IRS WORKING ON TAX GAP

Washington, D.C. -- The Internal Revenue Service is making progress on devising a strategy to narrow the tax gap, but significant challenges remain, according to a new report by the Treasury Department's inspector general.

The tax gap is estimated to be about $345 billion. The IRS outlined a seven-prong strategy in August 2007 for reducing it. Among the IRS's goals were increasing the amount of information reporting by taxpayers, adding more research programs and modernizing the agency's business systems.

The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration said in its report that the current IRS strategy is significantly more comprehensive and detailed than the IRS's previous efforts, but still depends on too many variables. "While we are encouraged by the development of a detailed strategy to reduce the tax gap, long-term success will depend on the IRS's ability to address several risk factors, some of which are beyond its control," said TIGTA Inspector General J. Russell George in a statement.

TIGTA found that the IRS's strategic plan largely depended on receiving funding for additional compliance resources, along with Congress enacting legislative changes. Sizable efficiency gains in taxpayer service and compliance resources also depend on the successful implementation of information technology enhancements and the IRS's ability to manage other risks.

TAS FALLS SHORT

Washington, D.C. -- The Taxpayer Advocate Service needs to do a better job of processing requests from taxpayers for relief from Internal Revenue Service enforcement actions, said a new report from the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration.

TIGTA found that taxpayers with economic burden cases did not always receive timely, accurate or complete service from the TAS, the independent organization whose mission is to help taxpayers resolve problems with the IRS.

TIGTA found that over 50 percent of the 250 cases sampled had errors and delays that might have burdened taxpayers. In some instances, taxpayers might have had their rights or privacy violated because the TAS bypassed authorized representatives, made unauthorized disclosures to third parties, did not pay the proper interest on refunds or denied claims erroneously.

The significance of these errors was heightened by the nature of the taxpayer's situation. Taxpayers often asked for expedited assistance in cases of economic burden. In most of these cases, the taxpayer asked the TAS to stop an IRS enforcement action, such as garnishing wages, that was causing financial difficulties or hardship, or to expedite a process, such as the issuance of a refund from a tax return being audited.

National Taxpayer Advocate Nina Olson agreed with five of the six recommendations in TIGTA's report and acknowledged the importance of processing economic burden cases accurately and in a timely manner.

GRANT THORNTON REVAMPS ADVISORY PRACTICE

Chicago -- Grant Thornton has consolidated its advisory services practice, combining the firm's various advisory service lines and more than 800 professionals across the U.S. into a single division.

The advisory services practice now encompasses a wide variety of areas, including governance, risk and compliance; information technology; forensics, investigations and litigation; transaction advice; due diligence; corporate advisory and restructuring; valuation; and business strategy and performance improvement.

In conjunction with the consolidation, the firm has appointed Greg Pitzer and Larry Redler as co-national managing principal and partner, respectively, of the advisory services practice. Pitzer has served as national managing principal of the business advisory services practice since 2002. Redler joined Grant Thornton in 1980 and has served as economic advisory services national managing partner.

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