The IRS is Auditing Fewer Returns than Ever

Table #3 from the GAO Report

While the IRS continues to audit higher earning taxpayers more often overall, during the 10-year period audit rates consistently declined for all levels of taxpayers, except those with the highest incomes. The audit rate for taxpayers with income between $200k and $500k experienced the largest drop, with the audit rate declining from 2.3 percent down to 0.2 percent; a 92 percent reduction in audits. Taxpayers with the highest incomes, defined as $10 million or more, saw a resurgence in audit rates from 2017-2018; however, even they experienced an overall decline, dropping from 21.2 percent in 2019 to only 3.9 percent in 2019 – equating to an 81 percent decline.

Impact on the Treasury

There is the theory that the prospect of a tax audit leads to greater voluntary compliance. In other words, if people think they won’t get audited, then they are more likely to cheat on their taxes.

Non-compliance with tax laws and regulations have a material impact on the Treasury. According to the IRS, it is estimated that on average, individual taxpayers under-reported nearly $250 billion a year for the period 2011-2013. This obviously leads to the non-collection of taxes that are otherwise owed the government and raises issues of fairness for taxpayers who are playing by the rules.

Why the Decline in Audit Rates?

One of the main drivers is a lack of resources at the IRS, a combination of both reduced funding and less auditors on staff. The number of agents working for the IRS has declined across the board since 2011. Tax examiners, the type who handle basic audits by mail, have dropped by 18 percent. Meanwhile, revenue agents, who handle the more complex cases in the field, declined by more than 40 percent over the same period.

Demographics point to an increase in these trends as there are a wave of coming retirements in the IRS. Over the next three years, nearly 14 percent of current tax examiners and 16 percent of revenue agents are expected to retire. Stack on top of this the fact that the inexperience of newer agents and the time to complete audits is also taking longer.

Conclusion

The IRS claims it is missing out on millions in legally due tax revenues due to the inability to maintain enforcement. They say they need more funding to hire more agents to perform more audits, which not only find fraud in the audits themselves but also increase overall compliance due to the pressure this creates.

Currently, there is no political focus on bringing major new resources to the IRS, so it’s not likely to see an uptick in individual tax audit rates anytime soon. The trend of focusing on the highest earners, however, will likely continue as this is where the IRS can find the most bang for its buck.

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How Will the Federal Reserve’s Quantitative Tightening Impact Markets?

During 2017 and 2018, the FOMC increased the federal funds rate by 175 basis points, bringing it to approximately 2.25 percent. St. Louis Fed President Jim Bullard argued that once the federal funds rate is north of zero, be it QE or QT, how the balance sheet grows or shrinks has little say on how the Fed will steer its monetary policy.

While the economy is in uncharted territory due to its emergence from the COVID-19 pandemic and evolving monetary policy, only time will tell how much of an effect QT will have on the U.S. and global markets.

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few more. Another smart way to save is to get an app like GasBuddy that shows you the cheapest gas near you.

No one knows when gas prices will go down. In the meantime, the only thing you can do is try to work around the situation as best you can. The good news is that nothing lasts forever.

Sources

https://www.nrcan.gc.ca/energy-efficiency/transportation-alternative-fuels/personal-vehicles/fuel-efficient-driving-techniques/21038

https://money.com/people-combatting-high-gas-prices/

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