The numbers people, by the numbers
A statistical look at the IRS and taxes:
Get a life?
33: The percentage of Americans who like or love doing their taxes, according to a poll in April by the Pew Research Center. That includes 32 percent of Republicans and 40 percent of Democrats. More Republicans than Democrats (78 percent versus 68 percent) say it is morally wrong to underreport income to the IRS.
Odds of trouble
• 1: The approximate percentage of individual tax returns that are audited. Returns with certain red flags are much more likely to earn IRS scrutiny. The more you make, the more likely it is you’ll be audited.
• 12: The percentage of 2011 returns reporting income over $1 million that were audited.
48 cents: The average cost to the IRS of collecting $100, in 2012. Since 1980, that cost has hit a low of 39 cents in 2000 and a high of 60 cents in 1993.
• 66: The IRS score, out of 100, in a measure of employee morale by the federal Office of Personnel and Management. In a 2012 ranking of job satisfaction in 292 federal divisions, the IRS finished in 98th place.
• 76.6: The score in the Office of the Inspector General for Tax Administration, making it the 13th best place to work in government. This is the office that exposed special IRS audits of tea party and conservative groups.
• 85.7: The score of the U.S. Army Audit Agency, which topped the survey.
• 34.7: The worst score in the survey went to the Homeland Security Department’s office of the undersecretary for science and technology.
Who they are
• 97,717: The IRS workforce in 2012, down about 10,000 from 2010. Peak fulltime employment in modern times: 116,673 in 1992.
• $27,568 to $41,771: Starting salaries for revenue agents. The IRS promises new hires “an outstanding work-life balance,” “substantive and rewarding work” and “satisfaction in knowing that you’re serving your nation.”
• 3,000: The number of IRS employees who work on identity theft and refund fraud — efforts that the IRS says saved more than 3 million fraudulent refunds worth more than $20 billion from being issued in 2012.
2.7 million: The number of taxpayer math errors caught by the IRS in the 2011 tax year, way up from 1.2 million the year before.
• $2.5 trillion: Gross taxes collected in 2012 — $2.2 trillion after refunds.
• 54,000: The number of IRS audits that went swimmingly for the individual taxpayer last year, resulting in even higher refunds, altogether worth almost $1 billion. In all, 1.5 million individual returns were examined.
• 10,743: The number of returns from tax-exempt organizations audited by the IRS in the 2011 budget year. That’s roughly 1 in 8 returns. Although such groups don’t owe federal income tax, they may owe payroll, excise or other taxes.
• 2.2 billion: The number of third-party forms, from employers, banks and the like, filed to the IRS in 2012. These forms are key to tracking down income that the taxpayer doesn’t report. The IRS found enough underreported income this way to issue an additional $7.1 billion in tax assessments. Using this information, it also assessed almost $6.8 billion from people who didn’t file any return.
• 5,125: The number of criminal investigations started by the IRS in 2012 in cases involving legal income, illegal income generally and narcotics-related income specifically.
• $27 billion: Civil penalties assessed by the IRS in 2012 for delinquent taxes, serious inaccuracies, negligence, fraud and bad checks.
• 2,466: The number of people sentenced for tax crimes in 2012. Of them, 81.5 percent, or 2,009, were sentenced to prison, home confinement, electronic monitoring or a combination.
The gentler IRS
• 31 million: The number of calls to the IRS toll-free assistance line that resulted in a conversation with an actual IRS person. In addition, the assistance center handled 59 million automated calls. Also, nearly 7 million face-to-face contacts in assistance centers.
• 98,978: The number of volunteers who helped taxpayers complete returns at 13,143 IRS assistance sites.
• 3.3 million: The number of returns prepared under an IRS program using volunteers to help the elderly with their taxes.
These figures are for a mix of calendar and budget years.