If there was ever a question whether IRS Commissioner, John Koskinen, believed in the IRS Whistleblower Program, that question was answered affirmatively in his remarks before the Taxpayers Against Fraud Education Fund. At one point, Koskinen even referred to the information provided by whistleblowers as “a godsend.” The remarks, given September 15th in Washington D.C., focused on IRS support of the whistleblower program and, of course, budget concerns.
Notably, Koskinen acknowledged concerns about the pace of whistleblower award payouts and said that he expects the pace of awards to pick up in the coming year. To back up that prediction, Koskinen pointed to his decision to increase staffing for the whistleblower program by more than 70 percent even in the face of tight budget constraints. Moreover, Koskinen said that the additional 31 employees will “help us continue implementing the 2006 law and working to increase the pace of award payouts.” Added to this, Koskinen said that the delegation order issued in August, which allows smaller awards to be approved by a senior manager in the whistleblower office, should help pick up the pace of award payouts because everything doesn’t have to flow through to the Director’s office.
Koskinen also praised the IRS Whistleblower Office and Director Steve Whitlock for paying out over $186 million in awards and collecting more than $1 billion based on whistleblower information over the last three fiscal years. Professing his support for the program, Koskinen said:
“By helping the IRS improve tax compliance, the whistleblower program also helps to ensure the integrity and fairness of our tax system.”
He also noted that while being a whistleblower is not always supported in our society, “if people are cheating on their taxes, it is a public service to let us know.”
Understandably, Koskinen closed his remarks by voicing his concern over the decreased IRS budget he has to work with. The House passed legislation that would reduce the IRS budget by more than $1 billion below 2014’s budget, forcing the IRS to make “extremely difficult choices on both services and enforcement.” Specifically, Koskinen said that if the House’s budget were enacted, the IRS would face “a very serious shortfall in personnel, in taxpayer services, in enforcement, and in information technology.” That shortfall makes the assistance of tax whistleblowers that much more important to successful enforcement actions. Tax Partner, Scott Knott’s comments on Comissioner Koskinen’s speech appear in a recent Tax Analysts article in which he emphasizes that whistleblower information is key to efficient IRS enforcement as supported by data in a TIGTA study.