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How the IRS Uses Big Data Analytics to Catch (and Punish) Tax Evaders

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    The rise of Big Data has revolutionized the way that consumers interact with businesses, with each other, and with their governments. Like government agencies all over the world, the IRS continually adapts its data analytics strategy in an effort to keep up with changing pace of technology – and by harnessing the power of Big Data, the IRS is getting better and better at detecting and investigating tax evasion effectively.

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    What Sorts of Technology Does the IRS Use?

    In 2015, CNN Money quoted former IRS Commissioner John Koskinen (who has since been replaced by David Kautter) as stating, “We’re running applications we were running when John F. Kennedy was president.” He also pointed out the fact that certain IRS systems relied on an outdated programming language, COBOL, described as a “dinosaur that was last hot in the 1980s.”

    In an age where data is ubiquitous, sophisticated, and lightning-fast – not to mention essential for both IRS auditors and criminal tax investigators – these statements are surprising (though perhaps not entirely unexpected, in light of the many budget cuts which have beset the IRS in recent years). Regulators agreed, and in 2018, provided the IRS with funding for approximately 1,700 new hires. At the same time, the IRS unveiled a five-year plan to upgrade its technology, not only to reflect advancements in computing, but also to account for the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA), which brought major overhauls to the federal tax code.

    Considering how well the IRS Criminal Investigation Division performed even when hampered by antiquated technology – in 2018, the tax conviction rate topped 91% – these upgrades are bound to yield impressive results, particularly since the IRS plans to increase its number of criminal referrals for tax evasion. For taxpayers who have failed to comply with the law (by, for instance, underreporting or concealing income), that means only one thing: danger.

    For an official overview of the IRS’ five-year plan, refer to the IRS Advance Data and Analytics summary, which is available here. To read about components of the plan other than data analytics, simply click the icon next to “More in IRS Strategic Plan (Fiscal Year 2018-2022),” which expands to provide a detailed menu of “strategic goals.”


    What Sources Does the IRS Get its Information From?

    The IRS draws data and information from a vast and varied network of sources, including but not limited to those listed below. Where relevant, our IRS tax attorneys have included links to additional information for readers:


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    What Areas of Tax Noncompliance Are the IRS Focusing On?

    Through a combination of cutting-edge data analytics and tried-and-true investigative techniques, the IRS plans to focus its upcoming enforcement efforts on a set of specific problem areas. These areas include:

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    Worried About a Tax Audit or Criminal Investigation? Contact Our IRS Attorneys for Help

    Whether by using high-tech investigative methods, or simply observing a taxpayer during an audit, IRS agents are adept at recognizing noncompliance. If you made a mistake on your income tax return, or if you are worried about an IRS criminal investigation or IRS audit, make sure you have the benefit of skilled legal representation. Keep in mind that communications with your original tax preparer can be used against you in court, whereas attorney communications are protected by the attorney-client privilege.

    If you are under audit or under criminal investigation by the IRS, do not wait to get the assistance you need. For a reduced-rate tax consultation, call the Tax Law Office of David W. Klasing at (800) 681-1295, or contact us online to get started.

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