Tax Compliance: Thousands of Organizations Exempt from Federal Income Tax Owe Nearly $1 Billion in Payroll and Other Taxes

GAO-07-563 Published: Jun 29, 2007. Publicly Released: Jul 24, 2007.
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As of September 2006, nearly 1.8 million entities were recognized as tax exempt organizations by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). As such, they do not have to pay federal income taxes. Exempt organizations are still required to remit amounts withheld from employees' wages for federal income tax, Social Security and Medicare, as well as other taxes. Previous GAO work identified numerous government contractors, Medicare providers, and charities participating in the Combined Federal Campaign (CFC) with billions in unpaid federal taxes. To follow up on the CFC work, the subcommittee requested that GAO determine whether and to what extent (1) exempt organizations have unpaid federal taxes, including payroll taxes; (2) selected case study organizations and their executives are involved in abusive or potentially criminal activity; and (3) exempt organizations with unpaid federal taxes received direct grants from certain federal agencies. GAO reviewed unpaid taxes and exempt organization data from IRS and selected 25 case studies for audit and investigation. GAO also reviewed data from 3 major grant disbursement systems. GAO referred all 25 cases to IRS for collection activity and criminal investigation, if warranted. In its oral comments on a draft of this report, IRS noted several actions it is taking to enhance exempt organizations' tax compliance.

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