John Hinman, Director, IRS Whistleblower Office highlighted the importance of whistleblower information in identifying noncompliance and reducing the tax gap in an executive column published by the IRS. Each year, the IRS receives thousands of award claims from individuals who identify taxpayers who may not be abiding by U.S. tax laws. The IRS Whistleblower Office ensures that award claims are reviewed by the appropriate IRS business unit, determines whether an award should be paid and the percentage of any award and ensures that approved awards are paid. The IRS has paid over $1.05 billion in over 2,500 awards to whistleblowers since 2007.
Further, Hinman stated that according to the IRS’s Large Business and International (LB&I) division, whistleblowers have provided invaluable insights into violations perpetuated by large corporations, wealthy individuals and their planners. Further, since the inception of the Whistleblower Office, information from whistleblowers has resulted in over 900 criminal tax cases. Hinman stated that individuals can file a Form 211, Application for Award for Original Information, to be considered for an award. Specific, credible and timely claims are most likely to be accepted for additional consideration and referred to one of IRS’s operating divisions. A subject matter expert may contact the whistleblower to ensure the IRS fully understands the information submitted. The IRS will notify whistleblowers when a case for which they provided information is referred for audit or examination.
Further, Hinman noted that the IRS takes the protection of whistleblower identity very seriously. The IRS prevents the disclosure of a whistleblower’s identity, and even the fact that they have provided information, to the maximum extent that the law allows. Additionally, whistleblowers are protected from retaliation by their employers under a law passed in 2019. Finally, Hinman noted that going forward, the Whistleblower Office team will continue to make improvements to this important program, raise awareness about the program for potential whistleblowers and look for ways to gain internal efficiencies to move cases forward as quickly as possible.