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The tax collector is back with a vengeance

Those statistics just keep coming. And so does the tax money.

Irs_logo_208_1IRS Commissioner Mark W. Everson recently announced that the 2005 fiscal year "was a watershed year for us, with a number of big initiatives that helped push enforcement revenues up 10 percent to $47.3 billion. In Fiscal 2006, enforcement revenues -- the monies we get from our collection, examination, and document matching activities -- increased to a record $48.7 billion."

The figures are particularly welcome, Everson told reporters, as they indicate the IRS has "restored the credibility of our enforcement program, which was gutted after the 1998 hearings and legislation." You remember 1998. That's when the IRS Restructuring and Reform Act was passed, creating the kinder, gentler tax agency.

Of course, such niceties don't bring in the cash. Now, with a huge gap between what's owed by taxpayers and what they are actually paying, coupled with an even larger federal deficit, official Washington wants the IRS to get a little attitude back.

That's not necessarily bad. I'm in no way advocating abusive tax collection activities. But if people owe and aren't paying but I am, I want those tax slackers bopped and their money added to mine in the federal Treasury.

Individual audit increases: So who is the IRS focusing on when it comes to tax examinations?

People earning $1 million or more saw audits in their income category increase by almost 33 percent, from 12,800 to 17,000. Overall, 6 percent of taxpayers in this income level were audited. "If you're earning that kind of money and we notice a problem, you're going to hear from us," Everson said.

Audits of individuals with income of $100,000 or more also increased, up 18 percent to 257,000 in that bracket. That represented audits of 1.67 percent of taxpayers at that earning level. Audits of taxpayers with income under $100,000 also increased by four percent, to 1.035 million or overall coverage of 0.9 percent of those taxpayers.

In your face: Actual, come into the office, answer the tax man's questions encounters also increased. These face-to-face audits of individuals (officially known as field exams) increased by nearly 23 percent in 2006.

While the personal audits are the scariest, the agency still is using correspondence audits. This is where you get a letter from the IRS in which you're told the agency found a problem on a return. Including this method, the total audited individual returns increased by over 6 percent to almost 1.3 million in fiscal 2006. The previous fiscal year, that number had been just over 1.2 million.

Everson noted that the 2006 figure is the highest audit number since 1998.

The lesson for us all? Obviously, don't mess with the tax collector. Those guys and gals are getting seriously serious again.

You can read Everson's statement on audit activity here. If you prefer your data in a visual format, this link takes you to a variety of charts detailing the increased audit efforts.


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