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Taxpayer Advocacy Panel (TAP)                                  

Want to improve the IRS?¨SPEAK UP

By Andrea Price, TAP member representing Ohio
Guest Column

The Taxpayer Advocacy Panel is comprised of civic-minded citizen volunteers from all walks of life representing each state, D.C., Puerto Rico and an international member (citizens living, working or doing business abroad). TAP is a Federal Advisory Committee whose mission is to listen to taxpayers, identify taxpayers’ issues and make suggestions for improving the IRS service and customer satisfaction.

Everyone has something to say about taxes and the IRS. Please take a moment to give us your suggestions for TAP to consider by contacting one of the following:

TAP Ohio member: tapohioandreaprice@gmail.com

Call Toll-free at:1-888-912-1227

Website: www.improveirs.org


National Taxpayer Advocate (NTA) Blog: Lessons learned from COVID-19: The Critical Need to Improve IRS Digital Services (for taxpayers)

Individuals, businesses, schools, and federal and state agencies all continue to be impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. And as the IRS resumes its business operations that were partially or completely shut down at the inception of the COVID-19 emergency, it is still facing challenges of balancing the health and safety of its employees with accomplishing its core mission: providing much-needed services for taxpayers; administering the 2020 filing season in which it has already processed over 149 million returns and issued over 119 million refunds totaling over $290 billion; guarding against identity theft, refund fraud and sophisticated cyber-attacks often exceeding 1.4 billion attempts each year; performing the extensive programming required to administer the 2021 filing season; processing any remaining Economic Income Payments (EIPs); analyzing potential legislation and preparing for another possible round of stimulus payments; providing legal and administrative guidance; incorporating new legislation changes into its operations; and deploying hundreds of Customer Service Representatives to assist with wildfire and hurricane relief efforts – all while continuing its tax enforcement efforts in a socially distanced environment.

As part of the reopening, the IRS continues to evaluate what needs to be done to administer the tax laws and provide necessary taxpayer services under similar conditions in the future so that it can provide the necessary service required by taxpayers. My office will continue to advocate for improved taxpayer services regardless of the circumstances. 

At the beginning of the pandemic, call centers and Taxpayer Assistance Centers (TACs are the local IRS offices) were shut down, so taxpayers could not reach the IRS by phone, in person or by mail. Paper processing centers were shut down, so paper tax returns and other paper correspondence could not be opened or processed which created a backlog.

The closures required by the COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent challenges exposed critical shortcomings in IRS technology impacting many functions within the IRS. As the IRS takes stock of lessons learned from this experience, one lesson is obvious: improvement of the technology capabilities of the IRS is critical. It is not a small or inexpensive task, but it is imperative for proper tax administration. The country no longer has an option but to support appropriate funding for the IRS. It is incumbent upon Congress to fund the technological upgrades the IRS requires to provide an enhanced level of service and improve its overall operations. Modernizing its technology and increasing the use of digital communications and the electronic production of documents in a secure environment is no longer a luxury; rather, it is a required operational need. In this blog, she tackles the expansion of digital service options to improve the taxpayer experience as taxpayers interact with the IRS.

Expand Digital Acceptance and Transmission of Documents and Digital SignaturesThe March closure of IRS offices and mail facilities made it impossible for IRS employees to receive paper documents from taxpayers and representatives. (Note: news outlets report that the IRS has 12 million pieces of unopened mail)

Improve Online Account Accessibility and Features. The IRS offers an online account for individual taxpayers and is in the process of developing Tax Pro, an online account application for practitioners. Taxpayers who gain online account access can view their balance due, make payments, retrieve account transcripts, and even view the status of any EIP, among other features. The IRS continually adds features to the online account application. However, certain taxpayers have difficulty satisfying the elevated e-authentication requirements (verifying that they are who they say they are) of the application.

Offer Videoconferencing Options to Taxpayers. Videoconference technology allows taxpayers and representatives to be both seen and heard, and to share documents, without being physically present. The IRS Independent Office of Appeals currently offers WebEx technology virtual face-to-face conferences between taxpayers, representatives, and Appeals Officers. The IRS Office of Chief Counsel and the U.S. Tax Court are conducting pre-trial conferences and trials using videoconferencing technology. Taxpayer Advocacy Service is also evaluating the feasibility of using videoconferencing technology for virtual face-to-face meetings between Case Advocates and taxpayers (or their representatives). 



Copyright © 2019 by [The Sojourner's Truth]. All rights reserved.
Revised: 09/17/20 09:49:28 -0400.

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