Tax refunds and tax fraud are increasing

Portrait of the 1773 "Boston Tea Party"

Getting around taxes has been an American pastime since the 1773 Boston Tea Party. Image from Wikimedia Commons.

The amount of the average tax refund has been steadily increasing over the years, and so is the number of cases of tax fraud. The Internal Revenue Service has seen a rise in the number of fraudulent deductions taken on income tax returns. More people are trying to catch the government napping to scare up some extra cash.

Internal Revenue Service not amused with crazy deductions

Most Americans hate taxes, and finding ways to hoodwink, trick and blatantly lie to the tax man is practically a national pastime. The number of fraudulent tax returns, according to CNN, has skyrocketed since last year. The Internal Revenue Service received 335,341 tax returns that falsely claimed nearly $1.9 billion in deductions. That figure was a 181 percent increase over the number of similar returns last year, when the IRS received 119,484 returns that incorrectly claimed deductions totaling $721 million. However, not all of these returns were brazen acts of fraud, and the term “fraud” can be somewhat misleading.

False deductions aim to claim more money

The Internal Revenue Service investigated 230 people for questionable returns for Fiscal Year 2008 and 504 people for Fiscal Year 2010, according to the Internal Revenue Service website. In 2008, only 155 recommendations to prosecute were made and 301 were made in 2010. Those figures only include cases of bad deductions. The IRS made 1,507 recommendations for prosecution in total during 2010, according to USA Today. The reason people submit bad deductions on tax forms is simple — more deductions means more money. The average tax refund, according to the Wall Street Journal, was $3,003 for 2010, almost double the $1,698 average tax refund in 1999. The number of bad deductions in 2008 compared to 2010 suggests people are trying to claim greater deductions during lean years.

Houses, cars and kids most common bad deductions

The most common falsely or mistakenly taken deductions were for real estate, motor vehicles or children. The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration released a report that asserts the most problematic deductions were the Adoption Credit, the Qualified Motor Vehicle Deduction, the Non-Business Energy Property Credit, the Plug-in Electric Drive Motor Vehicle Credit and the First Time Homebuyer Credit. The Qualified Motor Vehicle Deduction and First Time Homebuyer credits caused the most trouble; the Treasury found that 218,069 people claimed $318 million in QMV deductions, but those people would have had to put off paying any sales tax or excise tax for 2009 and 2010. The First Time Homebuyer credit, according to the Los Angeles Times, paid out an estimated $513 million to people who didn’t necessarily qualify for it. At least $326 million was credited to 47,000 people who had previously owned homes.



Internal Revenue Service enforcement statistics

USA Today

Wall Street Journal

Los Angeles Times

Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration


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