TAX ADMINISTRATION Trends in the Growth and Age of IRS’ Accounts Receivable ?b 111 lllllll II11 ll 142046 GAo/GGI)-!~o- I 1 1 vs ._. _-.-.- ._.. _..^ “-^. ..-““.l”.l _... “-* ..__.l”ll..C---.--.~~.--~I.“_---”-- *- / .-.-----_-- ._----__ United States GAO General Accounting Office Washington, D.C. 20648 General Government Division B-240593 July 30, 1990 The Honorable J.J. Pickle Chairman, Subcommittee on Oversight Committee on Ways and Means House of Representatives Dear Mr. Chairman: This fact sheet, one of a series of documents responding to your request of March 28, 1990, describes trends in the growth and age of the Internal Revenue Service’s (IRS) year-end accounts receivable balances for fiscal years 1986 through 1989. Trends in growth and age are useful indicators for monitoring accounts receivable. Our analyses were limited to accounts receivable in IRS’ Individual Master File (IMF) and Business Master File (BMF) because IRS databases on the composition and aging of accounts receivable only include information from these two master files.1 The IMF and BMF accounts receivable we are reporting on amount to $66 billion, which is over 85 percent of IRS’ total $65.7 billion assessed accounts receivable at the end of fiscal year 1989.2 IRS has limited management information on its accounts receivable inventory, but in 1988 it began developing a new accounts receivable management information system. As part of this effort, IRS has devel- oped initial databases on accounts receivable that contain detailed infor- mation on the collection status and age of receivables. Using these new databases for fiscal years 1988 and 1989, and earlier IRS reports for fiscal years 1986 and 1987, we developed the information in this fact sheet to assist you in monitoring IRS’ accounts receivable. The dollar value of the combined IMF and BMF accounts receivable has Results in Brief grown by $13.6 billion, or 32 percent, between the ends of fiscal years 1986 and 1989. Most of this growth occurred in IMF accounts, which accounted for two-thirds of the dollar growth and three-fourths of the ‘Detailed composition and aging information was not available for accounts on the Individual Retire- ment Account file and nonmaster file, which represent less than 6 percent of the total accounts receivable dollar inventory. During fiscal year 1987, IRS transferred a portion of the nonmaster file accounts-certain penalties-to the IMF. These penalties were about 10 percent of the accounts receivable at the end of fiscal year 1989. For consistency, we have eliminated these accounts from IMF information used in this report unless otherwise stated. “In addition to the assessedamounts, IRS accounts receivable at the end of fiscal year 1989 included about $20.4 billion in accrued interest and penalties. Because IRS does not have accrued interest and penalty information for fiscal years 1986 and 1987 and we want to compare yearend amounts, we do not include interest and penalties in any of the amounts in this report. Page 1 GAO/GGD9@1llFS Trends in IRS’ Accounta Receivable B-240593 growth in the number of accounts. Over 60 percent of the total dollar growth was in accounts where IRS had suspended collection action due to such factors as disputes over the taxpayers’ liability, taxpayer bank- ruptcy, or IRS’ inability to locate or obtain payment from the taxpayers. At the end of fiscal year 1989, $30.8 billion, or 55 percent, of the total IMF and BMF accounts were over 1 year old, compared with $19.6 billion, or 46 percent, at the end of fiscal year 1986. The dollar value of accounts over 1 year old grew 66 percent since 1986, which exceeded the 32-percent overall growth in accounts receivable during this period. Most of the growth in the number and dollar value of accounts receiv- able over 1 year old occurred in IMF accounts. About $6.3 billion, or over 11 percent, of the 1989 accounts were over 5 years old. IRS’process for collecting accounts receivable has three stages. In the Background first stage, a service center attempts to collect unpaid taxes by sending a series of notices, or bills, to the taxpayer. Accounts not collected or resolved as a result of these notices are classified as “Taxpayer Delin- quent Accounts” (TDA) and are generally sent to IRS’ Automated Collec- tion System (Acs)-the second collection stage. At this stage, IRS employees attempt to contact the delinquent taxpayer by telephone to arrange payment. TDAS not collected or resolved during the ACS stage are sent to revenue officers in IRS district offices for face to face contacts. During any stage of the collection process, IRS may suspend collection action for a number of reasons, such as the amount is below a predeter- mined dollar level and, in IRS’ opinion, does not warrant extensive collec- tion efforts; the taxpayer is in bankruptcy; or IRS has determined that the taxpayer is currently unable to pay, cannot be located, has died, or, in the case of a corporation, no longer exists. In addition, collection action is suspended while IRS tries to resolve disputed amounts. For this fact sheet, accounts are categorized as “active”--Ins is trying to collect or establish a payment plan for the amount owed, the taxpayer and IRS have agreed on an installment payment plan, or the taxpayer is paying over the period of time allowed by 1aw3-or “inactive”-collec- tion efforts have been suspended. :lThese accounts are primarily for estate and highway use taxes when the taxpayer has elected-as provided in the Internal Revenue Code-to pay in installments. These accounts only appear in the RMF and are considered under 1 year old. Page 2 GAO/GGD-90-11 IF’S Trends in IRS’ Accounts Receivable -s B-240593 The potential collectibility of the accounts receivable is directly related to the age of the accounts. It is generally accepted in the business com- munity that as accounts become older, they are harder to collect. According to IRS, this also holds true for taxes. Generally, after 6 years these tax debts become uncollectible when the collection statute of limi- tation expires. The objective of this assignment was to develop trend information on Objective, Scope,and the growth and age of IRS’ accounts receivable. To do this, we obtained Methodology information from IRS’ new accounts receivable databases-which started with the end of fiscal year 1988 data-and other IRS sources on the number and dollar value of accounts receivable in the IMF and BMF by collection status at the end of fiscal years 1986 through 1989. We did not analyze accounts on IRS’ Individual Retirement Account file or its’ nonmaster file because detailed composition and aging information was not available. We chose 1986 as our base year for analyses because com- parable IRS information was not available for prior years. We did not verify the accuracy of IRS’ data. Our trend analyses are based on the dollar value of accounts receivable assessed by IRS at the end of fiscal years 1986 through 1989 and do not include accrued interest and penalties. IRS did not begin reporting accrued interest and penalties until fiscal year 1989 and only has accrued interest and penalty information for accounts receivable bal- ances at the end of fiscal years 1988 and 1989. Therefore, for compara- bility, we have excluded interest and penalties from all amounts. A major change in the composition of the IMF accounts receivable occurred during fiscal year 1987 when IRS transferred amounts resulting from the assessment of loo-percent penalties4 from the nonmaster file to the IMF. These loo-percent penalty cases accounted for $5.9 billion, $6.6 billion, and $6.8 billion of the combined unadjusted IMF and BMF accounts receivable at the end of fiscal years 1987 through 1989, respectively. In order to be comparable to fiscal year 1986, we have adjusted our data to remove these penalties from subsequent years’ IMF amounts unless otherwise stated. 41RSassessesthe loo-percent penalty against corporate officers or other responsible officials who were willfully responsible for the business not withholding or not paying over employment taxes that had been withheld from employees. The amount of the penalty is equal to the amount of withheld but unpaid taxes or the amount that should have been withheld. IRS can assessthe penalty against one or more of the responsible officials. Page 3 GAO/GGD-90-11 IF’S Trends in IRS’ Accounts Receivable For fiscal years 1988 and 1989, IRS began developing more detailed information on the age of accounts.However, for fiscal years 1986 and 1987, IRS grouped accounts into a number of categoriesunder 1 year old, but grouped all accountsover 1 year old into one category. Therefore, when making comparisons,we have grouped accountsinto two age cate- gories-under 1 year and over 1 year. We did not attempt to determine the specific reasonsfor the trends we identified in the growth and age of the accounts receivable inventory. We did our work from March 1990 to July 1990 in accordancewith gen- erally acceptedgovernment auditing standards. We discussedthe infor- mation in this fact sheet with appropriate IRS officials, who agreed with the facts presented. As arranged with the Subcommittee,we are sending copiesof this fact sheet Eothe Commissionerof Internal Revenueand other interested par- ties. We will make copies available to others upon request. The major contributors to this fact sheet are listed in appendix II. Please contact me on 272-7904 if you or your staff have any questions con- cerning this fact sheet. Sincerely yours, Paul L. Posner Associate Director, Tax Policy and Administration Issues Page 4 GAO/GGD-99-11lFS Trends in IRS’ Accounta Receivable Page 6 GAO/GGD-BO-111FS ‘hen& in IRS’ Accounts Receivable Contents Letter 1 Appendix I 8 Growth and Aging of Accounts Receivable Growth Trends Have Not Been Equal Among Categories 8 IRS’ Accounts IRS Accounts Receivable Are Getting Older 10 Receivable Appendix II 14 Major Contributors to This Report Tables Table I. 1: Growth in the Dollar Value of IMF and BMF 9 Accounts Receivable, by Collection Status, From Fiscal Year 1986 to 1989 Table 1.2: Growth in the Number of IMF and BMF 9 Accounts Receivable, by Collection Status, From Fiscal Year 1986 to 1989 Table 1.3: Growth in the Dollar Value of IMF and BMF 11 Accounts Receivable Over 1 Year Old, by Collection Status, From Fiscal Year 1986 to 1989 Table 1.4: Growth in the Number of IMF and BMF 11 Accounts Receivable Over 1 Year Old, by Collection Status, From Fiscal Year 1986 to 1989 Table 1.5: Age of the Fiscal Year 1989 IMF and BMF 11 Accounts Receivable Ending Inventory in Dollars and as Percent of Total IMF and BMF Figures Figure I. 1: Dollar Value Growth of Active and Inactive 8 IMF and BMF Accounts Receivable Since Fiscal Year 1986 Figure 1.2: Percent of Dollar Growth in IMF, BMF, and 10 Combined IMF and BMF Accounts Receivable Since Fiscal Year 1986 Figure 1.3: Percent Growth in Total Number of IMF and 12 BMF Accounts Receivable and Number of Accounts Over 1 Year Old Since Fiscal Year 1986 Page 6 GAO/GGDWl 11Fs Trends in IRS’ Accounts Receivable Contents Figure 1.4: Percent Growth in Total Dollar Value of IMF 13 and BMF Accounts Receivable and Dollar Value of Accounts Over 1 Year Old Since Fiscal Year 1986 Abbreviations ACS Automated Collection System BMF Business Master File IMF Individual Master File IRS Internal Revenue Service TDA Taxpayer Delinquent Account Page 7 GAO/GGD99-1llFS Trends in IRS’ Accounts Receivable Appendix I Growth and Aging of IRS’ Accounts Receivable Trends in growth and age are useful indicators for monitoring accounts receivable. Increasing trends in specific categories of accounts can help identify areas that need attention. These indicators, however, do not necessarily point out problems; they only identify issues for which fur- ther information is needed to determine the reasons for trends. The dollar value of accounts receivable in the IMF and BMF increased by Accounts Receivable $13.6 billion, or almost 32 percent, in the 3 years ending September 30, Growth Trends Have 1989. The number of accounts increased by 2.7 million, or about 22 per- Not Been Equal cent, during the same period. Among Categories As shown in figure I.1 and tables 1.1 and 1.2, the overall growth has not been equally distributed between the IMF and BMF nor between active and inactive accounts. and lnactlve IMF and BMF Account6 14 Bllllons of Dollars Receivable Since Fiscal Year 1986 12 Aotlvs Inactive Total Accounts Accounts Accounts Collsctlon Status 1 1 BMF IMF Total IMF and BMF Page 8 GAO/GGKHO-1 1 IFS Trends in IRS’ Accounta Receivable APPendlx I GowthandAglnrjofwS’ Accounta Fteceivable Table 1.1:Growth in the Dollar Value ot IMF and BMF Accounts Receivable, by Collection Status, From Fiscal Year 1966 to 1969 Dollars in billions IMF BMF Total’ Collection statu8 1966 1969 Change’ 1966 1969 Change0 1966 1969 Change0 Active --~- $9.8 $15.7 $5.9 $16.6 $16.1 ($0.5) $26.4 $31.8 $5.4 Inactive --- 5.6 8.8 3.2 10.4 15.4 5.0 16.1 24.2 8.2 Totel’ $15.5 924.5 89.1 627.0 631.5 $4.5 $42.5 656.0 $13.6 aNumbers do not add or subtract because of rounding Table 1.2:Qrowth In the Number of IMF and BMF Accounts Receivable. bv Collection Status. From Fiscal Year 1966 to 1969 Numbers --_I in millions IMF BMF TotaP Collection --- status 1966 1969 Change0 1966 1969 Change’ 1966 1989 Change” Active 4.1 5.7 1.6 2.6 3.0 0.4 6.7 8.7 2.0 inactive ----~~ 2.4 2.9 0.5 3.1 3.3 0.2 5.5 6.2 0.7 TotaP 6.5 6.6 2.1 5.7 6.3 0.6 12.2 14.9 2l;f aNumbers do not add or subtract because of rounding Accounts receivable due from individuals accounted for two-thirds of the dollar growth in IMF and BMF combined, and three-fourths of the growth in the number of accounts. The dollar value of inactive accounts in total increased more than the dollar value of active accounts, while the number of active accounts in total increased more than the number of inactive accounts. However, the dollar value and number of active individual accounts grew more in the 3 years ending September 30, 1989, than the dollar value and number of accounts in any other category. In addition, the dollar value and number of IMF accounts grew at a faster rate than the dollar value and number of BMF accounts. Figure I.2 shows the dollar growth rate in IMF and BMF accounts. Page 9 GAO/GGD4WlllFS Trends in IR!3’ Accounta Receivable Appendix I Growth and Aging of IRS’ Accounts Receivable Figure 1.2: Percent of Dollar Wowth in IMF, BMF, and Combined IMF and BMF Accounts Receivable Since Fiscal Year 80 Percent Increase 1966 65 SO 45 40 35 30 25 20 15 10 5 0 1988 1987 lQ88 1989 Fiscal Year - IMFaccountsreceivable I I I I Total IMFand BMF accountsreceivable m BMFaccountsreceivable The number and dollar value of accounts receivable over 1 year old has IRS Accounts increased since the end of fiscal year 1986. On a dollar value basis, the ReceivableAre Getting f’isca 1year 1989 accounts over 1 year old were 55 percent of the Older accounts receivable inventory as compared with 46 percent at the end of fiscal year 1986. The dollar value of accounts receivable over 1 year old has increased by $11.2 billion to $30.8 billion between fiscal years 1986 and 1989-a growth of 57 percent- compared with the 32 percent growth of all accounts receivable. The total number of IMF and BMF accounts over 1 year old has increased by 1.8 million accounts to 8.1 million between fiscal years 1986 and 1989-a growth rate of 29 percent. Most of the growth in the number and dollar value of accounts receiv- able over 1 year old occurred in the IMF accounts. However, in terms of categories, the largest portion of the dollar growth is accounted for by increases in inactive business accounts while the largest portion of the growth in number is accounted for by increases in active individual accounts. Tables I.3 and I.4 show the growth in the dollar value and Page 10 GAO/XI%90-l 11Fs Trends in JRS’ Accounts Receivable Appendix I Growth and A&ng of IRS’ Accounts Receivable number of IMF and BMF accounts over 1 year old between fiscal years 1986 and 1989. Table 1.3:Growth In the Dollar Value of IMF and BMF Accounts Receivable Over 1 Year Old, by Collection Status, From Fiscal Year 1988 to 1989 Dollars _ in billions Collection status Act,“e. ~. 1986 ._-..- . -__--__ 1989 Changea 1986 1989 Changea 1986 1989 Changea $3.3 $6.5 $3.2 $3.6 $3.7 $0.1 $6.9 $10.2 -- $3.1 lr&$e ,-. .“I . 4.8 -----.- .-~ .--~- .-.--~------- 7.6 2.8 8.0 -13.0 5.0 12.7 20.6 7.8 Total’ $8.0 $14.1 $6.1 $11.6 $16.7 $5.1 $19.6 $30.8 $11.2 aNumbers do not add or subtract because of rounding. Table 1.4:Growth in the Number of IMF and BMF Accounts Receivable Over 1 Year Old, by Collection Status, From Fiscal Year 1986 to 1969 Numbers_ in millions ..-.- .. ..-..... --.- -- IMF BMF TotaP Collection .-. statue 1986 .-.--.--.1989 Changea 1986 1989 Changea 1986 1989 Changea Active ._ ‘- ~~ 0.9 1.7 0.8 0.6 0.9 0.3 1.5 2.6 1.1 Inactive 2 o --.---~.~~--.--o, 5 2.7 3.0 0.2 4.7 5.4 0.7 Tot& 2.9 4.2 1.3 3.3 3.9 0.5 6.2 8.1 1.8 aNumbers do not add or subtract because of rounding As table I.5 shows, at the end of fiscal year 1989,55 percent of the total IMF and BMF accounts were over 1 year old and 11 percent were over 5 years old. Table 1.5:Age of the Fiscal Year 1989 IMF and BMF Accounts Receivable Ending Inventory in Dollars and as Percent of Total IMF and BMF Dollars in blllions -- -c 1 --.------..- ..--.-. year l-2 years - 2-3 years 3-4 years 4-5 years > 5 years --~-- TotaP IMF dollar amount $10.4 $4.5 $3.1 $2.4 $1.6 $2.5 $24.5 IMF percentan& ~‘~ 42 18 13 IO 7 Id- 100 BMF dollar amount .. _ _._ ..__.-._____-. .-~-- $3.5 $2.6 $2.3 $3.8 ___-.-- $31.5 f3MF oercentaae 11 8 7 12 99 -.--... .----._ -........_....-- - . -.._ Total dollar . amount” . . - -_...~~---. $25.3 _--...-_- ____-- $8.9 $6.6 $5.0 $4.0 $6.3 $56.0 .__ Total percentaae 45 16 12 9 7 11 100 aNumbers do not add or subtract because of rounding. Page 11 GAO/GGDSO-111Fs Trends in IRS Accounts Receivable Appendix I Growth and Aging of IRS’ Accounts Receivable As shown in figures I.3 and 1.4, the growth rate for accounts receivable over 1 year old has been greater than the growth rate for the combined IMF (including loo-percent penalties) and BMF accounts receivable since fiscal year 1986-both in terms of the number of accounts and their dollar value. Figure 1.3: Percent Growth in Total Number of IMF and BMF Accounts 35 Percent Change Receivable and Number of Accounts Over 1 Year Old Since Fiscal Year 1986 30 25 20 15 10 ICI..L---- .m-- 4-0 ** *- 5 ..*- ** +.‘c- *- 0 v- 1955 1957 1955 1939 Fiscal Year - Numberof accountsover 1 year old ---I Total numberof IMFand BMFaccounts Note: The information on this figure includes loo-percent penalties. Although the percentages would be lower without the loo-percent penalties, the relationship and slant of the lines would remain the same. Page 12 GAO/GGD-90.11lFS Trends in IRS’ Accounta Receivable ” Appendix I Growth and Aging of IRS’ Accounta Receivable 0 Figure 1.4: Percent drowth in Total Dollar Value of IMF and BMF Accounts ,Receivabie and Dollar Value of Accounts ” Porc*ntChange Over 1 Year Old Since Ficrcal Year 1986 Bo 70 YS 60 50 40 30 20 10 0 la55 1987 1988 1333 Fiscal Year - Dollaramountof accounu)over 1 year old ---- Total dollaramount of IMF and BMF accounts Note: The information on this figure includes loo-percent penalties. Although the percentages would be lower without the loo-percent penalties, the relationship and slant of the lines would remain the same. Page 13 GAO/GGINO-1llFs Trends in IRS’ Accounts Receivable Appendix II Major Cmtributorq to This Report Cornelia M. Blanchette, Assistant Director, Tax Policy and General Government Administration Issues Division, Charles G. Kilian, Assignment Manager Washington, D.C. Thomas D. Venezia, Regional Management Representative Chicago Regional Neal H. Gottlieb, Evaluator-in-Charge Office Timothy F. Hannegan, Site Senior Gail F. Marnik, Evaluator John Zarem, Computer Programmer Analyst (268443) Page 14 GAO/GGD-90-1llFS Trends in IRS’ Accounts Receivable OI’ficial Husiwss I Permit No. GlOO
Tax Administration: Trends in the Growth and Age of IRS' Accounts Receivable
Published by the Government Accountability Office on 1990-07-30.
Below is a raw (and likely hideous) rendition of the original report. (PDF)