Study: Number of IRS Civil Suits Declined Precipitously Over Past Decade

Chris Gaetano
Published Date:
Sep 1, 2021
GettyImages-174879501 IRS Internal Revenue Service

An analysis by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC), a research institute at Syracuse University, has found that the number of civil tax suits involving the the IRS has dropped dramatically over the last decade. This number has been on a slow decline since 2008, when there were 1,357 such suits. In 2011, though, that number had shrunk to 1,121. In 2016, the number had further diminished to 905. Now, in 2021, the projected number is 535, just slightly above the 520 filed last year. In general, the number of suits has dropped by about 39 percent since 2008. 

Of the suits filed in 2021, more than half, 60 percent, were initiated by either the IRS or the federal government on its behalf; in 40 percent of cases, it was taxpayers suing the government. Both types of suits have seen decline, but there has been somewhat sharper decline in the number of suits that the government brought against taxpayers.
The researchers do not believe that the decline is attributable to fewer tax disputes but, rather, that it is due to severe funding and staffing cuts imposed by Congress. For example, not only has the number of IRS tax audits fallen, but the numbers of levies, liens and seizures for unpaid taxes by the IRS have all fallen off sharply, which may reduce the need for either the IRS or the taxpayer to engage in litigation concerning these matters.  

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