Inappropriate IRS reviews while the real audit challenges get bigger

Released: 
May 15, 2013

The gap between federal taxes owed and taxes paid stood at $400 billion in 2012. About 15 percent of taxpayers failed to pay.

The IRS is in hot water after the revelation that certain conservative groups were inappropriately targeted for review of their tax-exempt statuses. President Obama has called the targeting "intolerable" with the IRS blaming the inappropriate auditing on "rogue" employees. Here's the real rub, though - the IRS already has too much completely appropriate auditing to do in the first place.

A growing number of Americans are failing to pay their federal tax bills. The difference in the total amount of taxes owed to the IRS and the total amount collected – known as the tax gap – amounted to $400 billion in 2012. It is estimated about 15 percent of eligible taxpayers don’t pay up.

Underreporting of income is the biggest problem. In 2006, the IRS said filers failed to report $376 billion in taxable income.

There are also concerns about a growing “international tax gap” – taxes owed on cross-border income but unpaid.

Check out our infographic for more on the tax gap and efforts at tax enforcement. See “What Do Others Say?” for more views, then add to the discussion below. What more can or should the IRS do to track down these scofflaws and make them square up, and how much of their time should they be spending doing these kinds of audits?