Tax Compliance: Some Hurricanes Katrina and Rita Disaster Assistance Recipients Have Unpaid Federal Taxes.
GAO-08-101R November 16, 2007
Since February 2004, we have issued a series of reports detailing how some organizations and individuals, including defense, civilian agency, and General Services Administration The General Services Administration (GSA) was established by section 101 of the Federal Property and Administrative Services Act of 1949 (40 U.S.C.A. § 751). The GSA sets policy for and manages government property and records. (GSA (1) (Global mobile Suppliers Association, Sawbridgeworth, U.K., www.gsacom.com) A membership organization of suppliers of GSM products and services. Its goal is to promote GSM as the worldwide mobile communications standard. See GSM Association and GSM. ) contractors; tax-exempt (not-for-profit) organizations; and Medicare physicians, abused the federal tax system at the same time they were doing business with or receiving benefits from the federal government. While we performed this work it came to our attention that some organizations and individuals that were recipients of federal grants and other direct assistance were also abusing the tax system. Thus, Congress asked us to perform additional work and report specifically on organizations and individuals that abuse the federal tax system at the same time they receive federal grants or other similar types of federal assistance, known as direct payments for specified use (direct assistance) programs. Based on Congressional request, we completed a forensic audit and related investigations of unpaid federal taxes owed by recipients of the Federal Emergency Management Agency's (FEMA) Individuals and Households Program (IHP) following hurricanes Katrina and Rita. IHP is a federal direct assistance program authorized by the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act The Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act (Stafford Act) (Public Law 100-707) is a United States federal law designed to bring an orderly and systemic means of federal natural disaster assistance for state and local governments in carrying out their (Stafford Act), as amended by the Disaster Mitigation Act of 2000. We conducted our audit of IHP concurrently with our broader audit of federal grant and direct assistance recipients that have unpaid federal taxes, which Congress also requested. We will be reporting the results of that work separately. The specific objectives of our work were to (1) determine, to the extent practical, the estimated magnitude of federal taxes owed by individuals receiving IHP disaster assistance benefit payments following hurricanes Katrina and Rita and (2) provide illustrative examples of abusive or criminal activity related to the federal tax system by IHP recipients with unpaid federal taxes.
While about 95 percent of all IHP recipients of disaster relief assistance following hurricanes Katrina and Rita paid their federal taxes, tens of thousands owed federal taxes at the time of the disaster. We identified about 80,000 of the 1.5 million individuals (about 5 percent) who received disaster assistance benefits for hurricanes Katrina and Rita and owed over $700 million combined in unpaid federal taxes prior to those hurricanes. However, our estimates of the taxes owed by these recipients is understated in that we did not include amounts owed by individuals who have not filed tax returns or who have failed to report the full amount of taxes due (referred to as nonfilers and underreporters) and for whom IRS An abbreviation for the Internal Revenue Service, a federal agency charged with the responsibility of administering and enforcing internal revenue laws. has not determined that specific tax debts are owed. FEMA officials stated that they do not screen disaster applicants for tax debts. FEMA officials stated that there is no law or regulation that requires FEMA to screen IHP applicants prior to providing disaster assistance. The five IHP recipients with which we chose to illustrate abusive and criminal activity related to the federal tax system had tax debts ranging from about $400,000 to over $2 million. Our investigation found that a number of these individuals had a history of failing to file tax returns for several years prior to the hurricane disasters. We also found instances in which IHP recipients attempted to transfer property to avoid IRS seizure. For example, one IHP recipient in the oil and gas industry forged a third party's signature to illegally transfer land. Another IHP recipient, a lawyer, transferred a large quantity of stock to a family member while IRS was taking collection actions against the lawyer. We received written comments on a draft of this report from the Department of Homeland Security Noun 1. Department of Homeland Security - the federal department that administers all matters relating to homeland security
executive department - a federal department in the executive branch of the government of the United States (DHS DHS Department of Homeland Security (USA)
DHS Department of Human Services
DHS Department of Health Services
DHS Demographic and Health Surveys
DHS Dirhams (Morocco national currency) ). In its written comments, DHS stated that FEMA's administration of disaster assistance programs to victims of hurricanes Katrina and Rita with tax liabilities was consistent with federal law and policy. As recognized in our draft report, DHS is not required to screen applicants for tax debts. We have reprinted DHS's written comments in their entirety in the enclosure. In addition, IRS and DHS provided technical comments on the draft report, which we incorporated as appropriate.
Categories: Tax Policy and Administration, Audits, Delinquent taxes, Federal aid to states, Federal funds Federal Funds
Funds deposited to regional Federal Reserve Banks by commercial banks, including funds in excess of reserve requirements.
These non-interest bearing deposits are lent out at the Fed funds rate to other banks unable to meet overnight reserve , Federal grants, Federal taxes, Housing programs, Hurricane Katrina, Hurricane Rita, Payments, Tax evasion The process whereby a person, through commission of Fraud, unlawfully pays less tax than the law mandates.
Tax evasion is a criminal offense under federal and state statutes. A person who is convicted is subject to a prison sentence, a fine, or both. , Tax law, Tax nonpayment, Tax violations, Individuals and Households Program