HomeFAQsIRS / Tax FraudWhat is an IRS Whistleblower?

What is an IRS Whistleblower?

The IRS Whistleblower Program is one of the strongest anti-fraud award programs available to whistleblowers who report tax evasion and fraud. Congress required the IRS to establish the IRS Whistleblower Office to pay rewards to whistleblowers who report specific and credible information to the IRS and if the information results in the collection of taxes, penalties, interest or other amounts from the non-compliant taxpayer. Below is a brief overview of the IRS Whistleblower Program, along with some important information about rewards, protections, and other crucial steps you can take if you’ve witnessed fraud.

IRS Whistleblower Rewards

There are several qualifications needed to become an IRS whistleblower. There are also other requirements that IRS whistleblowers must meet in order to become eligible for financial rewards.

Like other qui tam whistleblower laws, 26 USC 7623 of the IRS tax whistleblower law offers payouts ranging from 15 to 30 percent of the amount recovered if the penalties, taxes, and interest collected exceed a certain threshold. In this case, they must exceed $2 million.

If the IRS whistleblower case deals with an individual, his or her annual gross income must be more than $200,000.
If the IRS whistleblower disagrees with the outcome of their case, they can begin an appeals process in Tax Court.

Claimants who do not meet the $2 million threshold or do not have cases involving individuals with annual gross incomes of $200,000 or more can still qualify for awards. The whistleblower rewards through this program are less, with a maximum award of 15% of the sanctions collected, up to $10 million. In these cases, the IRS whistleblower cannot appeal the decision in Tax Court.

Once an IRS whistleblower claim is filed, the Whistleblower Office will examine the case and decide if the claim is worth pursuing. The entire process, which includes the time from the submission of the whistleblower claim and the collection of the proceeds, can take several years. The payment of whistleblower awards cannot be made until the IRS has collected all of the taxes, penalties, and interest.

How do you file an IRS Whistleblower Claim?

In order to qualify for an IRS whistleblower award under 26 USC 7623, claimants must submit an IRS Form 211 (application for Award for Original Information). It is important for IRS whistleblowers to completely fill out the Form 211 and not withhold any information. If available information is withheld, the whistleblower risks the chance that important evidence isn’t considered in the award determination.

With the Form 211, the IRS whistleblower should provide any supplemental documents or evidence that may help the IRS in their investigation. If the documents or supplemental information are not in the whistleblower’s possession, the whistleblower should describe the evidence and the location of the evidence to the best of their ability.

In some cases, the IRS Whistleblower Office will reduce the amount awarded to the claimant.

  • Rewards must be reduced up to 10% in cases based principally on disclosure of specific allegations resulting from:
  • Judicial or administrative hearings,
  • From a governmental report, hearing, audit or investigation,
  • Or from the news media.
  • An appropriate reduction if the whistleblower “planned and initiated” the non-compliance.

It is important to seek legal advice from an experienced whistleblower law firm when you are filing an IRS award claim or providing information to the IRS. They will review your case and find out if you will be eligible for a financial award based on the IRS Program and existing tax laws.

Protecting Confidentiality

The best way for whistleblowers to protect themselves from retaliation is to remain completely anonymous and confidential throughout the entire whistleblowing process. While anonymous filings are not permitted by the IRS Whistleblower Program, the IRS is required to protect the confidentiality of the claimant to the fullest extent of the law.

The IRS Whistleblower Program does not contain an anti-retaliation provision. However, IRS whistleblowers may use certain state and federal laws to protect themselves from retaliation.

Latest from Our Blog

  • September 15, 2022

    Whistleblower attorneys Stephen M. Kohn and Dean Zerbe are pleased to announce that a joint client – who wishes to remain anonymous – received an IRS whistleblower award of $16.8 million.  The whistleblower provided the IRS with information that led to an enforcement action against 86 high-wealth individuals who had engaged in a sophisticated illegal tax evasion scheme.  The enforcement action resulted in nearly $70 million dollars being returned to the U.S. Treasury. “On behalf of our client and ourselves, we very much want to thank the new Director of the IRS Whistleblower Office, Mr. John Hinman, for this award for our client,” said Stephen M. Kohn, founding partner of the whistleblower law firm Kohn, Kohn and Colapinto.  “A particular special thanks to Ms. Peggi Bockman of the Whistleblower Office for her hard and dedicated work on this award – and also thanks very much to Ms. Dawn Applebaum whose constant leadership and commitment to the IRS whistleblower program has been invaluable.  Thanks also to the IRS examiners and CI agents who recognized the benefit of the whistleblower’s information.  Finally, Dean and I are honored to represent  the whistleblower, who showed great courage and conviction in coming forward and speaking out against this tax fraud.” “This award underscores the enormous importance of the IRS whistleblower program in assisting the IRS in successfully bringing action against very wealthy individuals who are seeking to evade taxes,” said Dean ...

  • August 26, 2022

    On July 19, the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit issued a ruling in Montgomery v. Internal Revenue Serv., a case concerning the Internal Revenue Service’s (IRS) handling of Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests for information about whistleblower disclosures. The Court upheld the right of the IRS to withhold any information that might reveal the existence of a whistleblower due to the role IRS whistleblowers play as confidential sources to help enforce tax laws. Additionally, the Court noted that whistleblowers can be subject to retaliation from “revenge-seeking” FOIA requesters who have been audited by the IRS. In the early 2000s, husband and wife Thomas and Beth Montgomery allegedly undertook a fraudulent tax scheme using sham partnerships as tax shelters to artificially report business losses of over $1 billion on individual tax returns. The IRS eventually discovered the scheme, disallowed the reported losses in adjustments, and recovered back taxes from the couple. Following a settlement which resolved the tax issues, the Montgomery’s sought to uncover how their alleged tax schemes were discovered by the IRS. They submitted to the IRS a series of FOIA requests aimed at uncovering a suspected whistleblower. Five of the FOIA requests submitted by the Montgomerys requested the IRS to produce whistleblower forms, such as award payments. The IRS denied the five FOIA requests for whistleblower documents based on FOIA Exemption 7(D) which ...

  • July 26, 2022

    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 ...

Frequently Asked Questions

Whistleblowers must submit an IRS Form 211 (application for Award for Original Information), which should contain in-depth information about a criminal tax scheme, or the non-criminal underpayment of taxes. If information is withheld, the whistleblower may risk the chance that important evidence isn’t considered in the award determination stage. Whistleblowers are only eligible to file an IRS reward claim if potential recoveries exceed $2 million, and if the IRS whistleblower case deals with an individual, his or her annual gross income must be more than $200,000.

To qualify for a whistleblower award, the fraud being reported must exceed $2 million. If the IRS whistleblower claim deals with an individual, their annual gross income must be more than $200,000. If a reward from the IRS fails to recognize the whistleblower’s claim, the whistleblower has the right to appeal the reward amount to the US Tax Court.

Whistleblowers who report criminal tax schemes or the non-criminal underpayment of taxes may be eligible to receive between 15 and 30 percent of the amount recovered if the penalties, taxes, and interest collected exceed a certain threshold.