Half of Tax Returns Prepared by IRS Volunteers Completed Incorrectly
9:45 AM, Nov 7, 2013 • By JERYL BIER
A report issued in September and released this week by the IRS's Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) found continuing problems with the agency's Volunteer Program, which provides free tax preparation and electronic filing for "low- and moderate-income, elderly, disabled, and limited-English-proficient taxpayers." The report, titled "Inconsistent Adherence to Quality Requirements Continues to Affect the Accuracy of Some Tax Returns Prepared at Volunteer Sites," found errors in 19 of 39 returns prepared by volunteers. In each case, a TIGTA staffer anonymously approached a member of the Volunteer Program for assistance with one of three test scenarios developed by TIGTA for the review. The errors were the result of "incorrect application of the tax law, insufficient requests for information during the intake/interview process, or lack of adherence to quality review requirements."
The Inspector General has been tracking the performance of the IRS Volunteer Program since at least 2004. The accuracy rate steadily improved over the years, peaking at 90% in 2010, but then plummeted in 2011 and has not yet recovered, as indicated by an accuracy chart included in the report:
The TIGTA report noted that due to the small size of the test (39 returns,) the 51 percent accuracy rating could not be statistically applied to the entire Volunteer Program, a fact also cited by an IRS spokesperson in response to an inquiry from Accounting Today:
The IRS began granting matching funds to volunteer organizations in 2009. In 2013, a total of 206 organizations received $12.1 million dollars for electronic filing and for training. There were a total of 13,081 Volunteer Program sites in 2013 helping to prepare almost three million tax returns.
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