The American Institute of CPAs is recommending the Internal Revenue Service place a greater emphasis on service as the agency works on its strategic plan for the $80 billion in additional appropriations provided to the IRS in the Inflation Reduction Act.
“Given the historic low levels of IRS taxpayer services, we are concerned that there was an insufficient allocation of funding to improve taxpayer services to appropriate levels” the AICPA March 28, 2023, letter to the IRS and the Department of the Treasury states, noting that the COVID-19 pandemic “made it painfully clear that the IRS was not funded to accomplish all its responsibilities.”
AICPA argued that the agency’s service deficiencies “prevent taxpayers from complying with their tax obligations and hamper our members’ ability to as professional advisors to do their jobs, which is to help these taxpayers comply.”
And despite funds being targeted toward enforcement and a stated goal of ensuring that wealthy individuals and corporations are paying their fair share of taxes, AICPA states that “enforcement actions must be in balance with the services the IRS provides to taxpayers.”
The Inflation Reduction Act allocates $45.6 billion to enforcement activities and only $3.1 billion to service, and the AICPA suggested that more money be focused on service-related issues, including allocating sufficient funds for employee training to help replace the institutional knowledge that is expected to be lost in the coming years as the aging workforce retires.
AICPA is also calling on the IRS to develop a comprehensive customer service strategy, including creating more empowered employees; better access to timely information; and access to tailored resources, including resources designed specifically for tax professionals.
Additionally, the organization recommended that the agency develop a comprehensive plan to redesign the agency, including adopting a more customer-focused culture; integrating its technical infrastructure so the disparate legacy systems can communicate with each other; and creating a practitioner services division “that would centralize and modernize its approach to all practitioners.”
Finally, AICPA recommended that IRS continue with its business systems modernizations initiatives.
“Currently, the IRS has two of the oldest information systems in the federal government making the information technology functions one of the biggest constraints overall for the IRS” the letter states. “Without modern infrastructure, the IRS is unable to timely and efficiently meet the needs of taxpayers and practitioners. … We recommend that the IRS more fully explore options to allocate IRA enforcement funding to BSM issues.”
Automated Collection Notices To Resume
Another area that the organization recommends the funds be used for is the ongoing effort by the agency to reduce the backlog of unprocessed paper tax returns and other paper correspondence.
AICPA acknowledged the work done to reduce levels after the backlog spiked during the pandemic, but stated that “more needs to be done to ensure that taxpayers and practitioners are not faced at any time in 2023 with yet another year with significant levels of unprocessed returns, leading to additional delays in processing and incorrect notices and penalties.”
And while this is going on, the organization recommends that the IRS “continue the suspension of certain automated collection notices until it is prepared to devote the necessary resources for a proper and timely resolution of matters. Until the IRS can respond to taxpayer replies to notices in a timely manner, these collection notices should not be restarted.”
According to the letter, the agency is planning on restarting automated collection notices in June 2023, even though “this June date has not been widely publicized. The IRS should communicate the stat date of automated collection action to the public, specifically identifying what actions will be part of this process and providing resources for taxpayers on dealing with these actions.”
Additionally, the organization is calling for “a streamlined reasonable cause penalty waiver without requiring a written request, similar to the procedures of the FTA administrative waiver, based solely on the pandemic’s effects on both the taxpayer and the practitioner.”
By Gregory Twachtman, Washington News Editor