8 Staggering Numbers that Demonstrate the IRS' Reach

The IRS each year puts out its IRS Data Book, a massive document that lays out just how much the government takes in, and what the IRS does to ensure Americans pay enough and get their refunds. The numbers contained inside show just how big the agency's reach is.

Tax season can be a time of enormous frustration. First, taxpayers must corral all of their disparate paperwork. Next, they have to book time with their accountant or wade through a software program.

And even after the return is sent in, uncertainty lingers. Will the Internal Revenue Service accept the return? When will the refund, if any, arrive? Even then, taxpayers who are audited could be asked to supply documents from the past 3 years, or even as far back as the last 6 years.

Thus, tax season is a big deal for taxpayers. But it’s a huge deal for the federal government.

The IRS each year puts out its IRS Data Book, a massive document that lays out just how much the government takes in, and what the IRS does to ensure Americans pay enough and get their refunds.

The 2014 version of the book covers the federal government’s 2014 fiscal year, which ran from Oct. 1, 2013 to Sept. 30, 2014. The numbers contained within the book are staggering, but while collections are up, audits actually went down, thanks largely to cuts in the IRS’ budget.

“These [budget] reductions required us to change our approach to taxpayer service and enforcement operations,” said IRS Commissioner John Koskinen; “with fewer resources, we saw decreases in the number of phone calls answered and the number of audits completed.”

Still, the IRS kept plenty busy in Fiscal Year 2014. What follows are 8 figures that help illustrate the giant footprint of the IRS.

239,875,000

That’s how many tax returns and other tax forms the IRS processed in its 2014 fiscal year. That’s actually down slightly from the previous year, when the IRS processed 240,076,000 returns.

$3,064,301,358,000

Yes, that’s $3.06 trillion, with a “T,” the total amount of taxes collected by the IRS (including business taxes, estate and income taxes, and other revenue streams). It was up from $2.9 trillion in Fiscal Year 2013.

$369,193,162,000

California alone accounted for $369 billion in tax revenue for Uncle Sam. The Golden State provides the largest share of federal funding of any state, by far. The second-place finisher, Texas, shells out $265 billion.

$4,324,613,000

At the other end of the spectrum is Vermont, which paid in a relatively paltry $4.3 billion in taxes in FY 2014, according to the Data Book.

$373,545,926,000

While American workers and businesses paid nearly $3.1 trillion into the IRS, they received $373.5 billion in refunds. The vast majority of that — $332 billion – went to individual taxpayers, rather than businesses. After refunds, the federal government kept the remaining $2.7 trillion.

1,384,365,000

The IRS audited nearly 1.4 million returns in the 2014 Fiscal Year. Most of those, 1.2 million, were individual income tax returns. Of the 1.4 million returns examined, 71% were done by correspondence, meaning less than one-third were conducted by field teams.

33,000

The number of taxpayers who officially disagreed with their field examiner’s post-audit determination. While that’s just a small sliver of the number of people audited, it translates into $14.1 billion worth of disputed taxes.

$829.5 million

To end things on a positive note: Don’t forget that sometimes audits end up benefitting the taxpayer. In FYI 2014, some 38,000 taxpayers received an additional refund as a result of an audit. Those additional funds translated into $829.5 million being returned to taxpayers.