New IRS Criminal Investigation Chief: Five Areas of Focus

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By Alison Bennett

IRS Chief of Criminal Investigation Don Fort said his office is planning to take aim at international tax wrongdoing in a more targeted way, and to create a new national enforcement plan.

Fort said those are two of the five areas of focus he envisions as he takes charge of a division with a critical role in hunting down tax crimes.

That role, he said Sept. 15 at the American Bar Association tax section meeting in Austin, Texas, is one that supports the Internal Revenue Service’s efforts to boost tax compliance and makes committing tax crime tougher.

He said a new international tax enforcement group is going to start operations in about a month, to intensify the agency’s pursuit of illegal cross-border activities. “It’s designed to bring together a lot of expertise,” Fort said, noting that CI has had “many discussions” with the Department of Justice in crafting the group.

Global Issues

The CI chief didn’t provide specific details of the global issues the group will pursue, but reiterated that it is a top priority. “We’re spending a lot of time on international,” he told Bloomberg BNA.

He noted during his speech that CI agents have developed tremendous expertise in the international area through their efforts to stop global schemes to steal U.S. taxpayers’ identities. “We follow the money,” he said.

Another new approach Fort is developing, he said, is putting together a national investigative enforcement group, designed to provide overarching pursuit of significant issues all over the country. This unique approach is intended to offer perspective on tax crimes nationwide, he told practitioners.

“This unit is designed to ensure that we have broad coverage across the board,” he said.

Traditional Tax Enforcement

A third priority will be traditional tax enforcement, which focuses on employment tax issues, international tax crime, non-filing, and unreported income, among other topics. That focus won’t change, and is measured by the number of cases agents can recommend to the DOJ for prosecution, Fort said.

A fourth area of focus is analyzing data that is now pouring in from many IRS initiatives, he said. That data could be extremely useful in helping CI agents develop cases, Fort added. CI has “some very smart people” focusing on this.

The CI chief said in the fifth area, agents will be sharply focusing on the emerging threat of virtual currency and cryptocurrency, saying some CI agents are regarded as “the world’s experts” on this issue.

To contact the reporter on this story: Alison Bennett in Austin, Texas, at abennett@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Meg Shreve at mshreve@bna.com

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