Tuesday, July 25, 2006
In I.R.S. to Cut Tax Auditors (July 23, 2006), New York Times journalist David Cay Johnston reported that the federal government is planning to eliminate nearly half of its estate tax attorneys.
The administration plans to cut the jobs of 157 of the agency's 345 estate tax lawyers, plus 17 support personnel, in less than 70 days. Kevin Brown, an I.R.S. deputy commissioner, confirmed the cuts after The New York Times was given internal documents by people inside the I.R.S. who oppose them.
The Bush administration has passed measures that reduce the number of Americans who are subject to the estate tax which opponents refer to as the "death tax” but has failed in its efforts to eliminate the tax entirely. Mr. Brown said in a telephone interview Friday that he had ordered the staff cuts because far fewer people were obliged to pay estate taxes under President Bush's legislation.
Estate tax lawyers are the most productive tax law enforcement personnel at the I.R.S., according to Mr. Brown. For each hour they work, they find an average of $2,200 of taxes that people owe the government.
Mr. Brown said that careful analysis showed that the I.R.S. was auditing enough returns to catch cheats and that 10 percent of the estate audits brought in 80 percent of the additional taxes. He said that auditing a greater percentage of gift and estate tax returns would not be worthwhile because the next case is not a lucrative case and likely to be of relatively little value.
Special thanks to Prof. Joel C. Dobris of the University of California-- Davis for bringing this article to my attention.