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IRS Releases Five-Year Strategic Plan with Emphasis on Enforcement

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) released its five-year strategic plan (Strategic Plan) for 2022 – 2026, laying out four major goals:

  1. Service: Provide quality and accessible services to enhance the taxpayer experience
  2. Enforcement: Enforce the tax law fairly and efficiently to increase voluntary compliance and narrow the tax gap
  3. People: Foster an inclusive, diverse and well-equipped workforce and strengthen relationships with external partners
  4. Transformation: Transform IRS operations to become more resilient, agile and responsive to improve the taxpayer experience and narrow the tax gap.

In the portion of his opening message that addressed enforcement, IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig focused on listed transactions, saying, “We also continued to make important progress in our compliance programs, with a particular focus on abusive tax shelters, including syndicated conservation easements and microcaptive insurance arrangements.”

The Strategic Plan vows an increased focus on noncompliant, high-income and high-wealth taxpayers, partnerships and large corporations, which the report asserts “make up a disproportionate share of the unpaid taxes.” The IRS intends to improve efforts to collect unpaid taxes with effective deterrence and enhanced enforcement capabilities. Employees will also have access to Enterprise Case Management, which will provide agents with the full history of a taxpayer, along with other tools to prevent and address noncompliance. The IRS also wants to reduce the burden on taxpayers by decreasing the time between filing returns and compliance issue resolution. Finally, the IRS plans to improve public confidence by promoting compliance through publicizing criminal prosecutions and civil enforcement efforts.

Additionally, the IRS points to increasing efforts to proactively identify fraud schemes. Its Office of Fraud Enforcement is creating a new Virtual Currency Learning Academy for all IRS personnel—from beginners to experts—with training focused on cryptocurrencies, blockchain tracing, anti-money laundering compliance and Altcoins.

While responsibilities and workloads at the IRS have been increasing, resources to combat criminal fraud and tax evasion have been decreasing. The IRS says it must continue updating necessary tax guidance for new investments, invest in analytical approaches to improve case selection and maintain institutional knowledge of how to combat avoidance activities.

The Strategic Plan indicates that the IRS continues to navigate challenges related to insufficient funding, decreasing workforce and hiring difficulties. In response, the IRS intends to expand electronic services with online accounts and digital filing capabilities. The IRS also plans to expand resources for international taxpayers, as well as implement a Multilingual Strategy with new publications in multiple languages. Other goals include increasing outreach with enhanced social media strategies and prioritizing security while safeguarding taxpayer data.

The Strategic Plan also discusses the IRS’s aging workforce and above-average attrition rates. In response, the IRS intends to hire additional employees, enhance retention and implement a Comprehensive Training Strategy.

Finally, the IRS plans to make improvements to infrastructure, which includes reorganizing operations, upgrading and modernizing systems, accelerating cybersecurity modernization efforts from cyber threats and reducing the paper volume by using digital data more effectively.

Commissioner Rettig stated, “[w]orking toward these strategic goals with consistent multi-year funding will [...]

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DOJ and IRS’ Analysis of Crypto Records and Work with Private Experts and International Partners Leads to Arrest

US law enforcement continues to make no secret of their efforts to work closely with experts and overseas partners to prosecute those involved in virtual currency transactions who attempt to rely on its purported anonymity to commit financial crimes. Tuesday’s arrest of Roman Sterlingov, a dual citizen of Russia and Sweden and alleged operator of Bitcoin Fog, in Los Angeles is a clear case that these efforts are paying dividends. In a criminal complaint filed by the US Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia, Sterlingov is accused of laundering hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of bitcoin. According to a statement of facts accompanying the complaint filed in the District of Columbia, Sterlingov was allegedly running “an illicit bitcoin money transmitting and money laundering service.” (Case 1:21-mj-00400-RMM Document 1-1 Filed 04/26/21.) Notably, investigators from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) were able to obtain records of Sterlingov’s True Name accounts at several cryptocurrency exchanges. Investigators also analyzed bitcoin transactions, email records, financial records and internet service provider records. The investigation and arrest come at a time when the IRS, together with other enforcement agencies, are taking a hard look at cryptocurrency activity and have recently issued John Doe summonses to two virtual currency exchanges.

The collaboration with private experts and international partners is clear from the press release issued by the US Department of Justice (DOJ). In recognizing the many agencies that assisted in the investigation, the DOJ specifically stated that essential support was provided by Excygent, which is described on its website “as a highly specialized, professional services firm that assists organizations in both the public and private sectors with cybercrime investigative and analysis capabilities.” The DOJ also listed several US agencies that provided invaluable assistance and went on to include international partners: Europol, the Swedish Economic Crime Authority, the Swedish Prosecution Authority, the Swedish Police and the General Inspectorate of Romanian Police, Directorate for Combatting Organized Crime and the Directorate for Investigating Organized Crime and Terrorism. This ability to collaborate successfully will most likely serve as a blueprint for future investigations.

Practice Point: As we noted in our blog post, “Finding John Doe: IRS Steps up Enforcement Efforts to Take the Anonymity Out of Virtual Currency,” the time is now for those who have engaged in a virtual currency transaction to assess any potential tax and criminal implications, and businesses in this industry should carefully review their policies and processes to ensure that they address potential tax avoidance and anti-money laundering risks associated with their operations. The IRS is working closely with its new partners (i.e., industry experts and foreign law enforcement) to address any noncompliance. As announced recently by US President Joe Biden, he plans to give them the resources to do more on enforcement.




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