CI’s annual report shows impact of staffing declines

Significant staffing declines at IRS Criminal Investigation Division (CI) over the past several years have resulted in a significant decline in business results, Don Fort, Chief, IRS Criminal Investigation, told reporters in Washington, D.C. Fort spoke at the release of the IRS Criminal Investigation’s 2017 Annual Report. However, with CI’s identity-theft case load finally deceasing, Fort foresees a year in which more agents will be able to return to more traditional workloads. These workloads will be further enhanced by the rollout of programs designed to better match available data to a more refined case-selection process.

The FY 2017 CI Report shows significant drops in the each major category of data. For example, “Investigations Initiated” dropped from 3853 in 2015 to 3019 in 2017. Similarly, “Prosecution Recommendations” fell from 3289 to 2251; “Informations/Indictments” from 3208 to 2294; and “Sentenced” from 3092 to 2549, between 2015 and 2017.

“We have experienced some significant staffing declines over the past several years,”” Fort told reporters. CI’s Annual Report underscores that, although case loads have increased, the CI division has approximately the same number of special agents, 2,300, that it had 50 years ago.

Nevertheless, Fort was encouraged by the additional, albeit limited, hiring that was recently approved for the current year. There is enough funding for between two to four classes of new special agents, with each class containing 24 special agents. Unfortunately, Fort reported that it takes about six class to maintain steady staffing because of retirements. When agents leave and retire, they leave behind inventory, in some cases significant, with active cases or cases at the Department of Justice. “Either way it means fewer cases being initiated as we have to handle and service existing cases,” Fort explained.

In the positive column, a reduced case load of identity theft investigations has freed up resources. At its height several years ago CI was spending about 18 percent of all of its investigative time on identity theft. That has now dropped to about 11 percent.

Several projects and initiatives underway at CI are expected to show results during the fiscal year. Fort reported that the international coordinated investigations unit with data retrieval functionality will officially stand-up soon “to get some referrals out to the field.” An international tax enforcement group is likewise in the process of standing up and will service a dedicated, elite international group.