The IRS has released the numbers behind its activities from October 1, 2007 through September 30, 2008 in a publication called the 2008 IRS Data Book. This annually released information provides statistics on returns filed, taxes collected, and the IRS’s enforcement efforts.

Examinations Data

For example, the IRS reported that its examinations totaled over 1.54 million during FY 2008, or 0.8 percent of the total returns filed during the previous calendar year. This amount was a 0.65-percent drop from returns examined during FY 2007. Of all the returns examined, a little over one-percent were individual income tax returns, a 0.507-percent increase from FY 2007.  

Within the category of individual income tax returns, the IRS examined 0.93-percent less taxpayers with under $200,000 of total positive income than the previous year; i.e. a total of all sources of income, excluding losses. This figure increased by 33.23-percent for taxpayers with total positive income between $200,000 and $1 million, but decreased by 30.3-percent for individuals with total positive income over $1 million from the previous year. Also, for the first time, the IRS delineated examination percentages during FY 2008 for individual income tax returns according to adjusted gross income as follows:

Adjusted Gross Income Percent of All 2007  Returns Filed Examination Percentage
No adjusted gross income 2.13% 2.15%
$1 – $25,000 40.51% 0.90%
$25,000 – $50,000 24.31% 0.72%
$50,000 – $75,000 13.44% 0.69%
$75,000 – $100,000 7.99% 0.69%
$100,000 – $200,000 8.69% 0.98%
$200,000 – $500,000 2.25% 1.92%
$500,000 – $1,000,000 0.43% 2.98%
$1,000,000 – $5,000,000 0.23% 4.02%
$5,000,000 – $10,000,000 0.02% 6.47%
$10,000,000 or more 0.01% 9.77%

Decreased Tax Collection

The IRS also reported that, while it received over $2.7 trillion in gross collections during the Fiscal Year (FY) 2008, its net tax collections (after refunds) actually decreased by 3.34-percent from FY 2007. The IRS distributed more than 237 million total refunds in FY 2008 with over 118 million going to individual tax payers. Total FY 2008 tax refunds rose to over $425 billion, while over $270 billion (63.52-percent) alone went to individual filers. The IRS also reported that $95.7 billion in economic stimulus payments were made during the year, as mandated by the Economic Stimulus Act of 2008.

One major reason for these large refunds was the large increase in individual income tax returns filed during FY 2008 as a result of the one-time economic stimulus payments under the Economic Stimulus Act of 2008. While the number of individual income tax returns received by the IRS only increased by 3.7-percent for FY 2007, it increased 11.1-percent for FY 2008. The increase was even greater for Forms 1040NR, 1040NR-EZ, 1040PR, 1040-SS, and 1040CC; which increased by 36-percent for FY 2008 (as compared to 2.3-percent for FY 2007).

The IRS also reported that the economic stimulus payments generated an increase in electronically filed income tax returns as well. During FY 2008, taxpayers electronically filed over 101.5 million returns, 89.5 million of which were individual income tax returns. Of all individual income tax returns filed, 58-percent were filed electronically during the year.


If and only to the extent that this publication contains contributions from tax professionals who are subject to the rules of professional conduct set forth in Circular 230, as promulgated by the United States Department of the Treasury, the publisher, on behalf of those contributors, hereby states that any U.S. federal tax advice that is contained in such contributions was not intended or written to be used by any taxpayer for the purpose of avoiding penalties that may be imposed on the taxpayer by the Internal Revenue Service, and it cannot be used by any taxpayer for such purpose.