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Why the Rich Should Be Ready For IRS Scrutiny

Whoever says the rich suffer less than the rest of us hasn’t seen the most recent Internal Revenue Service audit numbers. In recent years, the agency has ramped up its scrutiny of wealthy taxpayers – especially those earning more than $500,000 annually, according to a Wall Street Journal story by Laura Saunders, who writes the Tax Report.

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Accountants and tax preparers say the heightened analysis is significantly different from the audit practices of the previous decade. While the percentage of taxpayers who were audited increased in every income category in 2010, there was much more scrutiny of the very rich. More than 18% of those with adjusted gross incomes of at least $10 million were audited in 2010, up from 10.6 in fiscal 2009.  About 11.5% of those earning $5 million to $10 million were audited in fiscal 2010 compared to about 7.5% a year earlier. In contrast, fewer than 2% of those earning between $200,000 and $500,000 and less than 1% for those earning $100,000 to $200,000 got the extra attention.

Readers, are you worried about the increased likelihood of an audit? Do more audits keep taxpayers more honest?


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    • MarioP:In answer to your qiotsuen, could you please finally explain to me how a CEO or other top hats deserve tens of millions a year for their hard work? You equated hard work and education to financial reward. How much harder are CEOs working than the blue collar class, or the citizens with a college degree already working overtime?Obviously hard work and education alone aren’t the factors that determine a salary, especially at the very top. Please educate me how Rick Wagoner of GM got $14.4M for 2007, while the company has been loosing money for years and the car maker eventually declared bankruptcy in 2009. Wagoner spent 6 years in college and has an MBA in Business, which is nothing special.Or how about United Healthcare CEO getting $102M for 2009. How hard did he work for that money? You should already know the answer to this since you are an American consumer and it should be obvious by now. CEOs of this pay level, which constitutes less than .001% of all corporate CEOs, are paid in accordance to market forces. Who ultimately determines how much these executives are paid? YOU, the American consumer/ shareholder. That’s right, MarioP, hate to burst your bubble but the responsibility for picking the CEOs and determining their pay scales lies ultimately with regular folks like us so there is no one to blame but ourselves for poor or winning choices. How? Let’s equate this with sports stars. How are the equally impressive pay scales for star ballers like LeBron James or Michael Vick determined? Not only by ball club owners (though everyone likes to think so). A multiple of factors are involved. Namely, TICKET SALES. Is that person, a draw for the team and stadium? Is that player going to FILL THE SEATS? Are they going to get people like you to buy tickets (and all the related stuff like beverages and food?) Now, how is that? Because he has WORKED HARD, harder than most other folks like us, at honing his skills. While the rest of us were either spending our time studying in libraries or watching TV at home, this young man was out on the fields in his youth, in his high school days, getting pounded on the local field or playing basketball until midnight, EVERY NIGHT. These guys sacrificed everything in their youth, time with their friends and families, studying other subjects, and every other waking moment to perfect their skills. So YES, they have in essence, worked much harder than you or I to get that good. So do they deserve their pay in the tens of millions? That’s up to the rest of us. Stop buying those tickets and watch that pay (and lucrative endorsements drop). Proof: LeBron leaving Cleveland has devastated that entire team, the stadium is much less filled, and the city vendors/jobs/revenue suffer because of it. Similarly, shareholders vote in their board members and that board determines the CEOs pay. You want to watch that CEO’s contract not get renewed? Don’t buy their products (like GM), sales drop, shareholders are pissed, CEOs get blamed, change CEO. So the next time you fill out your 401k or pension fund’s board member voting form, now you know how you directly share in the responsibility for decision that overpays (in your opinion) these people.

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About The Tax Blog

  • The Tax Blog brings together a team of award-winning tax journalists from the Dow Jones network and around the web to examine the tax issues, changes and legislation that affect families, investors and small business owners. Our contributors include Tax Report columnist Laura Saunders (WSJ), Tax Guy columnist Bill Bischoff and senior reporter Jilian Mincer (SmartMoney.com), retirement-focused reporter Anne Tergesen (WSJ), wealth management writer Arden Dale (Dow Jones Newswires), TaxWatch columnist Eva Rosenberg and personal finance reporter Andrea Coombes (MarketWatch), and reporter Alyssa Abkowitz (SmartMoney). They’ll provide the latest news and insight, mine the tax code for tips and loopholes, and answer your questions about tricky tax situations. Contact the The Tax Blog with ideas, suggestions or tax questions at thetaxblog@dowjones.com.