The Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation Division conducts criminal investigations regarding alleged violations of the Internal Revenue Code, the Bank Secrecy Act and various money laundering statutes. The findings of these investigations are referred to the Department of Justice for recommended prosecution.
Sources of Criminal Investigations for IRS Special Agents
Criminal Investigations can be initiated from information obtained from within the IRS when a revenue agent (auditor) or revenue officer (collection) detects possible fraud. Information is also routinely received from the public as well as from ongoing investigations underway by other law enforcement agencies or by United States Attorneys offices across the country.
Preliminary Analysis and Investigation Approvals
Special agents analyze information to determine if criminal tax fraud or some other financial crime may have occurred. Relevant information is evaluated. This preliminary process is called a “primary investigation.” The special agent's front line supervisor reviews the preliminary information and makes the determination to approve or decline the further development of the information. If the supervisor approves, approval is obtained from the head of the office, the special agent in charge, to initiate a “subject criminal investigation.” At this point, at least two layers of CI management have reviewed the ‘primary investigation' material and determined there is sufficient evidence to initiate a subject criminal investigation.
Conducting a Criminal Investigation
Once an investigation is opened, the special agent obtains the facts and evidence needed to establish the elements of criminal activity. Various investigative techniques are used to obtain evidence, including interviews of third party witnesses, conducting surveillance, executing search warrants, subpoenaing bank records, and reviewing financial data.
The special agent works closely with IRS Chief Counsel Criminal Tax Attorneys during the course of the criminal investigation. This process ensures all legal aspects of the investigation and prosecution recommendation are correctly addressed.
Prosecution Recommendations by the Special Agent
After all the evidence is gathered and analyzed, the special agent and his or her supervisor either make the determination that evidence does not substantiate criminal activity, in which case the investigation is ‘discontinued,' or the evidence is sufficient to support the recommendation of prosecution, in which case the agent proceeds with the preparation of a written report detailing the findings of violation of the law and recommending prosecution. This report is called a ‘special agent report' and it is reviewed by numerous officials, including:
1. The agent's front line supervisor, called the supervisory special agent
2. A criminal investigation quality review team, Centralized Case Review;
3. CI assistant special agent in charge
4. CI special agent in charge.
If CI determines the investigation should be criminally prosecuted, a prosecution recommendation is forwarded to:
1. The Department of Justice, Tax Division, (if it is a tax investigation) or
2. The United States Attorney for all other investigations.
Each level of review may determine that evidence does not substantiate criminal charges and the investigation should not be prosecuted.
If the Department of Justice or the United States Attorney accepts the investigation for prosecution, the IRS special agent will be asked by the prosecutors to assist in preparation for trial. However, once a special agent report is referred to for prosecution, the investigation is managed by the prosecutors.
The ultimate goal of an IRS Criminal Investigation prosecution recommendation is to obtain a conviction - either by a guilty verdict or plea. Approximately 3,000 criminal prosecutions per year provide a deterrent effect and signals to our compliant taxpayers that fraud will not be tolerated.
Criminal Investigation (CI) classifies its investigations into the following program and emphasis areas.
Abusive Return Preparer Enforcement
Return preparer fraud generally involves the orchestrated preparation and filing of false income tax returns (in either paper or electronic form) by unscrupulous preparers who may claim, for example: inflated personal or business expenses, false deductions, unallowable credits or excessive exemptions.
Abusive Tax Schemes
Abusive tax scheme originally took the structure of abusive domestic and foreign trust arrangements. However, these schemes have evolved into sophisticated arrangements that take advantage of the financial secrecy laws of some foreign jurisdictions and the availability of credit/debit cards issued from offshore financial institutions.
One of Criminal Investigation's goals in bankruptcy fraud investigations is to increase voluntary compliance with federal tax laws through the prosecution of those committing significant crimes in the bankruptcy arena. Since the IRS is often a major creditor in many bankruptcy proceedings, it is important that we protect the interests of the IRS.
Corporate fraud frequently involves violations of the Internal Revenue Code (IRC) through falsification of corporate and individual tax returns and CI has exclusive investigatory jurisdiction over criminal violations of the IRC.
Employment Tax Enforcement
Employment tax evasion schemes can take a variety of forms. Some of the more prevalent methods of evasion include pyramiding, employee leasing, paying employees in cash, filing false payroll tax returns or failing to file payroll tax returns. Evading employment taxes can have serious consequences for employers and the employees.
Financial Institution Fraud
Criminal Investigation focuses on tax and money laundering violations involving fraud against banks, savings and loan associations, credit unions, check cashers, money remitters, and other financial institutions. Currency Transaction Reports and Suspicious Activity Reports continue to be effective investigative tools in the financial world.
Illegal gaming operations, including bookmaking, numbers, Internet and some charitable gaming operations, continue to be areas of compliance concern. Criminal Investigation continues to play an enforcement role in the illegal gaming industry and to support regulatory and legislative initiatives aimed at eliminating an environment conducive to illegal gambling.
General Fraud Investigations
Criminal Investigation special agents investigate violations of the tax laws and related financial crimes. Taxpayers who chose to willfully and intentionally not comply with their legal responsibility to file required tax returns and/or pay taxes pose a serious threat to tax administration and the American economy.
Multi-agency healthcare fraud investigations and prosecutions show that perpetrators of these schemes financially benefited from their fraudulent activities in false billings, mental health, nursing home fraud, chiropractic fraud, durable medical equipment fraud, staged accidents, pharmaceutical diversion, and patient referral (kickbacks) schemes. In these investigations, Criminal Investigation follows the money trail and considers both tax and money laundering perspectives.
Identity Theft Schemes
IRS Criminal Investigation (CI) detects and investigates tax fraud and other financial fraud, including fraud related to identity theft.
International tax compliance is a top priority of the IRS. Complex international tax avoidance schemes and cross-border transactions have heightened the IRS' concern about tax compliance. Individuals may attempt to use foreign accounts, trusts, and other entities to commit criminal violations of U.S. tax laws as well as narcotics, money laundering and Bank Secrecy Act (BSA) violations.
Money Laundering & Bank Secrecy Act (BSA)
Money laundering is a very complex crime involving intricate details, often involving numerous financial transactions and financial outlets throughout the world. Criminal Investigation has the financial investigators and expertise that is critical to "follow the money trail."
Criminal Investigation's contribution to the war on narcotics is vital but sometimes difficult to recognize, because the work of IRS special agents usually doesn't make the headlines. The long hours of tracking down and documenting financial leads allows an investigation to go right to the door of the leader of the narcotics organization, which contributes to the disrupting and dismantling the country's major drug and money laundering organizations.
There have always been individuals who, for a variety of reasons, argue taxes are voluntary or illegal. The courts have repeatedly rejected their arguments as frivolous and routinely impose financial penalties for raising such frivolous arguments. Take the time to learn the truth about frivolous tax arguments.
Public Corruption Crimes
Public corruption investigations encompass a wide variety of criminal offenses including bribery, extortion, embezzlement, illegal kickbacks, entitlement and subsidy fraud, bank fraud, tax fraud, and money laundering. Criminal Investigation concentrates its resources on the tax and money laundering aspects of these investigations in cooperation with other federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies. The expertise used in investigations has established our reputation as one of the leaders in the fight against corrupt public officials.
Questionable Refund Program (QRP)
QRP is a nationwide, multifunctional program designed to identify fraudulent returns, to stop the payment of fraudulent refunds and to refer identified fraudulent refund schemes to be investigated and prosecuted criminally.
IRS Criminal Investigation 2020 Annual Report
Internal Revenue Manual, Part 9, Criminal Investigation