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IRS targets more corporations, wealthy people

More corporations and wealthy taxpayers had their tax returns audited by Internal Revenue Service examiners this year, helping the agency haul in a record $47.3 billion in unpaid taxes.
/ Source: The Associated Press

More corporations and wealthy taxpayers had their tax returns audited by Internal Revenue Service examiners this year, helping the agency haul in a record $47.3 billion in unpaid taxes.

IRS Commissioner Mark Everson said the audit rate of high-income individuals and families, those who report earning $100,000 or more, is “still too low.”

“I haven’t set a specific target,” Everson said. “Our No. 1 area of emphasis has been to increase our work in high-income individuals and corporations. We do that because of the sense of fairness that resonates throughout the rest of the system.”

The IRS audited 1 in 63 wealthy individuals and families, a figure the agency said marked the highest rate in 10 years. By comparison, about 1 in 117 taxpayers who earned less than $100,000 were audited.

Overall, about 1 out of every 107 individuals faced an audit, more than last year when about 1 in 129 taxpayers had their tax returns examined.

The record amount collected this year includes nearly $4 billion garnered through a settlement with taxpayers who used a tax shelter designed to hide unusually large income gains.

The tax collectors audit taxpayers through face-to-face meetings and mailed correspondence. They also match documents provided by third parties against returns filed by taxpayers.

Audits of corporations and small businesses also climbed compared with last year.

An average of 20 percent of corporations were audited during the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30. The largest of those, with assets of $250 million or more, faced the highest audit rate, about 44 percent.

The number of small businesses that faced an audit also rose after a significant dip the year before. About 1 in 126 small businesses, those with assets less than $10 million, were audited this year.

The IRS released the statistics while emphasizing that the gains were not made at the expense of customer service. The IRS measurement of customer satisfaction, as measured by a private contractor, was 95 percent.

The number of taxpayers who got through to an IRS employee on a toll-free telephone line decreased to 83 percent, from 87 percent the year before. Everson said that was a deliberate reduction, which did not decrease customer satisfaction.