Congress’ research arm is offering a cheap way for the Internal Revenue Service to collect more of the nation’s unpaid taxes — focus even more enforcement on wealthier taxpayers. A new Government Accountability Office analysis of the IRS’ efforts to collect unpaid taxes from citizens and small businesses in 2007 and 2008 found that exams focused on those with an income of $200,000 or more produced “significantly more” direct revenue per dollar of exam cost.
The government researchers concluded that by shifting about $124 million in enforcement resources away from lower-income returns to returns from individuals and small businesses showing income of $200,000 or more, the IRS could bring in about $1 billion more than the $5.5 billion it now collects with these resources.
The government already spends a disproportionate amount of its budget examining the nation’s higher earners. The IRS spent about 20% of the $1.6 billion a year it devoted in 2007 and 2008 on returns with income of more than $200,000, even though those returns accounted for only 3% of the total 136 million returns filed, according to the GAO report.