The IRS announced on Friday it is launching an effort to aggressively pursue 1,600 millionaires and 75 large business partnerships that owe hundreds of millions of dollars in past due taxes.
IRS Commissioner Daniel Werfel said that with a boost in federal funding and the help of artificial intelligence tools, the agency has new means of targeting wealthy people who have “cut corners” on their taxes.
“If you pay your taxes on time it should be particularly frustrating when you see that wealthy filers are not,” Werfel told reporters in a call previewing the announcement. He said 1,600 millionaires who owe at least US$250,000 each in back taxes and 75 large business partnerships that have assets of roughly US$10 billion on average are targeted for the new “compliance efforts.”
Werfel said a massive hiring effort and AI research tools developed by IRS employees and contractors are playing a big role in identifying wealthy tax dodgers. The agency is making an effort to showcase positive results from its burst of new funding under President Joe Biden’s Democratic administration as Republicans in Congress look to claw back some of that money.
“New tools are helping us see patterns and trends that we could not see before, and as a result, we have higher confidence on where to look and find where large partnerships are shielding income,” he said.
A team of academic economists and IRS researchers in 2021 found that the top 1 per cent of U.S. income earners fail to report more than 20 per cent of their earnings to the IRS.
The newly announced tax collection effort will begin as soon as October.
“We have more hiring to do,” Werfel said. “It’s going to be a very busy fall for us.”
The federal tax collector gained the enhanced ability to identify tax delinquents with resources provided by the Inflation Reduction Act, which Biden signed into law in August of 2022. The agency was in line for an US$80 billion infusion under the law, but that money is vulnerable to potential cutbacks by Congress.
House Republicans built a US$1.4 billion reduction to the IRS into the debt ceiling and budget cuts package passed by Congress this summer. The White House said the debt deal also has a separate agreement to take US$20 billion from the IRS over the next two years and divert that money to other non-defence programs.
With the threat of a government shutdown looming in a dispute over spending levels, there is the potential for additional cuts to the agency.