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October 2, 2008

Robert Sperling
(202) 622-6500

TIGTA Releases Review of the IRS Private Debt Collection Program Procedures

The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) today publicly released its annual review of the accuracy of tax returns prepared at Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) Program sites.

The VITA Program provides no-cost Federal tax return preparation and electronic filing services to approximately 2 million low- and moderate-income taxpayers. Since TIGTA's first assessment after the 2004 Filing Season, accuracy rates for returns prepared at volunteer sites have increased from 0 percent to 69 percent. The 2008 Filing Season review also found improvements to the oversight of the volunteer program.

Posing as taxpayers, TIGTA auditors had tax returns prepared by volunteers at VITA sites and Tax Counseling for the Elderly Sites sponsored by the American Association of Retired Persons. Of the 36 tax returns prepared during the course of the audit, 11 returns (31 percent) were prepared incorrectly. TIGTA also found inconsistencies among volunteer preparers in executing required procedures including performing quality assurance reviews to ensure the accuracy of tax returns before filing.

"While accuracy rates for tax returns prepared by these volunteers have improved, it is troubling that nearly one-third are incorrect. They must do better," said J. Russell George, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration.

TIGTA recommended that the IRS improve documentation of its reviews of VITA sites, require volunteer applicants to disclose any criminal convictions, and require sites to document whether they offer Refund Anticipation Loans.