IRS cracks down on millionaires

IRS audits millionaires By Blake Ellis, staff reporter


NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- Watch out millionaires: The IRS is coming for you.

Especially if you make more than $10 million. Audits of these folks surged 73% last year, hitting more than 18% of taxpayers in the highest income bracket, according to recently released statistics from the IRS.

"There's always been this public perception that the rich are getting away with murder and the poor guy is left footing the bill," said Thomas Cooke, professor of accounting and business law at Georgetown University. "It's true that historically the low income earner was more likely to be subject to an examination than a high income earner, but now the higher income taxpayer is getting the greater focus."

Taxpayers making between $5 million and $10 million were also under more scrutiny last year. The IRS examined nearly 12% of the returns it received from people in this tax bracket -- a 54% jump from the previous year.

Regular millionaires were in the crosshairs as well. Audits of taxpayers with income over $1 million increased 15% last year.

The move to crack down on millionaires comes as the IRS looks to boost revenue and to improve its image among average taxpayers who think the IRS favors the wealthy, said Cooke.

Because rich taxpayers can often afford to spend more money on tax preparers and accountants, the perception has been that they can cheat the system more easily than the average Joe who is doing his taxes with a company like TurboTax or on his own.

And of course more audits of the wealthy mean more revenue for the tax agency; funds collected from auditing jumped 18% to $57.6 billion last year.

"The IRS is looking for additional sources of revenue, and the higher the income, the greater the potential reward when the IRS finds mistakes," Cooke said.

In fact, the IRS has even launched a unit to specifically monitor high income individuals, called the Global High Wealth Industry unit, which took effect last year.

But a jump in audits doesn't necessarily mean that the IRS will hit the jackpot immediately. Many audits aren't resolved for several years, so the IRS will need to gauge how much money the new enforcement efforts bring in over the next few years. And the agency is only likely to continue ramping up audits of the wealthy if a significant amount of money is collected as a result.

"It's fine and dandy for the IRS to say this is how many audits we've given to the wealthy, but we'll have to get some more data on how much they collect, and the proof will be in the outcome," said Cooke. "I don't imagine in the short term that the IRS will back off the 18% examination rate for [taxpayers with income of] $10 million and more, but the question is whether it gets expanded beyond that."

And while millionaires were hit the hardest, the IRS boosted enforcement across the board last year. Overall, the IRS audited 1.58 million tax returns last year, or about 1.11% of all the returns it received.

So that means the chances of getting audited are still slim, but 8% higher than in 2009 and double what they were in 2001.  To top of page

 
Frontline troops push for solar energy
The U.S. Marines are testing renewable energy technologies like solar to reduce costs and casualties associated with fossil fuels. Play
25 Best Places to find rich singles
Looking for Mr. or Ms. Moneybags? Hunt down the perfect mate in these wealthy cities, which are brimming with unattached professionals. More
Fun festivals: Twins to mustard to pirates!
You'll see double in Twinsburg, Ohio, and Ketchup lovers should beware in Middleton, WI. Here's some of the best and strangest town festivals. Play
Overnight Avg Rate Latest Change Last Week
30 yr fixed4.12%4.00%
15 yr fixed3.14%3.00%
5/1 ARM3.25%3.01%
30 yr refi4.17%4.06%
15 yr refi3.21%3.09%
Rate data provided
by Bankrate.com
View rates in your area
 
Find personalized rates:
Index Last Change % Change
Dow 17,778.15 421.28 2.43%
Nasdaq 4,748.40 104.08 2.24%
S&P 500 2,061.23 48.34 2.40%
Treasuries 2.20 0.06 2.61%
Data as of 3:09am ET
Company Price Change % Change
Bank of America Corp... 17.53 0.27 1.56%
Apple Inc 112.65 3.24 2.96%
Oracle Corp 45.35 4.19 10.18%
General Electric Co 25.14 0.71 2.91%
Microsoft Corp 47.52 1.78 3.89%
Data as of Dec 18

Sections

Russia's economic turmoil has already spread to companies in the West and many brands are bracing for a bigger blow to earnings. More

The shale boom has been a blessing to Texas, but tumbling oil prices are casting a shadow over the state. More

Portland's mayor says the city will create new rules, eventually allowing Uber to operate there. More

With two recent IPOs and a digitally-inclined audience of entrepreneurs, non-traditional financing could finally get its big break. More

Payday lenders are spending millions of dollars in Washington in an attempt to get powerful politicians on their side as a government crackdown on the industry heats up. More

Most stock quote data provided by BATS. Market indices are shown in real time, except for the DJIA, which is delayed by two minutes. All times are ET. Disclaimer.

Morningstar: © 2014 Morningstar, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Factset: FactSet Research Systems Inc. 2014. All rights reserved.

Chicago Mercantile Association: Certain market data is the property of Chicago Mercantile Exchange Inc. and its licensors. All rights reserved.

Dow Jones: The Dow Jones branded indices are proprietary to and are calculated, distributed and marketed by DJI Opco, a subsidiary of S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC and have been licensed for use to S&P Opco, LLC and CNN. Standard & Poor's and S&P are registered trademarks of Standard & Poor’s Financial Services LLC and Dow Jones is a registered trademark of Dow Jones Trademark Holdings LLC. All content of the Dow Jones branded indices © S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC 2014 and/or its affiliates.