The Internal Revenue Service's Criminal Investigation Division increased its enforcement activities last fiscal year after they fell behind in fiscal 2006, according to a new report.

The Treasury Department's inspector general said the number of investigations initiated by the division increased 7.8 percent in fiscal year 2007, compared to a decrease of 8.5 percent in the previous year. In addition, the number of investigations recommended for prosecution increased 4.3 percent in fiscal year 2007, compared to a decrease of 4.9 percent the previous year.

The numbers of subjects convicted and sentenced in fiscal year 2007 increased by 6.7 percent and 5.1 percent, respectively, compared to decreases of 6.1 percent and 3.6 percent in fiscal year 2006. Nearly 65 percent of the division's time was spent on tax-related cases, an eight-year high.

One area of concern, however, is the growing inventory of investigations referred to the Justice Department and the decrease in experienced IRS agents.

"For the first time since we began reporting on its enforcement activities, the division had more investigations awaiting prosecution by the Department of Justice than open subject criminal investigations within the division," said Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration J. Russell George. The increase has come just as the IRS is facing the growing challenge of hiring more agents to replace those who are leaving.

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