Rich Americans shirk tax obligations as IRS collection efforts fall short, report finds

The IRS could do a better job collecting taxes owed by wealthy Americans, a watchdog report claims, since hundreds of thousands of high net worth individuals have skated by without reconciling delinquent payments.

The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) identified 685,555 taxpayers with reported adjusted gross incomes of $200,000 or more who owed a combined $38.5 billion in delinquent tax payments from tax years 2013 through 2017 as of mid-2019.

A more targeted TIGTA analysis found that a group of wealthy individuals with an average AGI of more than $1.5 million owed more than $2.4 billion. Collection efforts had a 39% success rate on the initial $4 billion balance due by the group over the 52-week period studied.

RELATED: Some shocked to learn they owe hundreds or thousands in taxes from unemployment benefits

The TIGTA noted that the IRS does not make taxpayers’ income a priority when it prioritizes cases, which could be a mistake because many of them have the ability to pay.

The IRS disagreed with many of the recommendations put forth in the report, and said in a statement attached to the report that some of the figures misrepresented their collection efforts.

"The IRS appropriately considers income levels during the prioritization process while simultaneously evaluating other data such as the size and type of liability and Collection’s business priorities," an IRS executive said. "Further, TIGTA’s recommendations do not consider the IRS’s custodial responsibility to address those compliance issues that pose the greatest risk to future non-compliance."