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IRS plans visits to high-income taxpayers who didn’t file returns

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Internal Revenue Service officials said Wednesday they will be visiting approximately 800 taxpayers who earn over $100,000 a year and haven’t filed one or more tax returns in prior years.

Thanks to recent budget increases, the IRS has been able to hire more revenue officers to handle tax enforcement, and the agency plans to increase its visits to high-income taxpayers amid criticism that it focuses too much on auditing low-income taxpayers who claim the Earned Income Tax Credit. The visits are mainly aimed at reminding non-filing taxpayers about their obligations to file and pay their taxes, and bringing them into compliance.

“Our priority is to step up our face-to-face compliance efforts with the high-income non-filing population," said Paul Mamo, director of collection operations at the IRS’s Small Business/Self Employed Division, during a conference call with reporters. “We have several thousand employees stationed across the country tasked with collecting delinquent taxes and securing tax returns, both business and individual tax returns, in a fair and equitable manner.”

He noted that the revenue officers will be visiting taxpayers who have already received correspondence from the IRS reminding them of their tax-filing delinquency. “All of them have been in contact with us through some sort of correspondence,” said Mamo. “There have been several contacts made with these taxpayers over the course of several months and in some cases several years.”

The IRS revenue officers will be carrying at least two forms of identification on their visits to reassure taxpayers they aren’t scammers.

“High-income and other taxpayers who don’t file their tax returns when they’re required to are engaged in noncompliance, and addressing that noncompliance is a priority for the IRS, as part of our overarching responsibility to ensure fairness and equitable treatment to all taxpayers, including those who do comply with the tax laws,” said Hank Kea, director of IRS field collection operations.

The visits will be starting this month. “These visits are going to be taking place across the country, with our initial visits occurring this month, during February and March, to some of the most egregious higher-income delinquent filers, and then there will be subsequent visits to other higher-income delinquent filers that will be taking place during the year,” said Kea. “When our revenue officers contact these taxpayers, they will explain to them their rights. They will educate them as to their tax filing and payment, and the revenue officer will work with the taxpayer to appropriately resolve their noncompliance, whether that's restricted to the unfiled return and, of course, any taxes that are owed as a result.”

He noted that the IRS can go beyond just visits all the way to criminal prosecution. “In those instances where the taxpayer refuses to file or pay their taxes, it’s important to remember that the IRS has a number of options, including civil enforcement actions, and even when appropriate considering pursuing criminal cases against those who refuse to comply with the law,” said Kea. “Taxpayers who don’t file and pay their taxes when they’re required to are engaging in noncompliance, and that's a huge priority for IRS enforcement.”

Accounting Today asked about whether the effort was meant to counter recent articles about how the IRS is more likely to audit low-income taxpayers than high-income taxpayers.

“We look at a fair and balanced approach,” Mamo responded. “As far as collection efforts, we have folks across income levels, both low and high, which we are talking about today. Our collection efforts are focused on all stratospheres of income.”

“From the standpoint of field collection, and our field revenue officers who will be going out on these higher-income non-filer cases, it stands to reason we would be sending revenue officers out because oftentimes when you have a higher-income, non-filer type of case, the financial situation and the filing scenario may be a bit more complex,” said Kea. “We have a variety of ways that we address noncompliance. In this case we’re focusing our field-facing revenue officers toward some of these higher-income non-filer cases, but there are other ways the IRS addresses noncompliance, whether you’re talking about other types of issues, other income levels, etc.”

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