TIGTA Finds High Error Rate on Returns Filed by Volunteer Preparers
The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) today publicly released its sixth annual review of the Internal Revenue Service's (IRS) Volunteer Income Tax Assistance and Tax Counseling for the Elderly programs.
The volunteer programs provide no-cost Federal tax return preparation and electronic filing services to low and moderate-income taxpayers, the elderly, the disabled and those who have limited English proficiency.
TIGTA auditors anonymously visited volunteer sites around the country to test the accuracy of tax returns prepared by volunteers. TIGTA found that the accuracy rate of tax returns prepared during the 2009 filing season by volunteers trained by the IRS was lower than last year's accuracy rate. While 59 percent of the tax returns prepared for TIGTA by volunteers were accurately prepared, 41 percent were prepared inaccurately.
"In order to properly serve taxpayers who qualify for free tax return preparation programs, the IRS must ensure that volunteer tax return preparers are properly trained," commented J. Russell George, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration.
TIGTA recommended that the IRS: analyze the accuracy of returns prepared at individual volunteer sites to identify patterns and concerns on which to focus education, training and accountability; improve the intake sheet (used at the start of the return preparing process and containing numerous questions about key return information) filled out by taxpayers to include questions based on new tax laws and filing status; and improve the reviews of intake sheets and returns completed at volunteer sites.
In its response to TIGTA's review, the IRS agreed with most of TIGTA's recommendations but did not agree to analyze accuracy trends at each volunteer site, claiming that it lacks the resources to conduct additional reviews.