Today the IRS Whistleblower Office released their Annual Report to Congress for Fiscal Year 2015. According to the report, which has been substantially made-over in both appearance and content, the total amount of awards paid in fiscal 2015 was $103,486,677 before sequester’s 7.3% reduction. That number is impressive when compared to fiscal years 2014 and 2013 which were approximately $52 million and $54 million respectively. Based on that information, the award amount paid out in 2015 is almost double what it was for the year prior. As should be expected, more award payouts comes with more amounts collected by the IRS. According to Table 1 of the report the IRS collected over $501 million which was up from 2014’s $309 million collected. In even more good news for whistleblowers, awards paid as a percentage of amounts collected was 20.6% – the highest it has been in three years with 2014 and 2013 paying out 16.9% and 15.7% respectively. While 2015 was a welcomed increase in award payouts from prior years, 2016 could be even better. According to Table 2 of the report, there are 176 section 7623(b) claims currently in Preliminary Award Evaluation, a number which is up from the 11 reported in 2014’s annual report.
The report for 2015 is updated both in presentation and content. For example, this year’s report contains a “Message from the Director” as an introduction and summary of the year’s results which is a departure from the report’s historically rigid “Executive Summary.” The Message from the Director piece also includes a picture of Director Lee D. Martin set off beside the article-style recap of notable 2015 numbers, explanation of improvements (including the new style for the annual report), and calls for Congressional action. Even the cover of the annual report, which typically is just font on a blank page, incorporates a stars and stripes design below the title of the report.
The report also significantly changed the way data is shown by now reporting data for the preceding three years on a fiscal cycle. The new data reporting measure will make year to year comparisons easier and more reliable. Typically, past annual reports included an “Appendices” section that was made up of six or so tables that showed data in a simple chart format. This year’s report forewent the “Appendices” in favor of tables and figures under the heading of “Fiscal Year 2015 Whistleblower Program Statistical Results.” Although the data shown in this year’s report overlaps the data provided in past reports, this year’s report simplifies the way data is shown by using bar graphs to depict certain data and consolidating information within certain tables such as the “Status of Open Section 7623(a) & 7623(b) Claims” in this year’s Table 2 as compared to 2014’s Table 4. Another noteworthy addition to this year’s report is the “Glossary” found at the end of the report which provides definitions of terms and phrases used throughout the report such as “Intake/Classification,” “Final Review,” and “Interim Award Assessment.”
This year’s report noted that over half of the rejected claims are rejected because the allegations made in the submission are “not specific, credible, or are speculative in nature.” This ties in with part of the Message from the Director which stated that although the IRS gets thousands of submissions each year, many of them are not actionable because the submission itself is not specific or credible. This fact highlights the importance of submitting whistleblower submissions to the IRS that are factually detailed and include on point and concise legal analysis that conveys credibility.