The Department of the Treasury estimates the annual federal “tax gap” (the difference between what taxpayers should have paid and what they actually paid on a timely basis) exceeds $450 billion. IR-2012-4 (January 6, 2012). This figure correlates with a voluntary tax compliance rate of just shy of 86 percent.
Studies conducted by the National Research Program (“NRP”) conclude that the $450 billion “tax gap” is comprised of three components, namely non-filing of tax returns ($28 billion), underreporting of income ($376 billion) and underpayment of taxes ($46 billion).
As reported in my January 21, 2014 blog post, federal budget cuts continue to hit the IRS hard. In the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2014, our lawmakers cut the Service’s budget by more than $500 million. The Continuing Appropriations Resolution, 2015, signed by President Obama on September 19, 2014, gave the Service about a $350 million budget setback.
While it is hard to debate the need for government budget cuts these days, deciding where to make the cuts is surely a difficult endeavor. Nevertheless, perplexing as it may be, lawmakers find it necessary and appropriate to cut the funding of the IRS, a division of our government that collects revenue. Making these budget decisions even more baffling, we currently have an annual tax gap in this country of over $450 billion. Adequately funding the IRS so that it can enforce our tax laws, thereby reducing the annual tax gap, should be a given. Apparently, it is not a given to our lawmakers.
Of interesting note, the annual tax gap has increased by approximately $150 billion since 2001. Yet, the IRS has had its budget slashed by over $1 billion in the last five (5) years.
Larry J. Brant
Larry J. Brant is a Shareholder and the Chair of the Tax & Benefits practice group at Foster Garvey, a law firm based out of the Pacific Northwest, with offices in Seattle, Washington; Portland, Oregon; Washington, D.C.; New York, New York, Spokane, Washington; and Beijing, China. Mr. Brant practices in the Portland office. His practice focuses on tax, tax controversy and transactions. Mr. Brant is a past Chair of the Oregon State Bar Taxation Section. He was the long-term Chair of the Oregon Tax Institute, and is currently a member of the Board of Directors of the Portland Tax Forum. Mr. Brant has served as an adjunct professor, teaching corporate taxation, at Northwestern School of Law, Lewis and Clark College. He is an Expert Contributor to Thomson Reuters Checkpoint Catalyst. Mr. Brant is a Fellow in the American College of Tax Counsel. He publishes articles on numerous income tax issues, including Taxation of S Corporations, Reasonable Compensation, Circular 230, Worker Classification, IRC § 1031 Exchanges, Choice of Entity, Entity Tax Classification, and State and Local Taxation. Mr. Brant is a frequent lecturer at local, regional and national tax and business conferences for CPAs and attorneys. He was the 2015 Recipient of the Oregon State Bar Tax Section Award of Merit.