Whistleblowers and Tax Enforcement: Using Inside Information to Close the 'Tax Gap'
Akron Tax Journal, Vol. 24, No, 1, 2009
36 Pages Posted: 19 Jul 2008 Last revised: 6 Feb 2010
Date Written: March 1, 2009
This article examines the current legal structure allowing rewards for informants who provide information to assist the IRS in the enforcement of the tax laws. IRS data suggest that informants are a cost-effective means to enhance tax enforcement. The Tax Relief and Health Care Act of 2006 introduced a separate whistleblower award program that provides more significant monetary rewards (up to 30 percent of the amount collected) and somewhat greater certainty in the payment of such rewards, including a process for judicial review of claim determinations in the Tax Court. Although informant rewards enhance tax enforcement, they also raise significant issues concerning the protection of taxpayer privacy and IRS secrecy, particularly in the context of litigation to review reward determinations. Moreover, prospects for large financial rewards without comprehensive attention to eligibility constraints may effectively induce prospective whistleblowers to breach other legal or ethical responsibilities, particularly if their identity as a whistleblower is kept secret. The article places the whistleblower award program in the broader context of tax enforcement and discusses ethical and privacy issues lurking in the whistleblower program. It argues that these issues deserve additional legislative attention.
Keywords: taxation, enforcement, ethics
JEL Classification: H26
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation