Complaints about how long it takes to close whistleblower cases are unlikely to end anytime soon. Whitlock said the audit process for high-dollar cases takes longer given the complexities of those cases and the opportunities for taxpayers to appeal. While officials originally expected that high-dollar claims awards would be issued within three to five years of claim submission, it now appears that the payout time frame is likely five to seven years, because the IRS cannot pay an award until the underlying tax liability has been collected, he said.
When it becomes clear during the intake process that a case is criminal, the case is passed along to the IRS Criminal Investigation division, Whitlock said, adding that during the audit process, other whistleblower cases can be referred to CI after consultation with a fraud technical adviser. Whether the Justice Department will grant a whistleblower immunity in a criminal probe depends on the individual's role in the noncompliance, he said.