TIGTA Report Recommends Improvements for Estate and Gift Tax Return Examination Process

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TIGTA Report Recommends Improvements for Estate and Gift Tax Return Examination Process

Author: Patti Weisgerber, M. Robinson Tax Law

 

While much focus this fall has been on tax reform proposals and debates, it’s possible some may have missed the September 26, 2017 TIGTA[1] report proposing recommendations to tighten the estate and gift tax return examination process. The report described a very manual process for the classification, prioritization and assignment of estate and gift tax returns with a variety of problems, such as, but not limited to:

  • Minimal guidance from the Internal Revenue Manual (IRM) on the process, which translates into a lack of formal written procedures,
  • A subjective prioritization of returns by a “national gatekeeper,”
  • Illegible and incomplete classification sheets,
  • Missing documents from case files, and
  • Timeframes not followed in the examination process.

These issues raised the question of whether or not the most productive cases were being assigned for examination. Some of the issues also bring into question whether a taxpayer’s rights are at risk of being violated. For the most part, the IRS agreed with all recommendations for improvement, including an update to the IRM for more guidance on how returns are classified, prioritized and assigned for examination.

In addition to the recommendations made, the report shared some insightful statistical information about estate and gift tax examinations.

Estate and Gift Tax Examination Information: By the Numbers[2]

  • 254: The number of field examination employees assigned to the IRS Estate and Gift Tax Program (per the 2016 payroll).
  • 36,130: The number of estate tax returns, including IRS Forms 1041 and 1041-N, that were filed for calendar year 2015.
  • 238,324: The number of gift tax returns filed in that same year.
  • 3,187: For FY 2016, the number of examined estate tax returns that were closed.
    • $248,000: The average recommended additional tax per return.
    • $790,000,000: The total additional recommended estate tax for FY 2016.
  • 1,843: Also for FY 2016, the number of examined gift tax returns that were closed.
    • $164,000: The average recommended additional tax per return.
    • $303,000,000: The total additional recommended gift tax in FY 2016.
  • 289: The average number of days to complete an estate tax examination.
  • 81%: Approximately, the percent of estate and gift tax cases resulting in the IRS position being either fully or partially sustained.
  • 4.4%: Approximately, the percent of estate and gift tax cases which go to Appeals.

The full report, “Improvements Are Needed in the Estate and Gift Tax Return Examination Process,” can be found here.

[1] Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration.

[2] All statistics are from the TIGTA analysis and/or the IRS.