IRS Paid Out Billions In Tax Credits To Ineligible People

The Internal Revenue Service issued up to $15.6 billion in tax credits to people who weren't eligible for them, about a quarter of the total credits they issued of that type, according to a new inspectors general report.

According to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA), in FY 2013 the IRS improperly paid out between $13.3 billion and $15.6 billion worth of EITC, or between 22 to 26 percent of total EITC payments.

Earned Income Tax Credits are benefits available to low to moderate income earners, which can reduce the amount a taxpayer may owe the IRS and may also provide a refund. 

The IRS and TIGTA considers an improper ETIC payment to be one that should not have been made, was made in an incorrect amount, or provided to an ineligible recipient. 

The level of improper payments has been a perennial problem for the IRS. Since 2003 the percentage of improper payments has not dipped below 21 percent. In that timeframe the IRS has paid out a total of more than $148 billion in improper EITC payments. 

Indeed the Office of Management and Budget considers the EITC to be a high-risk program for these types of problems. It is IRS’ only such high-risk revenue program. And this year still, TIGTA concluded that the IRS has not made much progress in reducing improper payments of this kind.

The findings came in a review of the IRS compliance with the Improper Payments Elimination and Recovery Act of 2010 (IPERA), which requires federal agencies to estimate improper payments if they are "significant."

“The intent of this law is to help ensure that the Government serves as a responsible steward for the tax dollars it collects. As noted in previous TIGTA reports, the IRS can and must do more to protect taxpayer dollars from waste, fraud, and abuse,” J. Russell George, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, said in a statement.

TIGTA did not make any recommendations in its report, but noted that the IRS has indicated that it is working with the Treasury Department and OMB to develop more ways to come in compliance with the IPERA.


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