On July 21, John Hinman, the recently appointed director of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Whistleblower Office, wrote a lengthy post for the IRS website’s “A Closer Look” series detailing the Whistleblower Office. The post outlines the IRS whistleblower process and highlights the importance of the program in the IRS’s enforcement efforts.
Leading whistleblower attorney Stephen M. Kohn of Kohn, Kohn & Colapinto described the posting as “a breath of fresh air for the IRS Whistleblower Program.” He noted that previous information about the whistleblower program on the IRS site was less clear.
“The IRS uses increasingly sophisticated data analytics and other methods to detect non-compliance with tax laws, but we can’t find it all by ourselves,” Hinman notes at the beginning of his posting. “We need help from whistleblowers – people with firsthand knowledge of non-compliance who are willing to share what they know with us so we can investigate it when warranted.”
Hinman then goes on to further highlight the success of the whistleblower program. He states that “the information provided by [whistleblowers] led to the successful collection of over $6.39 billion from non-compliant taxpayers,” and that “information from whistleblowers has resulted in over 900 criminal tax cases ranging from a licensed medical physician who underreported income to a large multi-national financial institution and its U.S. taxpayer clients who hid assets overseas.”
The next section of Hinman’s posting covers the process of blowing the whistle to the IRS and qualifying for a whistleblower award. Individuals with information on tax non-compliance must file a Form 211 in order to be eligible for a whistleblower award. Hinman notes that the IRS seeks information which is “specific, credible, and timely.” Hinman also highlights the IRS’s commitment to protecting the identity of whistleblowers. “We protect against the disclosure of a whistleblower’s identity, and even the fact that they have provided information, to the maximum extent that the law allows,” he writes.
“Going forward, the Whistleblower Office team will continue to make improvements to this important program,” Hinman states in the posting’s conclusion. “We will be looking to find ways to raise awareness about the program for potential whistleblowers as well as continue to look for ways to gain internal efficiencies to move cases forward as quickly as possible.”