An audit by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration says the Internal Revenue Service isn’t assessing its volunteer income tax preparers as it should.
The Volunteer program provides no-cost federal returns and e-filing for low- to moderate-income taxpayers, as well as the elderly or disabled, and taxpayers with limited English-speaking skills.
While TIGTA’s audit found that 95 percent of the sampled returns were prepared properly by the volunteers, it also discovered that the IRS Quality Program Office wasn’t doing the field performance reviews that were required. The reviews were not done for either the 2014 or the 2015 filing seasons.
Auditors also sampled 103 Site Reviews completed by the nine tax analysts who performed them, and found 25 percent of the reviews incorrectly concluded sites met the program’s site requirements.
Lastly, some volunteer tax preparation locations were identified as inactive when they were open and preparing returns. Other sites (as many as 130), the audit found, were operating with an invalid Site Identification Number.
In its report, TIGTA noted that actions were not taken to resolve the discrepancies once they were discovered. The audit carried four recommendations:
- The chief of the Quality Program Office should conduct at least one field performance review for each program analyst during each filing season;
- Tax analysts in the program should evaluate the Volunteer Program Quality Site Requirements accurately and consistently;
- Territory managers should confirm whether volunteer sites in their areas are operating or not; and
- Monthly reports from each site should be reviewed to ensure the site is using a valid Site Identification Number.
The IRS has agreed to the recommendation and has taken – or will take – steps to correct them.
According to the IRS, the Volunteer Program has been an important element in its attempt to improve taxpayer service. More than 90,000 volunteers assisted some 3.6 million taxpayers at 12,000 locations during the 2015 filing season alone.