By Stacey Gorowitz, CPA, MBA
It’s tax time again, so why not get to know the IRS on a personal basis? Well…maybe that’s too big a step, but we might as well learn a little more about this fixture in our lives, because it’s not going away. On March 25, the IRS announced the release of its 2012 Internal Revenue Service Data Book which includes information about returns filed, taxes collected, enforcement actions, taxpayer assistance and more, from October 1, 2011 to September 30, 2012. Highlights of this treasure trove of data include:
- Out of the 146 million individual income tax returns filed, almost 81 percent were e-filed. E-filing is so popular because not only does it remove the need to deal with stamps and minimize the risk of your return being lost, it gets your refund into your bank account within just a few days.
- More than 120 million individual income tax return filers received a tax refund, which totaled almost $322.7 billion. Of course, this is money that already belongs to taxpayers, but it’s still nice to get a chunk of money in time to plan a summer vacation.
- The IRS examined 0.9 percent of all returns: 1 percent of all individual income tax returns filed, and 1.6 percent of corporation income tax returns. Those odds aren’t too bad, but even so, make sure what you file is 100% defensible so that should you be among those selected, you’ll have nothing to worry about.
- Of the 1.5 million individual tax returns examined, nearly 54,000 resulted in additional refunds. Nice, huh? Try to focus on that if you get a letter notifying you that your return will be audited. Often, this process ends well for the taxpayer!
To counterbalance these IRS facts, here are a few less cheerful tidbits describing the current tax situation, as published in Forbes magazine.
- If you need help, good luck reaching a human being by calling the IRS. It took an average of 17 minutes on hold to reach a person, and that’s for the lucky 68% who got one at all.
- Finding a qualified preparer is still tricky . The court system has imposed a permanent injunction barring the IRS from regulating providers and imposing standards for minimum competency and continuing education. To be sure your preparer is actually prepared for the job, ask plenty of questions and check their references. This job is too important to trust to someone without the proper qualifications.
- IRS correspondence is more backed up than ever. As of September 30, 2012, there were over a million unanswered letters and emails from taxpayers waiting for a response.
- Identity fraud is a growing problem for taxpayers who have their social security numbers stolen. This often results in fraudulent tax returns that cost the victims big money, lots of time and immeasurable stress to get it all straightened out.
You may never want to be best friends with the IRS, but now you’ve got a clearer picture of it as it stands today, warts and all. With these facts to bolster your understanding, if you’re ever at a cocktail party with the agency you’ll be able to make conversation. And of course if you ever have questions or need assistance with your individual or business taxes, feel free to give us a call.