The Daily Escape:
Slot Canyon, Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument, UT – photo by chipotle42
Today we turn our attention to the IRS. David Sirota wrote in the Daily Poster that new IRS figures compiled by Syracuse University show that in the past eight years, there was a 72% drop in the number of IRS audits of people making more than $1 million.
Last year, 98% of individuals making more than $1 million didn’t face an audit. At a time when Americans face growing economic inequality, the IRS is letting billions of dollars in tax revenue slip through its fingers because budget and staffing cuts have left the agency incapable of effectively auditing the 637,212 millionaires now living in the US. It’s worth noting that the number of American millionaires has increased by 88% since 2012.
What’s more, the IRS audit focus has shifted from the wealthy to the poor. A large group of progressive organizations sent a letter to the Biden administration saying: (emphasis by Wrongo)
“Since 2011, audit rates for millionaires, who are disproportionately white, have dropped more than twice as much as for taxpayers claiming the (Earned Income Tax Credit), who are disproportionately people of color. Audit coverage is now the heaviest in many low-income majority-Black counties.”
A recent Treasury Department report concluded that at the IRS:
“…high-income taxpayers are generally not a collection priority, nor is there a strategy in place to address nonpayment by high-income taxpayers.”
As evidence, the report showed that the agency failed to recover more than 60% of the $4 billion in back taxes owed by those making more than $1.5 million.
At the same time, overall enforcement has been hobbled by draconian budget reductions that have resulted in 43% fewer IRS revenue agents and 26% percent fewer IRS criminal investigators in the last decade:
There’s also been a 51% drop in the number of audits of America’s largest corporations. Sirota says that in 2012, almost all of our corporate behemoths were audited. However, in 2020, only about 38% were audited.
There are two separate problems here. First, the IRS budget has been cut dramatically by Republicans. Between 2010 and 2018, the IRS’s budget was slashed by more than 20%, and its enforcement budget has been cut by 24%, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, leading to the substantial reduction in IRS agents shown above.
A July 2020 report from the Congressional Budget Office found that increasing funding for IRS enforcement by $40 billion would boost revenues by more than $100 billion over the next decade. From Sirota:
“To that end, Reps. Ro Khanna (D-CA) and Peter DeFazio (D-OR) — both Congressional Progressive Caucus members — have recently introduced separate bills that would boost the IRS’s enforcement budget and audit rates.”
Khanna’s legislation would increase IRS enforcement funding by $70 billion and require the agency to audit 95% of large corporations, 50% of individuals reporting more than $10 million of annual income, and 20% of individuals reporting more than $1 million of income. Sounds about right.
IRS referrals for criminal prosecution and Justice Department tax convictions have both hit an all-time low. The US is estimated to be losing roughly $600 billion/year in revenue from unpaid taxes, while wealthy taxpayers are evading or avoiding paying their fair share. Better enforcement will produce revenue and bring renewed respect for our legal system.
We must have more tax revenue, and while Rep. Khanna’s bill would go a long way toward making things right, we also must raise our corporate tax rates, and the IRS must reassess its audit priorities.
We can’t be auditing more poor people than millionaires.
Wake up America! It’s time to stop our largest corporations and our wealthiest individuals from skating out on their tax responsibilities. To help you wake up, listen to the Tedeschi Trucks Band performing “The Sky is Crying” at the Royal Albert Hall. Performing at the Royal Albert seems to bring the best out of American groups. Here’s another great example:
Some prefer the Stevie Ray Vaughn version, but this is at least as good.