Remember the “Wealth Squad“? They’re the jolly bunch of IRS examiners that focus their audit efforts on the richest of richies because it’s become clear that wealthy people are incapable of being honest on their tax returns (plus, poor people don’t have any money).
This elite group was formed in 2009 and based on the IRS’s count, they’ve been some busy little taxbusters:
According to the agency, audit rates among taxpayers who reported $10 million or more in income in 2010 jumped to 18% from 10% in 2009. Among taxpayers who reported $5 million to $10 million in income, nearly 12% were audited, compared with 6% in 2008.
Seems like a nice little ramp up in activity which means a boost to the Treasury’s piggy bank, right? If that’s the case, the Service isn’t exactly thumping their chests about it:
The IRS has refused to report how much money the “wealth squad” has brought in. This isn’t so difficult. Britain, which set up a similar “rich squad” around the same time, has announced that its squad netted £162 million ($ 263 million) in 2010-11, up from £82 million the year before. Those amounts are on top of the taxes already paid by the rich who are being targeted.
Conventional wisdom tells us that if the IRS were to release these numbers, it would probably make for some nice political fodder and so the Administration is telling them to keep a lid on the results. If you thought the soundbites about new 16,500 IRS agents were bad, imagine if the IRS actually reported how much more money it got rich people to fork over. On the other hand, it could be that the Service is juking the numbers and the Squad has been a complete failure. Either way, it seems that the IRS wouldn’t gain much by shouting these stats from the rooftops.
For those of you keeping score, the ballpark figure of “wealth” is “in the neighborhood of tens of million of dollars,” according to IRS Commish Doug Shulman’s best guess. So if this is you, the time is nigh. You peasants whose net worth falls into the seven figure range probably can rest easy but don’t get too comfortable, you’re still at risk.
And don’t think that this will be a friendly visit between you, your CPA and an IRS representative. No, this will likely be a financial strip search that will be topped off with a latex surgical glove moseying around your nether regions.
This will not be a kick-the-tires type of exam. Instead, think in terms of a major overhaul. Global High Wealth taxpayers and their representatives should expect to confront teams of revenue agents, partnership experts, and international examiners prepared to scrub not only the Forms 1040 and the attached schedules but also any and all related returns. In the background will be specialists in such areas as financial instruments; exempt organizations; retirement plans (whether individually maintained or employer sponsored) and insurance and annuity arrangements.
Granted this is just how Don Rocen, the article’s author (and former deputy chief counsel at the IRS) pictures it but…yeeesh. If you want to come out with your hands up, think they’ll go easy on you?
IRS ‘Wealth Squads’ On The Way [Forbes]