Thursday, December 18, 2014
GAO: IRS Needs to Strengthen its Oversight of Charities
Government Accountability Office, Better Compliance Indicators and Data, and More Collaboration with State Regulators Would Strengthen Oversight of Charitable Organizations (GAO-15-164):
IRS oversight of charitable organizations helps to ensure they abide by the purposes that justify their tax exemption and protects the sector from potential abuses and loss of confidence by the donor community. In recent years, reductions in IRS's budget have raised concerns about the adequacy of IRS oversight.
GAO was asked to review IRS oversight of charitable organizations. In this report, GAO (1) describes the charitable organization sector, (2) describes IRS oversight activities, (3) determines how IRS assesses its oversight efforts, and (4) determines how IRS collaborates with state charity regulators and U.S. Attorneys to identify and prosecute organizations suspected of engaging in fraudulent (or other criminal) activity.
GAO reviewed and analyzed IRS data, strategic planning and performance documents, and documented improvement efforts. We also interviewed IRS and Department of Justice officials, state charity regulators, and subject matter specialists. GAO compared IRS's practices to federal guidance on performance management.
GAO recommends IRS 1) develop compliance goals and additional performance measures that can be used to assess the impact of enforcement activities on compliance and 2) clearly communicate with state charity regulators how they are allowed to use IRS information related to examinations of charitable organizations. GAO also recommends that Congress consider expanding the mandate for 501(c)(3) organizations to electronically file their tax returns to cover a greater share of filed returns. In written comments, IRS agreed with GAO's recommendations.