By: Michael Mechanic | Mother Jones
At first I figured the Republicans would be all over this. I guess I figured wrong.
I’m referring to the bombshell working paper that made headlines earlier this week, in which a team of academic and Treasury Department economists found that the IRS audits Black taxpayers at roughly three to five times the rate of non-Black taxpayers.
The authors, whose findings were based on an anonymized 2014 dataset consisting of more than 148 million tax returns and 780,000 audits, write that the disparities seem to be driven largely by racial differences in audit rates among taxpayers claiming the Earned Income Tax Credit.”
The IRS has long scrutinized claimants of the EITC and certain other refundable tax credits at higher-than-average rates, regardless of race, in part because they are low-hanging fruit. The credit—aimed at low- to moderate-income taxpayers—is often claimed in error, and such audits are a cheap and easy by-mail job for a chronically underfunded tax agency.
Even among those claimants, the study found, Black taxpayers, who accounted for an estimated 21 percent of EITC filers, were selected for 43 percent of the audits. Now, IRS staffers don’t sit around deciding whom to audit—the selection is algorithmic and nominally race-blind. But the agency’s secret sauce somehow produced results that are far from colorblind.
Read the full article here.