Audit: IRS volunteer program often missed the mark

To conduct its examination, the inspector general had auditors pose as taxpayers with three separate scenarios. The 22 incorrect returns included 15 that would have kept taxpayers from receiving a $3,874 refund. In the other cases, four taxpayers would have been charged roughly $9,800 and another three would have owed an additional $768.

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As the audit notes, volunteers in the program know that IRS staff are standing by to review their work. The report also found that volunteers in the program are not given background checks, even though they have access to sensitive taxpayer information.

The inspector general recommended that, among other things, the IRS include anonymous auditor trips as part of its quality controls for the volunteer program.

The IRS agreed with the recommendations. In the agency’s response to the audit, it said it was “deeply troubled by the handful of cases of unscrupulous behavior by volunteers” and reiterated that it took immediate action in those cases. 

In a Wednesday statement, Michelle Eldrige, an IRS spokeswoman, declared that the report "was not statistically valid and focused on uncommon tax scenarios that affect a small fraction of returns handled at these sites."

"The IRS uses a statistically valid process to test volunteer tax preparation and is confident that the vast majority of income tax returns prepared by volunteers are completed accurately," Eldridge added.


This post was updated at 12:53 p.m.