United States: Data Book Provides Insight On IRS Activities

Last Updated: May 12 2016
Article by Kevin Boeving, CPA

The IRS has issued its annual Data Book for fiscal year (FY) 2015, which provides statistical information on activities such as examinations and collections conducted by the IRS from October 1, 2014 to September 30, 2015. For FY 2015, the Data Book shows the total number of audits conducted by the IRS was 1.37 million, down from the 1.38 million examined in FY 2014.

Returns filed

Categories reflecting the main functions of the IRS, processing federal tax returns and collecting revenue, saw a marked increase in FY 2015 in comparison to the same time last year. The information in the Data Book shows that the IRS processed more than 243 million tax returns and related forms and issued more than 199 million refunds, amounting to $403.3 billion. The IRS collected more than $3.3 trillion in gross taxes.

Audit coverage

In total, the IRS audited 0.7 percent of all returns filed in calendar year (CY) 2014. The data shows that the number of audited returns has been decreasing since 2010, the IRS reported.

A majority of the audits, nearly 73 percent, were conducted via correspondence. The remainder were field audits. The IRS reported that 28,000 taxpayers did not agree with the examiner's determination. The amount disputed across those who disagreed with the IRS was approximately $7.4 billion.

For FY 2015, the Data Book states that examinations protected approximately $2.1 billion in refund payments for taxpayers. Of that amount, $2.0 billion came from field examinations and $122.3 million from correspondence examinations.

Individuals. Individual returns filed in 2014, including both business and nonbusiness taxpayers, were audited at 0.8 percent, which amounted to approximately 1.2 million returns, during FY 2015, based on more than 146.8 million individual returns filed. The audit rate rose significantly for income levels of $1 million or more. The audit rate for individuals in the $10 million or more level rose to 34.69 percent, more than double the audit rate reported in FY 2014.

The IRS noted that the total number of individual tax return examinations has decreased by 22 percent over the last five years. The agency attributes the decrease to the fact that FY 2015 marks the fifth consecutive year that the IRS budget has been decreased, which brought about a 15-percent reduction in full-time staff as compared to five years ago. Accordingly, operations across a number of areas, including return examinations, were downsized. Of the 1.2 million individual income tax returns examined, almost 40,000 resulted in additional refunds to taxpayers, totaling more than $1.1 billion.

Although the audit rate for higher income individual taxpayers experienced a considerable jump in CY 2014, the number of returns filed for this category, as a percentage of the total returns filed, remained fairly constant.

Partnerships. Partnerships and S corps filed a total of approximately 8.4 million returns during FY 2015, a slight increase from FY 2014 when these types of entities filed almost 8.2 million returns. In addition, the audit rate increased slightly from 0.39 percent in FY 2014 to 0.45 percent in FY 2015. In FY 2014, IRS officials announced that the agency intended to concentrate more heavily on partnership audits. The data appears to reflect this movement, as the audit rate rose 0.1 percent to 0.5 in FY 2015.

Corporations. The IRS examined nearly 1.3 percent of all corporate returns (other than S corps) during FY 2015, based on a total of nearly 1.9 million returns and 24,761 examinations. The IRS reported that during FY 2015, it recommended more than $10.36 billion in additions to tax for corporate returns. The additions to tax recommended for returns filed by corporate taxpayers with more than $20 billion in assets comprised approximately 38 percent of the total additions to tax. Large corporations with total assets between $5 billion and $20 billion experienced an audit rate of 36.1 percent, showing a decrease from FY 2014 when the audit rate for this same category was 44.3 percent. In addition, large corporations with total assets greater than $20 million experienced a substantial decrease in terms of audit rate with 64 percent, whereas in FY 2014, the audit rate was 84.2 percent, the IRS added.

Tax-exempt organizations. The IRS reported that it received 787,339 returns from tax-exempt organizations in CY 2014 and examined 6,392 tax-exempt entities and related taxable returns in FY 2015. This shows a decrease over the 8,084 tax-exempt entities examined out of 765,395 returns filed in CY 2013.

If you have questions about the 2015 Data Book, please contact your tax advisor or Kevin Boeving, Manager, Tax Services, at 314.824.5225 or kboeving@bswllc.com.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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Kevin Boeving, CPA
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