IRS Paid $312 Million to Whistleblowers in 2018

By:
Chris Gaetano
Published Date:
Feb 8, 2019
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The IRS paid a total of $312 million last year to whistleblowers, whose tips allowed the service to collect an additional $1.441 billion, according to Accounting Today. This is a near 10-fold increase in total reward money compared to last year, which saw $34 million given out to tipsters. Accounting Today notes, though, that this money has gone to fewer people, as the total number of whistleblowers receiving awards has gone from 418 in 2016 to 242 in 2017 and, finally, 217 in 2018. 

The IRS report  said that "the number and amounts of awards paid each year can vary significantly, especially when a small number of high-dollar claims are resolved in a single year." The year in which an award is paid, it said, is generally not the year in which collections occurred because the IRS must wait until there is a final determination of proceeds, which means that the taxpayer has exhausted all appeal rights and the taxpayer no longer can file a claim for refund or otherwise seek to recover the proceeds from the government. That is why the IRS might pay out $34 million one year and $312 million the next. 

The IRS added that, despite gains, the whistleblower program still lacks taxpayer protections. which could further encourage them to come forward with valuable information. Not having these protections means that they are more likely to face reprisal and retaliation for their actions, even if they offer information anonymously. 

"[The program] continues to lack any statutory protections from retaliation for whistleblowers providing information to the IRS," said the report. "Providing whistleblowers with a zone of protection from economic or physical harm is imperative to the success of any whistleblower program as Congress has recognized in other whistleblower statutes. No individual should suffer any reprisals for providing truthful information to the IRS. The need for greater protection of whistleblowers is amplified as sophisticated taxpayers are increasingly attempting to learn the existence or identity of a whistleblower. The IRS remains committed to protecting the identity and even the existence of whistleblowers. Nonetheless, the current defenses available to the IRS to maintain the confidentiality of whistleblowers are limited." 

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