Sep 8, 2023 - Politics & Policy

IRS will use AI to crack down on wealthy potential tax violators

Danny Werfel, commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service, speaking to the Senate Finance Committee in April 2023.

Danny Werfel, commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service, speaking to the Senate Finance Committee in April 2023. Photographer: Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The latest artificial intelligence area of use: tax collection among the nation's wealthiest.

Why it matters: The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) said it will start using AI and other tools to detect tax violations by high-income earners and large business partnerships

  • The IRS said Friday it leveraged AI to open investigations into 75 of the largest partnerships in the U.S. that each have more than $10 billion in assets on average.
  • Machine learning tech helped identify the targets, which include hedge funds, real estate investment partnerships and law firms, while seeking threats to the tax system in a segment that's historically seen limited scrutiny, the service said.

Driving the news: The IRS is prioritizing cases involving taxpayers with incomes above $1 million but tax debts of more than $250,000.

  • It said around 1,600 taxpayers fall under this category and "owe hundreds of millions of dollars in taxes."

What they're saying: Danny Werfel, IRS commissioner, said in a statement the new effort to hold some of the the wealthiest filers accountable was made possible through Inflation Reduction Act funding.

  • Werfel said the pre-IRA years of underfunding "led to the lowest audit rate of wealthy filers in our history."
  • "I am committed to reversing this trend, making sure that new funding will mean more effective compliance efforts on the wealthy," he added.
  • He said there will be "no change" in audit rates among middle- and low-income filers for "years to come."

The big picture: The announcement is part of the Biden administration's effort to increase revenue by billions of dollars over the next decade through new tax compliance measures.

  • The effort, and additional funding for the IRS, has been heavily criticized by Republicans, who claim it will use the extra resources to harass small business and average taxpayers.
  • Earlier this year, Republicans clawed back $20 billion from the IRS over the next two years in exchange for increasing the nation's borrowing limit and avoiding a default.
  • Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen directed the IRS to avoid using any new funding to increase audits on small business or households earning $400,000 per year or less.

Go deeper: How a proposed IRS tool could disrupt the billion-dollar tax prep industry

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