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June 24, 2014
Wyden and Hatch Ask GAO to Look Into IRS Whistleblower Program
by Lindsey McPherson

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Concerned that the IRS whistleblower program does not process awards in a timely fashion, Senate Finance Committee leaders are asking the Government Accountability Office to look into the IRS processes and resources devoted to administering the program, according to a letter a Senate aide shared with Tax Analysts.
In the June 20 letter to GAO Comptroller General Gene L. Dodaro, Finance Committee Chair Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and ranking minority member Orrin G. Hatch, R-Utah, said a faster awards process may give potential whistleblowers an incentive to come forward with information about tax noncompliance. The senators cite a 2011 GAO report that said whistleblower cases take years to process.

Since the 2011 GAO report, the IRS has taken steps to improve management of the whistleblower program, Wyden and Hatch said in the letter, but they still have several questions.

Wyden and Hatch asked the GAO to find out how much time it takes the IRS Whistleblower Office to review and develop cases before they are sent to the operating division for examination, what that review process is, and how the IRS prioritizes whistleblower cases after referral. They also asked the GAO to determine whether the IRS devotes "adequate analytic and clerical resources" to processing whistleblower submissions (Form 211, "Application for Award for Original Information"), whether the Whistleblower Office continues to track cases after they are sent to the Criminal Investigation and operating divisions, and what criteria the IRS uses to make award payments.

The IRS already collects millions from hundreds of whistleblower tips -- $367 million in 2013 and $592 million in 2012 -- but Wyden and Hatch believe the program could collect more. Wyden and Hatch asked the GAO to provide the committee with periodic briefings as it investigates the questions outlined in their letter.

Follow Lindsey McPherson (@lindsemcpherson) on Twitter for real-time updates.

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