A new Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration audit has found that changes in the Internal Revenue Service's Questionable Refund Program, along with a significant technological failure, dramatically decreased the effectiveness of the program for the 2006 filing season. The IRS relies on the Questionable Refund Program to identify and prevent fraudulent refund claims from being paid. Since its inception in 1977, this program has identified more than $4.3 billion in fraudulent refunds and prevented the issuance of over $3.6 billion in refunds. However, over the past several years, TIGTA has reported that the QRP was becoming increasingly unmanageable due to the growing number of fraudulent claims and the IRS's lack of resources to combat the fraud. "The IRS reacted to legitimate congressional concerns that taxpayers were not being notified when their refunds were delayed, sometimes for years," said Inspector General J. Russell George. "Unfortunately, the IRS overreacted, and it is costing taxpayers millions of dollars." Last tax season, the IRS appropriately began notifying taxpayers when their accounts were temporarily frozen as a result of a suspicious return. However, the agency limited the length of these freezes, which also limited its ability to properly scrutinize many of these returns. "This decision had a direct cost to taxpayers," George said. "Our audit identified nearly $15.9 million in potentially fraudulent refunds that were allowed to be issued."

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