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December 1, 2022

David Barnes

National Research Program Tax Return Selection Process for Tax Years 2017 and 2019

WASHINGTON — A new report released today by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) found that the IRS randomly selected Tax Years 2017 and 2019 tax returns for National Research Program (NRP) audits.  

TIGTA’s review found that key decisions and information related to the tax return selection processes for Tax Years 2017 and 2019 were determined prior to the start of each year’s respective filing season and prior to the selection of any tax returns. TIGTA also confirmed that the computer programs used to select the tax returns worked as designed and did not include malicious code that would force the selection of specific taxpayers for an NRP audit. The IRS conducts NRP audits to collect compliance data for different types of taxes and various sets of taxpayers.  

In July 2022, a media outlet reported that the Internal Revenue Service’s (IRS) process to select specific taxpayers for the Tax Years 2017 and 2019 NRP audits may not have been random. At the request of the Commissioner of Internal Revenue and representatives from Congress, TIGTA’s Office of Inspections and Evaluations, initiated a review to determine if the IRS randomly selected individual income tax returns for Tax Years 2017 and 2019 NRP audits.

“Tax compliance and confidence in the fairness of the tax system could decline if taxpayers believe that the IRS targets specific taxpayers for NRP audits for inappropriate purposes,” Inspector General J. Russell George stated.

According to TIGTA’s review, former Commissioner Charles Rettig told TIGTA that he was not involved in any of the NRP sample selections. The Commissioner further stated that he had no conversations with the current or prior presidential administration relative to the NRP and never directed anyone in the IRS to add any specific taxpayers or remove any specific taxpayers from NRP samples. Key IRS officials involved in the NRP stated that neither the Commissioner nor any other IRS management official directed them to include specific taxpayers in the population selected for either Tax Year 2017 or 2019 NRP audits.

Read the report.