If the statistics coming out of Illinois hold true for the nation, it would appear that the IRS is backing off on collection attempts. According to research performed by the Chicago Sun-Times newspaper, the following changes have occurred with regard to tax collection in Illinois:
1997: 437 homes, boats, or autos seized by the IRS
1999: 2 buildings seized
1998: 11,680 liens filed against property
1999: 5,434 liens filed against property
1997: 15,375 levies against wages
1999: 3,340 levies against wages
Nationwide, the IRS performed 10,090 property seizures in 1997 versus 161 in 1999.
The IRS has been forced to cut back on personnel in recent years, and new rules at the Service have resulted in attempts to work with taxpayers to help them pay their taxes instead of grabbing first and asking questions later.
Although most examinations still being performed seem to focus on more wealthy taxpayers, there is also a trend toward examining lower income taxpayers who claim the Earned Income Tax Credit. Whether it is an issue of widespread abuse with regard to this tax credit or ignorance of the extremely confusing laws that accompany the credit, the result is a change in focus among tax examiners who are now concentrating efforts on these taxpayers.