Giving Proper Notice of Liens

Three years ago the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) recommended that the IRS change its practices regarding tax lien notices, and from the looks of this year’s lien notice audit, it does not appear that the IRS has any intentions of doing so.

Today TIGTA released its 2012 lien notice audit to the public and some of the same problems they identified in 2009 still linger. The issue that the IRS has swept under the rug and ignored for the past 3 years has to do with notifying taxpayers’ representatives of a lien filing.  Specifically, they’re not consistently doing it.  The IRS promptly notifies taxpayers by mail when it registers a lien against them, and it is supposed to send the same notice to their attorney, CPA, or other representative with a Form 2848 Power of Attorney on file.

 [A]s noted in previous audits, the IRS did not always follow its own internal guidelines for notifying taxpayer representatives of the filing of the NFTL.  Therefore, the rights of some taxpayers may have been violated when the IRS did not notify their representatives of lien filings.

~ J. Russell George, TIGTA

Furthermore, the IRS does not always send lien notices to the taxpayers’ last known address.  According to the report, there are instances in which returned lien notices with bad addresses could be resent to the correct addresses, but nothing is done about it.  Just another instance of TIGTA needing more teeth to actually enforce rather than recommend.

Football, Concussions, & Taxes

Maybe you have seen this popular statistic:

By the time they have been retired for two years, 78% of former NFL players have gone bankrupt or are under financial stress because of joblessness or divorce.

True or not, it is difficult to dispute the fact that many NFL players have a hard time after their football career is over.  One thing is certain — they are routinely getting into trouble with the IRS.  The most recent example is former Atlanta Falcon, Jamaal Anderson.  News sources say he has tax debt from 2007 and 2008 in the neighborhood of $1.1 million.  The IRS has filed a lien to protect the government’s interest in his property until he can pay back what he owes.

Football takes a huge toll on the body and these guys typically retire very young.  I don’t know if there are any formal studies on this type of thing, but I would guess many pro football players retire with tons of ambition, but insufficient business acumen and, who knows, maybe one too many concussions to be able to maintain the type of lifestyle they were used to while in their prime.

Any thoughts on this topic?

Notice of Federal Tax Lien

Most people who come see us for tax relief want to pay their taxes, but do not have the money. Some ask, “What happens if I don’t pay the IRS?”  One of the consequences of failing to pay your taxes is the filing of a Notice of Federal Tax Lien.  It is a relatively simple document showing the type of tax that is owed, tax form number, tax period, the unpaid balance(s), and the following rather blunt language:

“[W]e are giving a notice that taxes (including interest and penalties) have been assessed against the following-name taxpayer. We have made a demand for payment of this liability, but it remains unpaid. Therefore, there is a lien in favor of the United States on all property and rights to property belonging to this taxpayer for the amount of these taxes, and additional penalties, interest, and costs that may accrue.  [IRS Form 668(Y)(c)]

In case there is any question as to what “all property” means, the following explanation can be found on the reverse of the form:

“This Notice of Federal Tax Lien gives public notice that the government has a lien on all your property (such as your house or car), all your rights to property (such as money owed to you) and to property you acquire after this lien is filed.