The American system of government depends upon most taxpayers being willing
to file and pay taxes. While the process is not completely voluntary, a
large majority of Americans demonstrate good citizenship and civic spirit
by complying with the tax laws.
Each year, the IRS publishes a fact sheet on taxpayer compliance. In
FS-2019-11 and IR-2019-159 the Service explained the level of compliance
and the "tax gap" caused by taxpayers who do not comply.
IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig noted, "Maintaining the highest possible
voluntary compliance rate also helps ensure that taxpayers believe our
system is fair. The vast majority of taxpayers strive to pay what they owe
on time. Those who do not pay their fair share ultimately shift the tax
burden to those people who properly meet their tax obligations. The IRS
will continue to direct our resources to help educate taxpayers about the
tax requirements under the law while also focusing on pursuing those who
skirt their responsibilities."
The report covers years 2011, 2012 and 2013. Taxpayers generally
complied with filing and payment requirements. About 83% of taxpayers filed and paid
taxes on time. Another 2% paid after the normal due date. Those paying late often
made payments after contact with an IRS representative.
The "tax gap" is still a large number. The average amount owed by the 15%
of taxpayers who were not in compliance was $381 billion per year for 2011
There are several reasons for the tax gap. Some taxpayers do not file
returns on time. Others fail to report the correct amount of income. The
underreporting is often by sole proprietors, partnerships and business
Commissioner Rettig concluded, "Voluntary compliance is the bedrock of our
tax system, and it's important it is holding steady. Tax gap estimates
help policy makers and the IRS in identifying where noncompliance is most
prevalent. The results also underscore that both solid taxpayer service and
effective enforcement are needed for the best possible tax administration."