4.22.6 Examination of Individual Income Tax Returns

Manual Transmittal

June 25, 2018

Purpose

(1) This revised IRM 4.22.6, National Research Program, Examination of Individual Income Tax Returns.

Material Changes

(1) This IRM content was completely revised and reorganized to reflect current NRP and individual income tax examination processes and procedures. The information was also revised for readability and clarity.

(2) Editorial and grammatical changes were made to the IRM.

(3) Revised the IRM title from Area Office Examination of Individual Returns to Examination of Individual Income Tax Returns.

(4) IRM 4.22.6.1, Program Scope and Objectives - Added internal control information related to the NRP examination program to reflect current NRP and examination processes and procedures. Subtopics were renumbered due to the consolidation of the program responsibility under IRM 4.22.6.1.

(5) IRM 4.22.6.2, NRP Form 1040 Individual Income Tax Return Examination Process - Revised the title and the content to direct to specific NRP IRM sections.

(6) Case Building Tools for individual income tax Returns was referenced to the specific NRP Case Building IRM 4.22.6.2(2).

(7) IRM 4.22.6.3(2), Initial contact was revised - Initiate NRP examination by mail using the form letters developed for NRP individual income tax key case examinations.

(8) IRM 4.22.6.4, ELMS #32289, NRP Examination Training Form 1040 Study Tax Year 20XX will only be required after receiving the first NRP case for each specific study year. The current course is sufficient for any key case year and only needs to be completed annually.

(9) IRM 4.22.6.4.2, OUO has been added to the Zero Deficiency report.

(10) IRM 4.22.6.5.3, has been updated to reflect the evaluative review requirements.

Effect on Other Documents

This revision to IRM 4.22.6, dated January 8, 2013, is superseded..

Audience

Small Business/Self-Employed (SB/SE) examination employees.

Effective Date

(06-25-2018)

Erik Ogilvie
Chief, National Research Program
Knowledge Development and Application (KDA)
Research, Applied Analytics and Statistics

Program Scope and Objectives

  1. This IRM section provides guidance for conducting examinations of Form 1040 NRP key case individual income tax income tax returns.

  2. Audience. The following IRS employees who participate in an National Research Program (NRP) individual income tax study are:

    • Territory managers

    • Group managers

    • Examiners

    • Reviewers

    • NRP staff

  3. Director, Knowledge Development and Application under Research, Applied Analytics and Statistics (RAAS) is the policy owner.

  4. NRP is the program office responsible for the oversight of the NRP studies.

  5. For information about the National Research Program, visit the NRP website at: https://nrp.web.irs.gov.

Background

  1. The IRS needs reliable compliance estimates to determine which key areas of noncompliance to address and which treatments to apply to maximize the use of its limited resources. Data provided by NRP examinations gives us the information to meet these needs.

  2. NRP applies specific guidelines to existing examination techniques and processes to capture necessary compliance data. Using enhanced internal information and established processes NRP minimizes the burden to both the taxpayer and examination personnel.

  3. NRP results are available for the IRS to effectively manage its compliance programs and design pre-filing activities that help taxpayers comply with the tax law.

  4. NRP is critical to the organizational transformation of the IRS. NRP is one of several efforts the IRS is using to enhance its compliance-oriented programs.

Authority

  1. By law, the Service has the authority to conduct examinations under Title 26, Internal Revenue Code, Subtitle F – Procedure and Administration, Chapter 78, Discovery of Liability and Enforcement of Title, Subchapter A, Examination and Inspection, which includes, but is not limited to, the following IRC sections:

    • IRC 7602, Examination of books and witnesses

    • IRC 7605, Time and place of examination

    Note:

    Additional information related to conducting examinations is contained in 26 CFR 601.105, Statement of Procedural Regulations.

  2. Under the Reform and Restructuring Act of 1998 (RRA '98), Congress mandated the IRS to deliver service to taxpayers at a new and much higher level of performance in the most cost-effective and least burdensome manner possible. Data from NRP examinations enable the IRS to operate as a more efficient and effective tax administration organization.

Roles and Responsibilities

  1. Director, Knowledge Development and Application, Research, Applied Analytics and Statistics (RAAS) is the policy owner.

  2. Director, Data Management Division (DMD) oversees the Compliance Data Warehouse (CDW).

  3. Chief, National Research Program manages and monitors NRP operations and provides guidance. This is the office with primary responsibility for administering the NRP program.

  4. Compliance employees under Small Business and Self Employed (SB/SE Division) involved in the examination process of NRP selected returns.

Program Management

  1. Effective management of the NRP study is achieved by training the NRP managers and examiners. This ensures that quality examinations are conducted and the IRS gets good data.

    1. Only examiners who complete NRP training will work NRP cases.

    2. The number of NRP examiners appointed will be sufficient to handle the NRP workload.

    3. Qualified examiners at appropriate grade levels will be assigned NRP cases.

Terms and Acronyms

  1. A defined term applicable to individual income tax Examination of Returns: Report Generation Software (RGS) is a comprehensive software program used to perform a variety of audit and review tasks. In addition to computing tax, penalties and interest on the examination report, RGS generates correspondence, work papers and case closing documents.

  2. Following is a list of acronyms relating to case building:

    1. EIC – Earned Income Credit

    2. EOAD – Examination Operational Automation Database

    3. EQRS - Embedded Quality Review System

    4. RGS – Report Generation Software

    5. SB/SE – Small Business and Self Employed Division

    6. NQRS - National Quality Review System

Related Resources

  1. IRM 4.22.1, National Research Program Overview

  2. IRM 4.22.2, NRP Case Building, Form 1040 Study Case Building Elements

  3. IRM 4.22.3, Classification of NRP Returns

  4. IRM 4.22.4, Examination of NRP Returns

NRP Form 1040 Individual Income Tax Return Examination Process

  1. Information specific to the NRP individual income tax returns study on the following topics are addressed in the following IRM sections:

    • Case building - see IRM 4.22.2.3, Form 1040 Study Case Building Elements

    • Classification - see IRM 4.22.3.3, NRP Classification of Form 1040 Returns

    • Case assignment - see IRM 4.22.4.2.3, Assignment of Cases

  2. For detailed information on examining EIC, please refer to the procedures in IRM 4.22.8, NRP EITC Component of the individual income tax Reporting Compliance Study.

  3. Additional guidance on NRP research and accurate data gathering requirements are outlined in IRM 4.22.4.4.2.

  4. It is recommended that cases with a Schedule C or F be assigned to revenue agents. The primary reasons for establishing these guidelines include the need to tour the business and the potential for e-business activities. Exceptions to this can be made by Area Management on a case by case basis.

Initiating Examinations

  1. Contacting a taxpayer for an NRP examination adheres to existing examination guidance as outlined in IRM 4.10.2, Examination of Returns, Pre-Contact Responsibilities. Due to the importance of NRP results, all possible efforts should be made to contact NRP taxpayers whose cases are to be examined.

  2. All initial taxpayer contacts to initiate an NRP examination must be made by mail using the following Letters developed for NRP individual income tax key case examinations:

    1. Contact Letter 2205-B, NRP2 Initial Contact Letter, for revenue agents.

    2. Letter 3572-B, NRP TCO Initial Contact Letter, for tax compliance officers.

  3. Send the following enclosures along with the initial contact letters.

    • Notice 1332, Why Your Return is Being Examined

    • Notice 609, Privacy Act Notice

    • Publication 1, Your Rights as a Taxpayer

    • Publication 4134, Low Income Taxpayer Clinic List (Letter 2205-B Only)

  4. Use standard examination letters for any other correspondence to taxpayers or their representatives. This would include, but not be limited to, confirmation letters, appointment letters for related returns, no-change letters, and no change with adjustment letters.

  5. If the initial contact letter or certified (or registered) return receipt is returned undeliverable, see IRM 4.10.2.8.4 , Undeliverable Initial Contact Letters, for additional guidance.

Amended Returns

  1. Review command code (CC) IMFOLT to determine if the taxpayer filed an amended return and whether it was processed by the Campus.

    1. If an amended return WAS filed and processed, provide a copy of the processed amended return along with ALL supporting schedules to your NRP Coordinator immediately upon discovery.

    2. If the supporting schedules are not included with the processed amended return, secure the supporting schedule information from the taxpayer and provide everything to your NRP Coordinator.

  2. The RGS Return Setup information MUST be modified to reflect the processed amended return amounts.

  3. If the amended return WAS NOT processed, Do NOT provide the amended return and supporting schedules to the NRP Coordinator. Do NOT modify the RGS Return Setup information; however, DO consider the amended return information during the audit.

Individual income tax Examination Guidelines

  1. Individual income tax examination guidelines contained in the NRP training module must be followed to ensure accurate examination and data capture.

  2. SB/SE NRP examiners and managers must complete ELMS #32289, NRP Examination Training Form 1040 Study Tax Year 20XX after receiving their first NRP case. The current course is sufficient for any year under examination.

  3. All Information Document Requests (IDRs) must be tailored to each return and the issues identified. IDRs must list the specific records and documents that the taxpayer should bring to the first appointment.

  4. Examination of all classified issues is mandatory. The Classified Issue List, found in RGS Case File Documents, provides a list of all classified issues.

  5. The examiner will determine whether to expand the scope of the audit to prior, subsequent and related returns. If examining any prior, subsequent, and/or related returns follow standard examination procedures and do not use NRP lead sheets. NRP lead sheets are used for the key case year only. Any prior, subsequent and related returns must be established on the NRP RGS 1040 schema with Source code 91, Project code 0674 and the appropriate tracking code (e.g. 7716 for 2016).

  6. NRP taxpayers are held to the same standard of proof as that required in a regular examination. Follow existing guidelines in IRM 4.10.7.3, Evaluating Evidence, for determining the proper examination depth for each issue.

  7. Data are complied from the NRP examination; consistency and accuracy are essential. Therefore, guidance provided in the NRP Issue Reference Guide must be followed. The guide provides specific information on various issues including:

    • Internal Revenue Code Section 183 (not for profit activities)

    • Net Credit Adjustments

    • Passive Activity Limitations

    • Change in Filing Status

    • Ministers/Self Employment Deductions

    • Change in Accounting Method

    • At Risk Limitations

  8. A T-Account must be completed as part of the financial status analysis. If the T-Account shows a potential for unreported income, a formal indirect method should also be considered.

  9. Minimum income probes are required on all NRP cases. Information on the minimum income probes is contained in IRM 4.10.4.3.2.3.2, Examinationn of Income.

NRP Leadsheets

  1. NRP Administrative and Issue-specific lead sheets are required for each key case return. Refer to the training course ELMS #32289, NRP Examination Training Form 1040 Study Tax Year 20XX, for a list of required NRP Administrative and Issue-specific lead sheets.

  2. If the examiner adds an issue, any applicable NRP issue-specific lead sheet MUST be added and completed electronically.

  3. Comprehensive electronic case files are required so reviewers, analysts and researchers can access the content remotely to better understand how the examiner arrived at their determinations. All lead sheets, supporting workpapers and source documents critical to examination findings MUST be saved electronically. Only include files which are relevant to the examination results and reduce large PDF file sizes, where possible. Critical paper documents to be scanned or sent via Enterprise Electronic Fax to create an electronic workpaper.

NRP Backup/Validation Program
  1. The NRP Backup/Validation Program was developed to verify that all required NRP lead sheets were completed, to transmit lead sheet data and copy the RGS case to a secure server location.

  2. The NRP Backup/Validation Program must be run successfully prior to closing the case to the Group Manager.

Case Closing Checksheets
  1. The NRP Examiner Case Closing Checksheet summarizes the required examination procedures and data capture elements for NRP cases. The examiner will complete the Case Closing Checksheet at the conclusion of the examination as follows:

    1. The Case Closing Checksheet is attached to issue ‘615-NRP Items’ in RGS.

    2. Complete the case closing checksheet and save it in RGS.

    3. Place the completed checksheet in the paper case file according to the case closing guidelines. IRM 4.10.9, Workpaper System and Case File Assembly.

  2. The NRP Manager Case Closing Checksheet summarizes the required examination procedures and data captures elements for the NRP cases. The manager will follow guidelines outlined above, IRM 4.22.6.4.1.1.1.

Individual Income Tax Examination Reports

  1. For NRP key cases, ALL adjustments must be made and included on the Form 4549, regardless of size.

  2. ≡ ≡ ≡ ≡ ≡ ≡ ≡ ≡ ≡ ≡ ≡ ≡ ≡ ≡ ≡ ≡ ≡ ≡ ≡ ≡ ≡ ≡ ≡ ≡ ≡ ≡ ≡ ≡ ≡ ≡ ≡ ≡ ≡ ≡ ≡ ≡ ≡ ≡ ≡ ≡ ≡ ≡ ≡ ≡ ≡ ≡ ≡ ≡ ≡ ≡ ≡ ≡ ≡ ≡ ≡ ≡ ≡ ≡ ≡ ≡ ≡ ≡ ≡ ≡ ≡ ≡ ≡ ≡ ≡ ≡ ≡ ≡ ≡ ≡ ≡ ≡ ≡ ≡ ≡ ≡ ≡ ≡ ≡ ≡ ≡ ≡ ≡ ≡ ≡ ≡ ≡ ≡ ≡ ≡ ≡ ≡ ≡ ≡ ≡ ≡ ≡ ≡ ≡ ≡ ≡ ≡ ≡ ≡ ≡ ≡ ≡ ≡ ≡ ≡ ≡ ≡ ≡ ≡ ≡ ≡ ≡ ≡ ≡ ≡ ≡ ≡ ≡

  3. When adjustments are proposed, and the deficiency is either $0 or set to $0 by the examiner (see # 2 above), use Disposal code "01 - No change with adjustments". Zero Deficiency reports require ONLY one report and should follow regular examination closing procedures.

  4. The tax computation for a No-Change report must be run after modifying any adjustment data. A no-change case, one with no adjustments, will require two tax computations and two reports.

    1. The first report must be generated in RGS with an Agreement Status of “No Change” and issued to the taxpayer.

    2. The second report must be generated in RGS with an Agreement Status of “Agreed”. Generate Form 5344 using Disposal code 02, AFTER the Agreed tax computation to ensure the capture of all necessary examination data.

Area NRP Program Monitoring

  1. Various processes will be used to ensure quality NRP cases. These include:

    1. group manager evaluative in-process and closed case reviews,

    2. mandatory non-evaluative closed case reviews and ,

    3. any closed case reviews completed by SB/SE or NRP quality review teams.

Group Manager Responsibilities

  1. When making case assignment decisions, group managers should consider the complexity of the case plus the experience and training level of the examiner. See IRM 1.4.40.4.6, - Assigning Returns.

  2. Program/project cases, including NRP, may be assigned to newly-trained examiners, when appropriate, to enhance their career development.

  3. Evaluative case reviews are critical to guarantee the highest quality of NRP cases for new or returning NRP examiners. The requirements to complete the evaluative case reviews are different for new or returning NRP examiners. Managers are required to conduct the following case reviews:

    1. One in-process review and one closed case review for new examiners, and

    2. One in-process review for returning examiners

  4. Group managers will complete a 100 percent non-evaluative closed case review on all NRP examinations. NRP 100 percent non-evaluative closed case reviews will focus on:

    1. Overall case quality.

    2. Technical correctness of the examination.

    3. Adherence to NRP examination guidelines (all classified issues completed), procedural requirements, and case closing/data accuracy requirements.

  5. The non-evaluative closed case reviews will be completed electronically by the manager and documented on the NRP Group Manager Closed Case Review Checksheet (Non-Evaluative). This form is included in the NRP RGS case file. Once completed and saved in the electronic RGS case file, a printed copy of the form is included behind the Form 9984 (Case Activity Record) in Section 615 of the workpapers or according to existing guidelines.

    1. By checking "yes" on the review checksheet the manager is indicating that the item (Income Probe, IDR, etc.) was properly completed by the examiner.

    2. If any item is incomplete the case should be returned to the examiner for clarification/corrections.

New NRP Examiners
  1. A new NRP examiner is defined as one who has not conducted in any NRP examination within any of the past three tax years. For example, if an examiner is assigned a TY 2013 return for examination and did not examine an NRP return for the TY 2012, 2011 or 2010 studies, they would be considered a new NRP examiner. If the examiner is assigned a TY 2013 return for examination and participated in the 2010 study, they would be considered a returning examiner (see Returning NRP Examiners below).

  2. A new examiner is only considered “new” for a single study year. For example, if a new examiner is assigned both a TY 2013 and TY 2014 return, they can only be considered a new examiner for one of the study years.

  3. For new NRP examiners, two separate reviews (one in-process and one closed) would be required. If the examiner is assigned two or more returns for the study year, separate reviews would need to be completed on different taxpayers.

  4. The first evaluative in-process review should take place within 60 days of the first appointment on one of the earliest started cases for the study year.

    1. For revenue agents, the in-process evaluative review should take place after the concurrence meeting, if applicable, and when enough audit work has been completed for meaningful feedback on the quality of the examination.

    2. For tax compliance officers, if the examination was completed after the first appointment, the case can still be reviewed as in-process.

  5. An evaluative closed case review is required on an additional return for the same tax year. The purpose of the reviews is to provide meaningful timely feedback. This review should be on any subsequent NRP return assigned and generally be completed within 180 days of case assignment. At a minimum, Embedded Quality Review System (EQRS) attributes evaluated on the reviews should include:

    • 112 - Required Filing Checks

    • 114 - IDR

    • 300 - Exam Income Determination

    • 408 - Civil Penalty Determination

    • 433 - Basic Tax Law Knowledge

    • 440 - Audit/Compliance Interview

    • 509 - Time Charged

    • 617 - TP/POA Rights and Notification

    • 707 - Workpapers Support Conclusions

    • 719 - Report Writing and Tax Computation

Returning NRP Examiners
  1. A returning NRP examiner is defined as one who has conducted an examination of an NRP return for any of the past three tax years.

    Example:

    An examiner assigned a TY 2013 return for examination, who participated in either a TY 2012, 2011 or 2010 study, is considered a returning NRP examiner.
    If an examiner is assigned a TY 2013 return for examination and only participated in the 2009 study, they are considered a new examiner.

  2. For returning NRP examiners, only one in-process review is required. The evaluative in-process review should take place within 90 days of the first appointment on one of the earliest started cases for the study year.

    1. For revenue agents, the in-process evaluative review should take place after the concurrence meeting, if applicable, and when enough audit work has been completed for meaningful feedback on the quality of the examination.

    2. For tax compliance officers, if the examination was completed after the first appointment, the case can still be reviewed as in-process. The same attributes considered in IRM 4.22.6.5.2.1(5), should be considered.

Area Quality Reviews

  1. Area participation in the review process is required. Area Quality Reviews are an important part of NRP to ensure quality for subsequent analysis.

  2. For each new NRP tax year, the Area will complete NRP Quality Reviews using the following processes:

    1. Test to see if managers (10 revenue agent and 10 tax compliance officer) are completing the required evaluative case reviews, and

    2. Review the actual quality of the feedback provided in any reviews.

  3. During the fiscal year, the area should generate an ERCS listing that shows NRP Status 12 cases for each group. This ERCS listing should be generated during the fiscal year which allows a sufficient amount of returns where managers were required to complete the first evaluative review.

  4. There are two ways to obtain the completed EQRS reviews:

    1. SB/SE Headquarters EQRS Analyst will extract the EQRS NRP case reviews for each of the Areas/managers/groups in the sample (this is the preferred method as it minimizes Area burden), or

    2. SB/SE Headquarters EQRS Analyst will provide an ERCS listing to the Area managers selected for review. The Group Managers can send copies of their evaluative case reviews to the Area NRP Territory Manager. The Area Territory Manager can send copies of the completed EQRS reviews to SB/SE Headquarters NRP Analysts. The NRP Area Territory Manager, Group Managers or Area Technical Analyst will consider the same EQRS evaluative reviews for the quality of the feedback. It’s preferable to do this jointly with the SB/SE Headquarters analyst(s).

  5. Prior to the case review process, the Area NRP Coordinator will transmit the EOAD closed case data to the NRP Database on these cases but they will not make any corrections to closed cases.

  6. Area case reviews will be completed using the electronic RGS case files. To the extent possible, RGS data reviews will be completed by NRP Analysts, and if possible the Area NRP Coordinator and an Area RGS Coordinator on the same closed cases.

  7. NRP and SB/SE Exam Headquarters Analysts will work with the Area NRP Coordinators to select an appropriate number of revenue agent and tax compliance officer closed cases for review.

  8. SB/SE Exam Headquarters Analysts will complete the closed case reviews jointly with Area managers. The reviews will focus on the following four NQRS case quality attributes:

    1. Attribute 112 - Required Filing Checks
    2. Attribute 300 - Exam Income Determination
    3. Attribute 440 - Audit/Compliance Interview
    4. Attribute 509 - Time Charged
  9. On site Area visitations by Headquarters will be considered if the managerial reviews are not being completed in a quality manner and/or the cases reviewed consistently show low attribute scores.

  10. Feedback from the completed reviews may be provided to Area examiners and managers by the Area NRP Territory Manager. The preferred way to provide feedback is through conference calls with Area managers.

National Quality Review System (NQRS)

  1. NRP individual income tax cases and related returns will be subject to the same operational national review sample guidelines as other examinations.