Posts Tagged ‘Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration’

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Another One Bites the Dust:

In Accounting & Finances,Business,Taxes on December 3, 2013 by Sufen Wang Tagged: , , , , , ,

taxesNo More Walk-In Free Tax Prep at IRS Field Offices

Help is no longer around the corner. The IRS is shutting the door on walk-in tax preparation assistance at its field offices in 2014. With only 60,000 returns prepared last year, and the budget not lookin’ too good, the IRS decided the free help would have to go.

MH900056119Unfortunately that means the elderly, disabled, and low-income taxpayers who the assistance was available to now also have to go spend money on tax preparation. IRS National Taxpayer Advocate Nina Olson called out the IRS on this change. “I seem to think that preparing taxes for our citizens is a core tax administration duty, and I don’t know of any [developed] country that is not doing it except the Internal Revenue Service of the United States.”


irs-tax-preparersThat’s a good point. But on the other hand, the U.S. has a voluntary compliance system, whereas in some countries, the government prepares the return and it’s nearly impossible to contest. And those affected by the service shut-down do still have a resource for free tax preparation: their local Volunteer Income Tax Assistance programs run by the IRS. While TIGTA reports that VITA-prepared tax returns are often chock-full of errors, at least this option is available if needed.

TaxBlocksCalculator_43_0Of course the best solution is to have a paid tax preparer complete the return. That’s their job, after all, and they’ll make sure things go off without a hitch. Tax preparation is going to be a little rougher this time around for elderly, disabled, and low-income taxpayers, but it won’t be impossible. If you know somebody in need who also needs help filing their taxes, take a few minutes to give them the rundown on the cut walk-in service and their current tax preparation options.

Sufen Wang, M.S.Accountancy
Wang Solutions, Long Beach, CA (562) 856-0793
Editor: Hannah Huff, M.F.A. Creative Writing: Poetry, (626) 806-5805

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$1.6 Billion Down, Only $3.6 Billion to Go:

In Accounting & Finances,Business,Taxes on November 25, 2013 by Sufen Wang Tagged: , , , , ,

taxfraudTIGTA Reports on Fraudulent Tax Refunds
The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) recently released some great news: the IRS issued $3.6 billion in fraudulent tax returns in 2011.

Um. I know, that’s a whopping amount of money that should not have been handed out. But it is a pleasant change of pace from the $5.2 billion reported for tax year 2010 to a $3.6 billion in 2011.

handmoneyDespite the “improvement,” the IRS needs to step up its game and fix lingering problems identified by TIGTA. For example, a handful of tax refunds depositing to the same bank account should be a bright red flag. Apparently the IRS is color blind. But $3.6 billion is a little bit harder to ignore.

identity_theftAnd the agency does seem to lose track of time when it comes to identify theft cases. TIGTA reported that it took the IRS about 312 days to resolve tax-related identity theft cases. That’s like an anniversary… So the million dollar – well, actually billion dollar – question is what will the IRS do about these numbers?

Sufen Wang, M.S.Accountancy
Wang Solutions, Long Beach, CA (562) 856-0793
Editor: Hannah Huff, M.F.A. Creative Writing: Poetry, (562) 806-5805

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Representative Please!

In Accounting & Finances,Business,Education,Taxes on October 7, 2013 by Sufen Wang Tagged: , , , , , , ,

MH900056119TIGTA Audit Ensures Taxpayers’ Rights are Front and Center

Did you know IRS personnel are required to stop an interview if the taxpayer wants to consult with a representative and they also can’t bypass a representative without supervisory approval?

MH900251655If you didn’t know, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) has your back. Each year TIGTA hones in on an IRS office that regularly interacts with taxpayers and their representatives. This time around they scrutinized the folks who work in the Office of Appeals to make sure they’re contacting taxpayer representatives during key actions. The results of that audit, the Fiscal Year 2013 Statutory Review of Restrictions on Directly Contacting Taxpayers, are in and…

 MH900442430..the Office of Appeals did so-so. In 11 of 96 sampled cases (out of 72,239 total cases closed by Appeals), Appeals personnel skipped major steps. They either tried to call the taxpayer directly or didn’t send copies of very important papers to the authorized representative. It’s possible that those who broke the rules just made honest mistakes – maybe they were in a hurry to get home for dinner – but the policies are in place for the taxpayer’s protection.

And, what’s more, the bigwigs in the Appeals office didn’t do their part to ensure that the workers were following procedure. Accordingly, TIGTA offered some stern advice: the Chief of Appeals should “provide additional guidance to first-line managers and Appeals personnel that will reinforce the importance of ensuring that taxpayer representatives are involved in all case activities.” In other words, put in work at the top of the line so all the proper paperwork gets done down the line.

MH900289960Of course the IRS agreed with TIGTA’s recommendation. The agency’s first move will be to update the Internal Revenue Manual and front-line managers will have homework to do to brush up on their responsibilities. If you want more reading material yourself, check out the full Statutory Review here: http://www.treasury.gov/tigta/auditreports/2013reports/201330080fr.html

Sufen Wang, M.S. Accountancy

Wang Solutions, Long Beach, CA (562) 856-0793

Editor: Hannah Huff, M.F.A. Creative Writing: Poetry, (626) 806-5805

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IRS Hasn’t Been Pennywise:

In Accounting & Finances,Business,Culture,Entertainment,Taxes on June 11, 2013 by Sufen Wang Tagged: , ,

MH900185740Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) Audit Identifies Excessive Spending at IRS Conference

The IRS might need to brush up on its coupon clipping skills after TIGTA’s recent audit of the agency’s spending at conferences from 2010 to 2012. Let’s just say that although every penny counts, the Internal Revenue Service hasn’t been counting every penny when it comes to planning out-of-office events.

TIGTA’s audit focused on a certain very expensive Small Business/Self-Employed (SB/SE) Division’s All Managers Conference in Anaheim, California in August 2010. Held at the Marriott, Hilton, and Sheraton hotels, this event was attended by 2,609 SB/SE Division executives and managers and reportedly cost $4.1 million – yikes! Because IRS management didn’t have to track and report actual conference costs at the time, there’s no way to double-check that number. It doesn’t matter though – TIGTA found plenty of splurging anyways.

MH900310838First of all, the IRS didn’t use available internal personnel to find the best deal in town. Instead, SB/SE management hired two non‑governmental event planners to choose a location for the conference. This non-IRS pair obviously wasn’t looking out for the IRS’ (and the taxpayer’s) pocket book, they were looking to get paid. And – what do you know – the event planners received an estimated $133,000 commission from the three hotels based on the cost of rooms paid for by the IRS.

MH900023026It’s safe to assume those planners didn’t do much hotel room bargain hunting online. Still, some bargaining did occur. They made sure to negotiate a bunch of concessions for the managers and executives at the conference. Attendees got daily continental breakfast. And a welcome reception with two drink coupons. And there were lots and lots of suite upgrades.

And that’s not all folks – TIGTA also found other very fishy expenses like“planning trips” held before the conference, the production of a Star Trek parody and “SB/SE Shuffle” video, a keynote speaker who painted portraits of Michael Jordan and Abraham Lincoln, an information corridor that raffled off baseball tickets, and various promotional gifts given to IRS employees.

Sure, brief bags and hard-covered spiral journals replete with imprinted logos are nice souvenirs to bring home, but they’re definitely not necessary costs. The IRS could have got a much lower lodging rate for the conference by using governmental event planners and eliminating those extra hotel amenities.

MH900363294Accordingly, TIGTA had more than a few budgeting tips for the IRS, which the IRS agreed to follow: verify that conference-costs and attendance are being tracked, use IRS personnel to plan future conferences, evaluate whether there should be hotel upgrades, ensure that taxable travel is identified and that Forms W-2 are issued to applicable employees, etc. Excessive Federal spending is a hot topic right now, so the IRS is going to have to start saving money if it wants to save face.

Sufen Wang, M.S. Accountancy

Wang Solutions, Long Beach, CA (562) 856-0793

Editor: Hannah Huff, M.F.A. Creative Writing: Poetry, (626) 806-5805

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Looking for Tax Penalty Relief?:

In Accounting & Finances,Business,Taxes on November 19, 2012 by Sufen Wang Tagged: , , , , , ,

The IRS Made it Hard to Find…

Failed…

That’s the only word to describe the IRS’ actions concerning penalty forgiveness. How else could you explain forgetting to inform 1.45 million taxpayers that they qualified for and had a right to ask for relief from tax penalties totaling $181 million? If you’re like most people and have never heard of this tax penalty relief, here’s the reason why:

The IRS fines taxpayers when they don’t file a tax return or pay the full tax shown on any tax return. However, any taxpayers who have demonstrated full compliance over the previous three years can have these fines waved in something known as “first-time abate” (FTA). The only catch is that you need to first request the penalty waiver – and that’s hard to do if you don’t even know the waiver exists.

And the IRS has certainly kept its lips zipped and its fine print invisible. The potential penalty relief is not mentioned anywhere on Form 1040, nor is it on the IRS website’s page about penalties, or on any balance due notices – not even within the text on those documents mentioning penalties for failure to file or pay. Even worse, over 90% of the people who actually did qualify for the penalty relief were not granted it.

Of course, the IRS’ failure does not mean that all taxpayers are perfect angels. The TIGTA found that a number of taxpayers who received the FTA waivers failed to fully pay off their taxes six months after the postponement. Accordingly, the TIGTA suggested that the IRS also use the FTA waiver as a compliance tool: make taxpayers aware of their potential to receive an FTA waiver based on their past compliance history and make receipt of the waiver dependent on taxpayers paying their current liability. That way, it’s a win-win situation for everyone involved.

If you to read all of the juicy legal tidbits regarding the TIGTA’s findings, you can check out the full report here.

On the Money,  Sufen Wang,  Wang Solutions