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IRS Urged To Improve Card Payment Reporting

by Mike Godfrey,, Washington

24 August 2011

A report by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) has found that, unless the United States Internal Revenue Service (IRS) improves its plan to implement the merchant card reporting requirements of the Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008, additional problems could be created both for it and for taxpayers.

TIGTA's review was initiated to assess the IRS's current plan to control and schedule the implementation of the merchant card reporting law as intended by Congress. The new law was designed to assist the IRS in matching income from sales paid with credit or debit cards to income claimed on tax returns.

The law requires that payment settlement entities (generally banks and other organizations with contractual obligations to make payments to merchants for credit and debit card sales) report merchant card and third-party payments to the IRS on Form 1099-K. Implementation of this new requirement will obviously add millions of additional information reporting documents to IRS computer systems.

However, TIGTA found that the IRS's redesigned Tax Year 2011 income tax forms may not facilitate a direct match between sales reported on Forms 1099-K and amounts reported on tax returns.

The law requires payment settlement entities to withhold a percentage of gross receipts (called ‘backup withholding’) on those merchants who do not ultimately provide a valid Taxpayer Identification Number and name that match IRS records. Because of the increased volume of Forms 1099-K resulting from merchant card reporting requirements, there is a risk that mismatches might not be resolved timely before backup withholding becomes mandatory.

TIGTA found that the IRS's risk assessment and implementation plan did not contain adequate details regarding these risks as well as appropriate contingencies. It also found that the IRS did not properly account for funds appropriated for merchant card reporting implementation during the project's initial stages.

"We found that improvements must be made if this effort is to function as intended, which is to help reduce the Tax Gap," said J. Russell George, the TIGTA. "Based on our findings, the IRS immediately made adjustments to one tax form and is reviewing the other affected forms to make similar improvements."

TAGS: compliance | tax | business | tax compliance | law | financial services | Internal Revenue Service (IRS) | United States | services

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