Pace of Tax Return Filings Slower than Last Year
By Frank Byrt
- Taxpayer Assistance Centers: Due to reduced staffing, the IRS planned to assist only 6 million taxpayers at its walk-in offices in 2013, 11.8 percent fewer than in 2012.
- Toll-free telephone assistance: As of March 9, IRS assistors had answered 8.3 million calls and achieved a 67.8 percent level of service, compared to 66.8 percent in 2012.
- Internet self-help assistance: As of March 9, the IRS reported a 21.1 percent increase in the number of visits to IRS.gov website over the same period in 2012. It also reported a 41.7 percent increase in the number of taxpayers obtaining their refund information online via the "Where's My Refund " option found on IRS.gov.
- Social media usage: The IRS is offering more self-assistance options through various forms of social media, including its mobile application IRS2Go , YouTube, Twitter, Tumblr , and Facebook. As of March 21, the IRS had more than 1.9 million new downloads of its IRS2Go mobile application, more than 1.5 million new views of IRS YouTube videos, and a 31 percent increase in Twitter followers.
- Fraudulent refunds: The IRS is continuing to expand its efforts to detect tax refund fraud. As of March 9, the IRS reported that it identified 220,821 tax returns with $1.86 billion claimed in fraudulent refunds and prevented the issuance of $1.79 billion (96.2 percent) of the fraudulent refunds. This includes 85,385 fraudulent tax returns involving identity theft , and 87,817 potentially fraudulent tax returns filed by prisoners for screening.
- Earned Income Tax Credit: Many paid tax return preparers continue to be noncompliant with Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) due diligence requirements . As of March 7, TIGTA identified 80,585 paid tax return preparers filing 616,622 tax returns claiming nearly $1.9 billion in EITC without the required Form 8867 attached to the tax return. This equates to more than $306 million in penalties that can be assessed by the IRS.
- American Opportunity Tax Credit: The IRS is continuing to issue potentially erroneous education credits. As of March 7, TIGTA identified 18,061 taxpayers who filed tax returns claiming education credits totaling $30 million for students who were unlikely to be enrolled in a four-year college degree program. In addition, an error in tax preparation software packages caused further delays for individuals claiming the credit.
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