Random tax audits are back.
This month, the Internal Revenue Service began selecting thousands of taxpayers for audits, even though the IRS has no reason to think they have underpaid their taxes.
It is part of the IRS's National Research Program.
Some have likened it to a reverse lottery in which 13,000 randomly selected taxpayers will be targeted for audits of last year's returns.
That is a fraction of the roughly 160 million individual tax returns filed, but that may be of little consolation if you are one of those chosen. Especially since the IRS says many of the random audits will be more thorough and cover more ground that a regular audit.
Ian Comisky, a tax expert at Philadelphia's Blank Rome law firm, explains that the IRS wants to use the data from random audits to create better formulas for catching taxpayers who underpay.
The IRS has stepped up enforcement in recent years, but the so-called tax gap persists.
The government believes if everyone paid what they owed, the IRS would collect $345 billion more than it does now. The tax agency hopes what it learns from the three-year random audit program will help the IRS collect more of that money.