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Tuesday May 3, 2016

Washington News

Washington Hotline

No Significant Change In Tax Gap

The IRS reports that there is “no significant change” in the tax gap. The tax gap is the shortfall in tax collections. It is measured each year to determine the level of taxpayer compliance.

For years 2008, 2009 and 2010, the tax gap averaged $458 billion per year. With an estimated $52 billion per year still to be collected through tax audits, the net tax gap for these years is projected to be $406 billion.

The IRS reports that taxpayer compliance level is 83.7%. This compliance level for people who pay timely the correct amount of tax has been generally in the low eighties range for several years.

IRS Commissioner John Koskinen observed that the tax gap reflects a generally honest population of taxpayers. He noted, “The IRS continues to look for other ways to keep the voluntary compliance rate high. These include such things as our educational efforts aimed at preparers and taxpayers; ongoing efforts to improve compliance in the international area; and working with businesses on employment tax issues. The IRS also continues to work with Congress on providing new tools to help address compliance issues, such as the legislation enacted last year to provide W-2s to us earlier in the filing season.”

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) is the ranking minority member on the Senate Finance Committee. Wyden observed, “It is absolutely unacceptable that the country has lost more than $400 billion . . . over the past ten years from corporations dodging their tax payments. This is money that could be put to good use shoring up critical programs such as Medicare. It is time the IRS put an effective tracking and auditing system in place to locate this lost money.”

There are four major components to the tax gap. The shortfall in individual tax payments is $319 billion. Employment taxes are short by $91 billion. Corporations failed to pay $44 billion in tax and the loss in excise and estate taxes is an estimated $4 billion.

Editor’s Note: Each year the Senate Finance Committee and the House Ways and Means Committee hold hearings to track IRS efforts to reduce the tax gap. The IRS claims that it would have a higher compliance level if it had more funding for auditors. Congress recognizes that the United States generally has one of the higher tax compliance rates in the industrial world. Most Americans are indeed making payments of the appropriate amounts of tax. Some taxpayers might think that use of the word “voluntary” by IRS Commissioner Koskinen is a modest stretch.

Published April 29, 2016

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