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    Subject Term: Taxonomy

    3 publications with a total of 9 open recommendations
    Director: James R. McTigue, Jr.
    Phone: (202) 512-9110

    4 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To further deter noncompliance in the Taxpayer Protection Program, the Commissioner of Internal Revenue should, in accordance with Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) e-authentication guidance, conduct an updated risk assessment to identify new or ongoing risks for TPP's online and phone authentication options, including documentation of time frames for conducting the assessment

    Agency: Department of the Treasury: Internal Revenue Service
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of March 2017, IRS is taking steps to assess the risks of TPP authentication options, as GAO recommended in its May 2016 report. In November 2016, IRS reported that it will implement the recommendation by October 2017. According to IRS, the agency assessed the e-authentication risk for the TPP web application based on OMB and NIST guidance. Based on the results of these assessments, the agency stated that officials are working to improve the level of assurance for the web application. In the interim, IRS reported that taxpayers will authenticate their identities by phone or in-person until the TPP web application has been sufficiently updated. In March 2017, officials stated that they recently completed a risk assessment for TPP's phone and in-person authentication. Additionally, according to officials, IRS has implemented a new authentication process for TPP's phone authentication that began in February 2017. GAO requested documentation on IRS's risk assessment and authentication process. Once GAO receives and reviews documentation of these actions, it will determine the extent to which IRS has implemented the recommendation. Conducting an updated risk assessment for TPP in accordance with e-authentication and risk management standards, enabled IRS to identify appropriate opportunities to strengthen TPP authentication and prevent IDT fraudsters from passing and potentially receiving millions of dollars in refunds. In addition, strengthening TPP could improve IRS's return on investment by ensuring that efforts to flag fraudulent returns result in fewer refunds paid to IDT fraudsters.
    Recommendation: To further deter noncompliance in the Taxpayer Protection Program, the Commissioner of Internal Revenue should, in accordance with OMB and NIST e-authentication guidance, implement appropriate actions to mitigate risks identified in the assessment.

    Agency: Department of the Treasury: Internal Revenue Service
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of March 2017, IRS is taking steps to assess the risks of TPP authentication options, as GAO recommended in its May 2016 report. In November 2016, IRS reported that it will implement the recommendation by October 2017. According to IRS, the agency assessed the e-authentication risk for the TPP web application based on OMB and NIST guidance. Based on the results of these assessments, the agency stated that officials are working to improve the level of assurance for the web application. In the interim, IRS reported that taxpayers will authenticate their identities by phone or in-person until the TPP web application has been sufficiently updated. In March 2017, officials stated that they recently completed a risk assessment for TPP's phone and in-person authentication. Additionally, according to officials, IRS has implemented a new authentication process for TPP's phone authentication that began in February 2017. GAO requested documentation on IRS's risk assessment and authentication process. Once GAO receives and reviews documentation of these actions, it will determine the extent to which IRS has implemented the recommendation. Conducting an updated risk assessment for TPP in accordance with e-authentication and risk management standards, enabled IRS to identify appropriate opportunities to strengthen TPP authentication and prevent IDT fraudsters from passing and potentially receiving millions of dollars in refunds. In addition, strengthening TPP could improve IRS's return on investment by ensuring that efforts to flag fraudulent returns result in fewer refunds paid to IDT fraudsters.
    Recommendation: To improve the quality of the Taxonomy's IDT refund fraud estimates, the Commissioner of Internal Revenue should remove refund thresholds from criteria used to develop IRS's refunds-paid estimates.

    Agency: Department of the Treasury: Internal Revenue Service
    Status: Open

    Comments: In August 2016, IRS reported that the agency removed the lower limit threshold from the modeling dataset in March 2016, which will expand the population of returns considered for the 2015 Filing Season Taxonomy refund fraud estimates. Further, the agency noted that, to mitigate other thresholds, other returns receive manual reviews. GAO will analyze the 2015 Filing Season Taxonomy estimates, when available, to determine the extent to which GAO's recommendation has been implemented.
    Recommendation: To improve the quality of the Taxonomy's IDT refund fraud estimates, the Commissioner of Internal Revenue should utilize return-level data--where available--to reduce overcounting and improve the quality and accuracy of the refunds-prevented estimates.

    Agency: Department of the Treasury: Internal Revenue Service
    Status: Open

    Comments: In August 2016, IRS reported that the agency did not agree with GAO's recommendation and noted that the agency does not think that adopting a different methodology for Taxonomy estimates is an effective use of agency resources. According to IRS, the agency established the Global Identity Theft Report (Global Report) as a standardized report that uses return-level data for most of the identity theft protected categories and summary data elsewhere. Further, IRS reported that the agency will continue to improve the Global Report, which will flow into the Taxonomy. However, as we reported in May 2016, by using the Global Report to calculate Taxonomy estimates for refunds prevent, IRS may have overestimated the refunds protected or recovered. For example, electronically filed returns that are rejected are overcounted because the same return can be rejected multiple times. Additionally, IRS already has a count of known and potential identity theft returns in its modeling dataset that the agency could use to help calculate the refunds protected estimates. GAO will analyze the 2015 Filing Season Taxonomy estimates, when available, to determine the extent to which GAO's recommendation has been implemented.
    Director: Mctigue Jr, James R
    Phone: (202) 512-7968

    2 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To improve the reliability of Taxonomy estimates for future filing seasons, the Commissioner of Internal Revenue should follow relevant best practices outlined in the GAO Cost Guide by documenting the underlying analysis justifying cost-influencing assumptions.

    Agency: Department of the Treasury: Internal Revenue Service
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of April 2017, IRS has taken steps to update its methodology for calculating and reporting its Taxonomy estimates. IRS provided GAO with updated Taxonomy estimates for 2015; GAO is reviewing these estimates to determine the extent to which IRS has implemented GAO's recommendation.
    Recommendation: To improve the reliability of Taxonomy estimates for future filing seasons, the Commissioner of Internal Revenue should follow relevant best practices outlined in the GAO Cost Guide by reporting the inherent imprecision and uncertainty of the estimates. For example, IRS could provide a range of values for its Taxonomy estimates.

    Agency: Department of the Treasury: Internal Revenue Service
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of April 2017, IRS has taken steps to update its methodology for calculating and reporting its Taxonomy estimates. IRS provided GAO with updated Taxonomy estimates for 2015; GAO is reviewing these estimates to determine the extent to which IRS has implemented GAO's recommendation.
    Director: James R. White
    Phone: (202) 512-9110

    3 open recommendations
    Recommendation: Congress should consider providing the Secretary of the Treasury with the regulatory authority to lower the threshold for electronic filing of W-2s from 250 returns annually to between 5 to 10 returns, as appropriate.

    Agency: Congress
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of March 2017, no legislative action identified. Lowering the threshold would help IRS prevent identity theft refund fraud by enhancing its ability to verify the employment information reported on tax returns before issuing refunds. Additionally, lowering the threshold would reduce the Social Security Administration's administrative costs of processing W-2 information.
    Recommendation: To provide timely, accurate, and actionable feedback to all relevant lead-generating third parties, the Commissioner of Internal Revenue should provide aggregated information on (1) the success of external party leads in identifying suspicious returns and (2) emerging trends (pursuant to section 6103 restrictions).

    Agency: Department of the Treasury: Internal Revenue Service
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of March 2017, IRS had taken steps to address GAO's August 2014 recommendation, including developing timeliness metrics for managing leads and holding six feedback sessions with financial institutions participating in the External Leads Program, but had not provided GAO with documentation that the agency is providing meaningful feedback to external parties. In November 2015, IRS reported that it had developed a database to track leads submitted by financial institutions and the results of those leads. IRS also stated that it had held six sessions with financial institutions to provide feedback on external leads provided to IRS. These quarterly feedback sessions contained various types of information, including overall statistics for the External Leads Program, individual statistics tailored to a specific external party, and solicitations for how to improve the program. In December 2015, IRS officials stated that the agency sent a customer satisfaction survey asking financial institutions for feedback on the external leads process and was considering other ways to provide feedback to financial institutions. In August 2016, an industry group representing financial institutions reported that IRS had not begun providing meaningful feedback to financial institutions that are providing leads to IRS. In March 2017, IRS officials told us they were holding more frequent, monthly, feedback sessions with financial institutions. GAO will follow up with financial institutions to understand the extent to which IRS's feedback has been timely and is actionable. Without accurate, timely, and actionable feedback, the more than 600 external parties participating in the External Leads Program do not know if the leads they provide to IRS are useful and they may not be able to assess their success in identifying IDT refund fraud or improve their detection tools.
    Recommendation: To provide timely, accurate, and actionable feedback to all relevant lead-generating third parties, the Commissioner of Internal Revenue should develop a set of metrics to track external leads by the submitting third party.

    Agency: Department of the Treasury: Internal Revenue Service
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of March 2017, IRS had taken steps to address GAO's August 2014 recommendation, including developing timeliness metrics for managing leads and holding six feedback sessions with financial institutions participating in the External Leads Program, but had not provided GAO with documentation that the agency is providing meaningful feedback to external parties. In November 2015, IRS reported that it had developed a database to track leads submitted by financial institutions and the results of those leads. IRS also stated that it had held six sessions with financial institutions to provide feedback on external leads provided to IRS. These quarterly feedback sessions contained various types of information, including overall statistics for the External Leads Program, individual statistics tailored to a specific external party, and solicitations for how to improve the program. In December 2015, IRS officials stated that the agency sent a customer satisfaction survey asking financial institutions for feedback on the external leads process and was considering other ways to provide feedback to financial institutions. In August 2016, an industry group representing financial institutions reported that IRS had not begun providing meaningful feedback to financial institutions that are providing leads to IRS. In March 2017, IRS officials told us they were holding more frequent, monthly, feedback sessions with financial institutions. GAO will follow up with financial institutions to understand the extent to which IRS's feedback has been timely and is actionable. Without accurate, timely, and actionable feedback, the more than 600 external parties participating in the External Leads Program do not know if the leads they provide to IRS are useful and they may not be able to assess their success in identifying IDT refund fraud or improve their detection tools.