WASHINGTON — The 2017 tax filing season, the processing period for which began four days later than in the 2016 tax filing season, has thus far resulted in the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) receiving fewer returns than at this point in the prior year, according to an audit report publicly released today by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA).
TIGTA reported on the interim results of the 2017 tax filing season, which is defined as the period from January 1 through mid-April. This period is critical for the IRS, because during this time, most individuals file their income tax returns and contact the IRS if they have questions about specific laws or filing procedures. The objective of this review was to provide selected information related to the IRS’s 2017 Filing Season. TIGTA plans to issue the final results of its analysis of the 2017 Filing Season in September 2017.
The IRS began accepting and processing individual tax returns on January 23, 2017, as scheduled, according to TIGTA’s report. As of March 3, 2017, the IRS received approximately 61 million tax returns and issued 49.4 million refunds totaling more than $148.8 billion. In comparison, the IRS received approximately 66.7 million tax returns and issued 53.5 million refunds totaling more than $160 billion by this time in 2016. The decline in the number of tax returns received compared to this time last year is due to the fact that there were fewer processing days.
As of March 2, 2017, the IRS processed 1.7 million tax returns that reported nearly $6.4 billion in Premium Tax Credits. Approximately 1.8 million taxpayers reported shared responsibility payments for a decrease of 33.3 percent from 2016, while the amount of shared responsibility payments reported increased 20 percent from 2016 to $1.2 billion.
TIGTA also found that the IRS has expanded its efforts to detect tax refund fraud. As of March 4, 2017, the IRS reported that it identified 30,674 tax returns with $961 million claimed in fraudulent refunds and prevented the issuance of $918.6 million (95.6 percent) in fraudulent refunds. The IRS confirmed 14,068 fraudulent tax returns involving identity theft as of March 2, 2017, and identified 17,227 prisoner tax returns for screening as of March 4, 2017.
The IRS continues to offer more self-assistance options that taxpayers can access 24 hours a day, seven days a week. As of March 2, 2017, taxpayers made approximately 27.4 million total attempts to contact the IRS by calling the various customer service toll-free lines. Approximately 10.4 million calls were answered with automation, while IRS assistors answered nearly 4.7 million calls and provided a 76.2 percent Level of Service with a 7.1 minute Average Speed of Answer. Finally, during Fiscal Year 2017, the IRS plans to assist approximately 3.5 million taxpayers – a 23.6 percent decrease from Fiscal Year 2016 – through face-to-face contact at the Taxpayer Assistance Centers.
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