The Internal Revenue Service is auditing dozens of tax-exempt bond-financed jails, particularly in border states, and suggesting in some cases that, if the jails hold significant amounts of federal inmates, the bonds are no longer tax-exempt and are instead taxable private-activity bonds, sources said Thursday.

Many of these jails were built by state or local governments with tax-exempt bonds or certificates of participation, primarily to hold state and local inmates. But when the jails have additional space or nearby federal facilities are full, the local governments take inmates from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service or the U.S. Marshals Service. The federal government typically pays more to house its inmates than state and local governments, the sources said.

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