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March 26, 2012


IRS has issued its annual data book, which provides statistical data on its fiscal year (FY) 2011 activities. The data book provides valuable information about how many tax returns IRS examines (audits) and what categories of returns IRS is focusing resources on, as well as data on other enforcement activities such as collections. The figures and percentages in this article compare returns filed in calendar year 2010 and audited in FY 2011 to returns filed in calendar year 2009 and audited in FY 2010. 
What are the chances of being audited? Of the 140,837,499 total individual income tax returns with a filing requirement, 1,564,690 were audited. This works out to roughly 1.1%, the same as the rate for the previous year. 
Only 25% of the individual audits were conducted by revenue agents, tax compliance officers, tax examiners and revenue officer examiners. That's higher than the 21.7% figure for the previous year. The 75% balance of the audits were correspondence audits, down from 77.1% for the previous year.
Following are selected audit rates for individuals.
  • For business returns other than farm returns showing total gross receipts of $100,000 to $200,000, 4.3% of returns were audited in FY 2011, down from 4.7% in FY 2010.
  • For business returns other than farm returns showing total gross receipts of $200,000 or more, 3.8% of returns were audited in FY 2011, an increase from 3.3% in FY 2010.0.
  • For returns showing total positive income of $200,000 to $1 million, 3.2% of returns not showing business activity were audited, and 3.6% of returns showing business activity were audited. The audit rate for such returns was higher than the 2.5% and 2.9% respective rates for the previous year.
  • For FY 2011, the audit rate for returns with total positive income of $1 million or more was 12.5%, close to forty nine percent higher than the 8.4% rate for FY 2010.
Not surprisingly, examination coverage increased for higher income earners. For example, the percentage was 1% for those returns with adjusted gross income (AGI) between $100,000 and $200,000 (up from .71% for FY 2010), and 2.66% for those with $200,000 to $500,000 of AGI (up from 1.92% for FY 2009). Exam coverage jumped to 11.8% for those with at least $1 million but less than $5 million of AGI (up from 6.67% for FY 2010). Similarly, coverage increased for those with at least $5 million but less than $10 million of AGI, as well as for those with AGI of $10 million or more.
Select audit rates for business returns were as follows:
  • For all corporate returns other than Form 1120S, 1.5%, versus 1.4% for the year before.
  • For small corporations with balance sheet returns showing total assets of: $250,000 to $1 million, 1.6%; $1–$5 million, 1.9%; and $5–10 million, 2.6%. For FY 2010, the percentages were, respectively, 1.4%, 1.7%; and 3%.
  • For partnership and S corporation returns, the audit rate was .4%, the same as for the year before.  This would seem to make filing Sub S returns and LLC's which file partnership returns a good strategy to avoid audits.

Math errors on individual returns. Of the roughly 6.6 million math error notices that IRS sent out relating to the 2010 return, 49.5% were attributable to the making work pay credit (MWPC), which was a refundable tax credit based on earned income and was available to taxpayers in 2009 and 2010.
Of the total math error notices, 14.1% were for tax calculation/other taxes (which includes errors related to self-employment tax, alternative minimum tax, and household employment tax), 7.2% related to exemption number/amount, 6.1% related to the EITC, 6.2% related to the standard/itemized deduction(s), and 2.2% related to the child tax credit.
Penalties. In FY 2011, IRS assessed 28.75 million civil penalties against individual taxpayers, up from 27.1 million civil penalties assessed in the previous year. Of the FY 2011 assessments, the “top three” penalties in percentage terms were 58.6% for failure to pay, 25.6% for underpayment of estimated tax, and 13% for delinquency. On the business side, there were a total of 1,080,027 civil penalty assessments (down from 1,145,931 for the year before), and the “top three” penalties in percentage terms were 55% for delinquency, 24% for failure to pay, and 18.4% for estimated tax.
Offers-in-compromise. In FY 2011, 59,000 offers-in-compromise were received by IRS (versus 57,000 for FY 2010), and 20,000 were accepted (14,000 for the year before).
Criminal cases. IRS initiated 4,720 criminal investigations in FY 2011. There were 3,410 referrals for prosecution and 2,350 convictions. Of those sentenced, 81.7% were incarcerated (a term that includes imprisonment, home confinement, electronic monitoring, or a combination thereof). By way of comparison, in FY 2010, IRS initiated 4,706 criminal investigations, there were 3,034 referrals for prosecution, and there were 2,184 convictions. Of those sentenced, 81.5% were incarcerated.
The IRS Data Book can be viewed at  IR-2012-36 can be viewed at,,id=255853,00.html.

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