The IRS probably won't audit you this year: Here's why

Raising US taxes now ‘won’t work’: Congressman

Rep. Dan Meuser, R-Pa., on Presidents Biden’s tax plans. 

Tax season officially came to a close on Monday, meaning that most Americans can breathe a sigh of relief until next year.

Another reason for taxpayers not to worry? The chances of being audited by the Internal Revenue Service are extremely slim, with the odds of an individual audit falling significantly over the past decade.

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The agency audited just 0.45% of individual tax returns in fiscal 2019, according to a recent Treasury Department report, or roughly 1 out of every 225 individual returns. Nearly half of those returns belonged to filers who claimed the Earned Income Tax Credit. 

That figure is down from 0.59% in 2018 and 1.11% in 2010.

The data shows that out of more than 199 million tax returns in 2019, the IRS only examined 771,095 returns. That's a decline of 44% from fiscal year 2015.

In all, the IRS collected about $57.5 billion in enforcement revenue in fiscal 2019, which ended on Sept. 30, 2019. That's below the $59.4 billion it raked in during fiscal year 2018, according to Treasury figures. 

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The decline in audits is largely due to dwindling funding and enforcement staff: The IRS has 20,000 fewer staff than it did in 2010, and its budget is roughly $11.4 billion – 20% less than it was in 2010, when adjusted for inflation, according to the Congressional Budget Office. 

About $1 trillion in federal taxes may be going unpaid each year because of errors, fraud and a lack of resources to adequately enforce collections, IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig said in April while testifying on Capitol Hill. 

That's up significantly from the last time the IRS formally published data on the so-called tax gap; at the time, between 2011 to 2013, the agency reported an annual loss of roughly $441 billion.

President Biden has proposed boosting funding for the agency by an extra $80 billion as part of a sweeping plan to crack down on tax evasion by wealthy Americans and large corporations.

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The 10-year-funding measure would be accompanied by new enforcement powers for the IRS, including disclosure requirements for people who own businesses that are not organized as corporations and for other high-income earners who could be shielding their income from the government.

The administration estimates that the plan could generate as much as $780 billion over the next decade by closing the gap between typical American workers and very high-earners who employed sophisticated methods to minimize their tax liability.

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