|Formed||February 2, 2007|
|Jurisdiction||Federal government of the United States|
|Headquarters||Washington, D.C. at the Internal Revenue Service Building|
|This article is part of a series on|
|Taxation in the
United States of America
|United States portal|
The IRS Whistleblower Office is a branch of the United States Internal Revenue Service that will "process tips received from individuals, who spot tax problems in their workplace, while conducting day-to-day personal business or anywhere else they may be encountered." Tipsters should use IRS Form 211 to make a claim.
History and operations
The program has existed since the 1800s in various forms and is intended to uncover companies and individuals who are underpaying their taxes or otherwise committing tax fraud. To motivate people to notify the IRS of first-hand knowledge of tax-evasion schemes, the U.S. Congress directed the IRS to pay tipsters at least 15% and as much as 30% of taxes, penalties, and interest collected in cases where $2 million or more is at stake.
2006 Amendments Establishing the Whistleblower Office
Section 406 of the Tax Relief and Health Care Act of 2006 and Section 7623(b) of the Internal Revenue Code formally amended the IRS Whistleblower program. Under the amendments passed in 2006, a new set of rules and frameworks were established in order to evaluate informant submissions and to improve the efficiency of the program generally. The amended law also required the creation of the Whistleblower Office within 12 months. The Office lies within the IRS and is charged with administering the new framework and handling potential incoming whistleblower claims. President George W. Bush signed the act on December 20, 2006. U.S. Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA), chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, modeled the act creating the Office and its reward system after the False Claims Act, which allows people to file actions against federal contractors committing fraud against the US government. For fiscal year 2006, the Justice Department reported that over $3 billion was collected directly as a result of Whistleblower claims and resulting lawsuits.
While the Whistleblower Office has the power to assign investigation to other offices within the IRS, it mainly works jointly with other branches within the IRS to investigate claims. The changes to the program through the 2006 amendments were meant to encourage insiders to “blow the whistle on people who are not paying their taxes,” in order to close the tax gap and assist the IRS in collecting additional tax revenue. As part of the amendments, Congress created an office within the IRS to handle claims under the IRS Whistleblower program. Part of that act requires the Secretary of the Treasury to conduct annual studies explaining the way in which Section 7623 is used and the results under the program. According to this data, the IRS was able to recover almost $1.2 billion through the program between 2006 and 2010.This increase in collection is credited to the changes in the program from the 2006 amendments. Fiscal year 2011 marked the first payments from the 2006 Amendments and “most of the awards paid during [fiscal year] 2014 resulted from claims under the prior law.”
On February 2, 2007, the IRS named Stephen A. Whitlock as Director of the new Whistleblower Office.
In 2008, $65 billion in unreported income was alleged by tipsters.
On June 7, 2012, the IRS issued more guidance covering whistleblowers and their representatives.
According to John McDougal, speaking on his own behalf, at an American Bar Association Section of Taxation webcast, "whistleblower data is the second most important source of information for the IRS's international enforcement efforts." According to McDougal, the primary source of information is through the offshore voluntary disclosure initiative.
Section 7623(b) Awards
The IRS requires an informant to fulfill several requirements in order to qualify for an award under Section 7623(b). The IRS mandates that for an informant to be eligible for an award, he or she must provide information that “relate[s] to a tax noncompliance matter in which the tax, penalties, interest, additions to tax, and additional amounts in dispute exceed $2,000,000” and “relate[s] to a taxpayer, and for individual taxpayers only, one whose gross income exceeds $200,000 for at least one of the tax years in question.” This information must also “substantially contribute to an administrative or judicial action that results in the collection of tax, penalties, interest, additions to tax, or additional amounts.” An informant is not eligible for an award unless the information he or she provides results in IRS administrative or judicial action. Upon meeting these requirements, the IRS will pay the informant fifteen to thirty percent of proceeds collected as a result of the administrative, judicial actions, or other related actions.
The US Internal Revenue Service treats payments made to a whistleblower under the False Claims Act as ordinary income and not as capital gains. The IRS's position was challenged by a relator in a case called Alderson, v. United States, and, in 2001, the circuit court upheld the IRS' stance. As of 2013[update], this remains the only circuit court decision on tax treatment of these payments. The IRS has reported that the percent awarded declines for cases based on information disclosed in public sources or if the whistleblower participated in part or all of the tax noncompliance or underpayment. The amendments allow whistleblowers to appeal award determinations made by the Whistleblower Office to the U.S. Tax Court.
Lee Martin, August 3, 2015 – Present
Stephen A. Whitlock, February 2, 2007 - August 3, 2015
In its 2013 Annual Report, the IRS stated that it paid $53 million in awards to 122 whistleblowers for information which led to the recovery of $367 million in unpaid taxes.
As of July 16, 2012, in 2012 fiscal year, the Whistleblower Office has approved over 90 awards.
In September 2012, the IRS Whistleblower Office awarded Bradley Birkenfeld $104 million as a whistleblower for providing information about more than $5 billion in unpaid taxes from banks and individuals.
In October 2012, IRS Whistleblower Office awarded $38,037,899 to one corporate whistleblower but "the amount of tax the IRS collected from the company was not revealed" and "name of the company" was not revealed.
In October 2012, the Whistleblower Office awarded a "$2 million reward to a whistleblower who exposed an alleged tax avoidance scheme by Illinois Tool Works, Inc. (ITW) that cost the U.S. Treasury hundreds of millions of dollars".
|Amounts Collected and Awards Paid under IRC section 7623 FY 2008-2012 (as of 9/30/2012)|
|Collections over $2,000,000||8||5||9||4||12|
|Total Amount of Awards Paid||$22,370,756||$5,851,608||$18,746,327||$8,008,430||$125,355,799|
|Awards paid as a percentage of amounts collected||14.3%||2.8%||4.0%||16.7%||21.2%|
In popular culture
Oversight of Whistleblower Office
The Whistleblower Executive Board is composed of:
- Director of the Whistleblower Office, chairperson
- Assistant Deputy Commissioner for Services and Enforcement, member
- Deputy Commissioners of the Large Business and International (LB&I) Division, member
- Deputy Commissioner and the Small Business/Self-Employed (SB/SE) Division, member
- Deputy Chief of Criminal Investigation, member
- Division Counsel for LB&I, member
- Division Counsel for SB/SE, member
The Whistleblower Operations Committee is composed of:
- Program Manager, Case Development of the Whistleblower Office, chairperson
- its members include senior managers from:
- SB/SE, and
- the Whistleblower Office and Criminal Investigation.
- Stephen U. McCloskey, Jr. (July 7, 2015). "Whistleblower Office FY 2014 Annual Report Released, What Did We Learn?". Retrieved 24 July 2015.
- "Whistleblower Office At-a-Glance". IRS. 5 April 2013. Retrieved 22 November 2013.
- Scott A. Knott (2 June 2015). "Whistleblower 21276-13W v. Commissioner of Internal Revenue, 144 T.C. No. 15". Retrieved 24 July 2015.
- Novack, Janet; William P. Barrett (2009-12-14). "Tax Informants Are On The Loose". Forbes.
- The Associated Press (Posted 6/19/2004 11:55 AM Updated 6/19/2004 11:59 AM). "Feds hope whistle-blowers can knock out tax shelters". USA Today. Retrieved 17 May 2014. Check date values in:
- "Whistleblower Office FY 2014 Report" (PDF).
- Ashlin Aldinger, A Race to the IRS: Are Snitches and Criminals the New Business Model?” Houston Law Review (2014) at 925-26
- "Whistleblower Office FY 2014 Report page 2" (PDF).
- "T.D. 9580 - Rewards and Awards for Information Relating to Violations of Internal Revenue Laws". US Internal Revenue Service. Retrieved 2012-07-19.
- WHITLOCK, STEPHEN. "MEMORANDUM FOR DISTRIBUTION FOR WHISTLEBLOWER OFFICE EMPLOYEES" (PDF). US Internal Revenue Service. Retrieved 2012-07-19.
- "Updates to Internal Revenue Manual (IRM) 25.2.2 Information and Whistleblower Awards, Whistleblower Awards" (PDF). US Internal Revenue Service. Retrieved 2012-08-15.
- Arora, Jaime. "WHISTLEBLOWER TIPS A BIG HELP IN IRS'S INTERNATIONAL CRIMINAL ENFORCEMENT-2012 TNT 159-1". Tax Analysts Tax Notes Today.
- "Whistleblower Office FY 2014 Report page 3" (PDF).
- Robert W. Wood and Dashiell C. Shapiro Blowing the Whistle on Taxing Whistleblower Recoveries Tax Notes, December 2, 2013. pp. 983-988
- "Whistleblower Office FY 2014 Report page 3" (PDF).
- Erica L. Brady (July 23, 2015). "New Leadership for the IRS Whistleblower Office.". Retrieved 24 July 2015.
- "IRS Announces Stephen A. Whitlock will oversee Office of Professional Responsibility". National Society of Accountants (NSA). 23 July 2015. Retrieved 24 July 2015.
- Brown, Howard. "$53 Million Paid to Whistleblowers in 2013".
- Temple-, Patrick (September 11, 2012). "U.S. IRS awards $104 million to UBS tax case whistleblower". Reuters. Retrieved September 11, 2012.
- Coder, Jeremiah (September 2012). "IRS PAYS BIRKENFELD $ 104 MILLION WHISTLEBLOWER AWARD. (Section 7623 -- Expenses of Detecting Frauds)". Tax Notes Today. 2012 TNT 177-1 (177).
- Sheppard, Lee A. (September 12, 2012). "NEWS ANALYSIS: SWISS BANKING DEROBED: INTERNATIONAL IMPLICATIONS OF BIRKENFELD". Tax Notes Today. 2012 TNT 177-2 (2012 TNT 177-2).
- Tax Analysts (October 2012). "2012 TNT 209-51 LAW FIRM ANNOUNCES $ 38 MILLION REWARD TO TAX WHISTLEBLOWER. (Section 7623 -- Expenses of Detecting Frauds) (Release Date: OCTOBER 26, 2012) (Doc 2012-22264)". Tax Notes Today. 2012 TNT 209-51 (2012 TNT 209-51).
- 2012 TNT 194-22 LAW FIRM ANNOUNCES $ 2 MILLION REWARD TO TAX WHISTLEBLOWER. (Section 7623 -- Expenses of Detecting Frauds) (Release Date: OCTOBER 04, 2012)
- Temple-, Patrick (October 4, 2012). "Tax whistleblower gets $2 million IRS award: lawyer". Reuters.
- Mandell, Mordy (June 20, 2012). "TAX HUMOR: IRS WHISTLEBLOWER RAP". Tax Notes Today - 2012 TNT 129-4.
- Shulman, Douglas. "IRS RESPONDS TO GRASSLEY'S WHISTLEBLOWER PROGRAM CONCERNS - 2012 TNT 147-29 - Letter from Douglas Shulman to Charles E. Grassley dated July 16, 2012". Tax Analysts Tax Notes Today.