Washington (April 8, 2004) -- After acknowledging a decline in Internal Revenue Service enforcement cases, Commissioner Mark Everson told a gathering of reporters here that his agency’s No. 1 priority is to get tough with, and subsequently prosecute, tax cheats.

Speaking at a joint press conference with Eileen O’Connor, assistant attorney general of the Department of Justice Tax Division, Everson said the IRS has “arrested the decline" in enforcement and promised that the agency would vigorously chase down high-income tax evaders.

Everson said IRS enforcement levels dropped after Senate Finance Committee hearings several years ago were critical of the agency’s customer service levels, the improvement of which came at a cost of diverting auditing resources.

Both Everson and O’Connor pointed to increases in criminal prosecutions and civil suits during the past three years.

More than 1,100 defendants faced criminal tax prosecution in 2003, a 35-percent rise from the 2000 levels, while an IRS investigative unit charged over 1,000 alleged tax cheats in 2003.

The IRS now has 830 tax shelter promoters under investigation. “The penalties, particularly in the area of the [tax shelter] promoters, need to be dramatically strengthened,” Everson said.

-- WebCPA staff

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