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Cash-strapped IRS cuts down on tax audits

| Sunday, April 13, 2014, 6:45 p.m.

WASHINGTON — As millions of Americans race to meet the tax deadline on Tuesday, their chances of getting audited are lower than they have been in years.

Budget cuts and new responsibilities are straining the Internal Revenue Service's ability to police tax returns. This year, the IRS will have fewer agents auditing returns than at any time since at least the 1980s.

Taxpayer services are suffering, too, with millions of phone calls to the IRS going unanswered.

“We keep going after the people who look like the worst of the bad guys,” IRS Commissioner John Koskinen said. “But there are going to be some people that we should catch, either in terms of collecting the revenue from them or prosecuting them, that we're not going to catch.”

Better technology is helping to offset some budget cuts.

If you report making $40,000 in wages and your employer tells the IRS you made $50,000, the agency's computers probably will catch that. The same is true for investment income and many common deductions that are reported to the IRS by financial institutions.

But if you operate a business that deals in cash, with income or expenses that are not independently reported to the IRS, your chances of getting caught are lower than they have been in years.

Last year, the IRS audited less than 1 percent of all returns from individuals, the lowest rate since 2005. This year, Koskinen said, “The numbers will go down.”

Koskinen was confirmed as IRS commissioner in December. He took over an agency under siege on several fronts.

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