The Taxpayer Advocate’s review of the 2015 filing season commented that the IRS faced extraordinary challenges during the filing season.
‘The IRS continues to view itself, first and foremost, as an enforcement agency, and it thus develops its policies around the relatively small portion of the taxpayer population that is unwilling to comply with the tax laws. This focus has all sorts of consequences for the vast majority of taxpayers who are willing to comply, not the least of which is that they bear an increased burden in navigating processes designed for evaders. That is unwise, counterproductive, and expensive’. (pg 3, Taxpayer Advocate Service -Fiscal Year 2016 Objectives Report to Congress – Volume One).
‘The IRS is relying increasingly on automated processes or remote, narrowly-scoped and centralized services to provide taxpayer service and conduct enforcement …. The large number of taxpayers who have limited or no electronic access or skills will not be able to navigate this brave new world; the IRS is largely ignoring this reality, hoping taxpayers will grow out of it in five years’ time’. (pg 5, Taxpayer Advocate Service -Fiscal Year 2016 Objectives Report to Congress – Volume One).
Although the agency’s budget was some 17 per cent lower than the FY 2010 budget, adjusted for inflation, the IRS was charged with implementing challenging areas of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act as well as the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act without any additional funding.
For taxpayers who did not require IRS assistance, the filing season proceeded fairly smoothly, but it was taxpayers who needed IRS assistance that encountered the worst filing season ‘in memory’.
National Taxpayer Advocate, Nina Olson complimented the IRS stating that the agency accomplished ‘a great deal’ in the face of this adversity.
The per cent change in key filing statistics from 2014 to 2015 was positive in all areas except for the total number of refunds processed (-3.2%) and total dollar amount of refunds processed (-2.3%).
Key filing statistics for 2015 include:
Individual income tax returns received: 132,368,000
Individual income tax returns processed: 126,121,000
E-filing receipts – self prepared: 48,702,000
E-filing receipts – via tax professionals: 70,064,000
Visits to IRS.gov: 302,576,118
Total refunds – quantity: 91,818,000
Total refunds – dollar amount: $248.9b
Total refunds – average refund: $2,711
Direct deposit refunds – quantity: 76,824,000
Direct deposit refunds – dollar amount: $220.0b
Direct deposit refunds – average refund: $2,890.
The largest percentage increase was in visits to IRS.gov up 12.4% from 269 million in 2014 to 302 million in 2015.