IRS recovers $1B in crackdown on taxes owed by millionaires

IRS is tapping into tens of billions of multi-year modernization funds in the Inflation Reduction Act to rebuild its workforce and beef up enforcement.

The IRS has collected $1 billion in overdue tax revenue, after launching a crackdown on millionaires not paying what they owe.

The agency last fall announced it was going after 1,600 wealthy individuals with more than $1 million in annual income and more than $250,000 in tax debt.

IRS Commissioner Danny Werfel told reporters that audit rates for high-wealth individuals and complex partnerships fell over the last decade and have been at “historic lows.”

But the IRS is tapping into tens of billions of multi-year modernization funds in the Inflation Reduction Act to rebuild its workforce and beef up its enforcement operations.

“Our message for these taxpayers is that now that we are resourced, we can do the job of ensuring that they pay,” Werfel said in a call Wednesday.

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen called the initiative a “huge success,” and said the IRS has “shown that it can successfully launch strategic new initiatives and achieve the greatest return on investment.”

Yellen said that if the IRS can sustain ongoing enforcement, technology and data investments it will be able to recover an additional $851 billion in additional revenue over the next decade.

The IRS expects to recoup even more overdue tax revenue from high-income individuals.

The agency mailed 25,000 notices to taxpayers with more than $1 million in annual income. Another 100,000 notices went to taxpayers with $400,000 to $1 million in income.

“The amount of non-filing involved in these mailings is deeply concerning,” Werfel said.

IRS personnel are still following up with taxpayers who received these tax notes. The agency expects to have an update on the amount of tax revenue collected through this initiative this fall.

“Unfortunately, a lot of the taxpayers that we reach out to either don’t respond, or we end up in a situation where there’s a lot of back and forth to determine and to convince the taxpayer that they owe, and it’s in their best interest to pay,” Werfel said. “Ultimately, these cases get closed out typically after a lot of back and forth between the IRS after that initial letter is due.”

Werfel said that before the Inflation Reduction Act, IRS employees were “stretched too thin to get to all these cases.”

“Too often during the past decade, the IRS didn’t have the resources or staffing to pursue high-income earners who our compliance teams knew owed taxes,” Werfel said. “The tax bill wasn’t even in dispute. The taxes were clearly owed by these people, but we didn’t have the people or the resources to follow up with them.”

The agency is using artificial intelligence tools to help identify high-income individuals and businesses that are not paying what they owe.

“AI will help us ensure that we are not reaching out to taxpayers that are following the rules. It helps us be more precise in reaching out to those taxpayers that are most likely not playing by the rules,” Werfel said. “And this will create less stress for taxpayers who don’t want to get a letter from the IRS, especially if they’re playing by the rules. And it will provide more value to the taxpayers, because we will have better precision in who to reach out to make sure they’re paying their debts on time.

Werfel said the agency is also ramping up hiring to build out its enforcement capabilities.

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