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Archive for National Taxpayer Advocate

National Taxpayer Advocate: IRS Resumes Passport Certification Program

The IRS recently announced that it resumed its Passport Certification program on March 14, 2021. The IRS is again notifying the Department of State of taxpayers certified as owing seriously delinquent tax debt. On March 25, 2020, the IRS suspended certain collection activities including passport certification under the People First Initiative in response to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Affected taxpayers will receive notices and are encouraged to pay what they owe or enter into a payment agreement with the IRS to avoid putting their passports in jeopardy – see the Actions you can take section below. The great majority of certifications are related to pre-pandemic liabilities that are considered a priority for the IRS due to the amount owed and length of time the taxpayers have been delinquent without working with the IRS to resolve their tax debts. The law generally requires the IRS to certify individuals to the Department of State when they have unpaid, legally enforceable federal tax debt totaling more than $54,000 (including interest and penalties) for which a notice of federal tax lien has been filed and all administrative remedies under Internal Revenue Code Section 6320 have lapsed or been exhausted, or a levy has been issued. Per the law, the State Department generally will not renew passport or issue a new passport after receiving certification from the IRS, and in some cases may revoke the passport. If the taxpayer is overseas, the State Department may issue a limited validity passport good for direct return to the United States. However, before denying a passport renewal or new passport application, the State Department generally will hold the taxpayer’s application for 90 days to allow taxpayers to: Make full payment of the tax debt, or Enter a satisfactory payment arrangement with the IRS, or Resolve any erroneous certification issues. Once resolved, the IRS, generally, will reverse the certification within 30 days of the date of resolution and provide notification to the State Department as soon as practicable. Actions you can take Payment of taxes The IRS offers a number of programs to help taxpayers meet their tax obligations including payment agreements, Offers in Compromise, and, if the IRS determines a taxpayer cannot pay any of their tax debt, a temporary delay of the collection process. You can also view our Taxpayer Advocate Service Paying Taxes Get Help pages for descriptions of payment options if you are unable to pay in full. If you recently filed your tax return for the current year and expect a refund, the IRS will apply the refund to the debt. If the refund is enough to satisfy your seriously delinquent tax debt, the IRS considers the account fully paid. However, taxpayers should not solely rely on this option to resolve the issue at this time, because of 2019 and 2020 tax return processing delays due to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Disagree with the tax due If you disagree with the tax amount or the certification was made in error, you should contact the phone number on Notice CP508C: 855-519-4965; 267-941-1004 for international callers. If you’ve already paid the tax debt, please send proof of that payment to the address on your Notice CP508C. Imminent travel plans If you’re leaving soon for international travel, you should contact the IRS promptly using the phone number on the Notice: 855-519-4965 or 267-941-1004 for international callers. The IRS.gov Revocation or Denial of Passport in Case of Certain Unpaid Taxes webpage has more information about this program and actions you can take to resolve the debt. More resources Understanding Your CP508C Notice Understanding Your CP508R Notice; Note: this page also has answers to many common passport certification questions IR-2019-23: Individuals Who Need Passports for Imminent Travel Should Contact IRS Promptly to Resolve Tax Debt

The IRS recently announced that it resumed its Passport Certification program on March 14, 2021. The IRS is again notifying the Department of State of taxpayers certified as owing seriously delinquent tax debt. On March 25, 2020, the IRS suspended certain collection activities including passport certification under the People First Initiative in response to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Affected taxpayers will receive notices and are encouraged to pay what they owe or enter into a payment agreement with the IRS to avoid putting their passports in jeopardy – see the Actions you can take section below. The great majority of certifications are related to pre-pandemic liabilities that are considered a priority for the IRS due to the amount owed and length of time the taxpayers have been delinquent without working with the IRS to resolve their tax debts.

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National Taxpayer Advocate Report To Congress

National Taxpayer Advocate

IRC § 7803(c)(2)(B)(ii)(III) requires the National Taxpayer Advocate to prepare an Annual Report to Congress that contains a summary of the ten most serious problems encountered by taxpayers each year. For 2020, the National Taxpayer Advocate has identified, analyzed, and offered recommendations to assist the IRS and Congress in resolving ten such problems.

Most Serious Problems Encountered by Taxpayers

IRS RECRUITMENT, HIRING, AND EMPLOYEE RETENTION: Quality Taxpayer Service and Protection of Taxpayer Rights Are Directly Linked to the IRS’s Need to Improve Its Recruitment, Hiring, and Retention Strategies
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Taxpayers, Bankruptcy, And The Statutory Notice of Deficiency

Taxpayers, Bankruptcy, And The Statutory Notice of Deficiency

Although extended unemployment benefits, eviction moratoriums, stimulus payments, small business loans, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021, and other government programs may have stemmed the tide of anticipated COVID-related bankruptcy filings, seeking bankruptcy relief may still be the most appropriate option for some taxpayers experiencing financial difficulties in the wake of the COVID pandemic. Bankruptcy relief allows debtors to receive forgiveness of many of their debts, subject to complex rules. Further, upon filing a petition in bankruptcy court, debtors generally receive a reprieve from their creditors’ collection actions, and that includes the IRS.

The filing of a bankruptcy petition generally triggers an “automatic stay” that immediately stops current and future collection actions for pre-petition debts and property of the bankruptcy estate for the pendency of the bankruptcy case. Pre-petition debts include taxes incurred before the filing of the bankruptcy petition, even if they were not yet assessed. Income taxes are considered incurred on the last day of the income tax year. Generally, the automatic stay lifts upon conclusion of a bankruptcy case, either upon entry of an order discharging the debtor’s eligible debts or an order dismissing the case.

While the automatic stay does not prohibit the IRS from assessing deficiencies that have been agreed to by the taxpayer’s signature of consent or full payment of tax, it does limit certain IRS compliance activity for unagreed deficiencies covered by the bankruptcy.

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Stretched To Its Breaking Point, The IRS Needs Multiyear, Sustained Funding To Efficiently Administer Tax Laws

Stretched To Its Breaking Point, The IRS Needs Multiyear, Sustained Funding To Efficiently Administer Tax Laws

The IRS continues to suffer from the effects of multiple prior hiring freezes and of a reduced budget over the past decade which has left the IRS unable to hire to the level needed to fully support all IRS operations. In fiscal year (FY) 2019, the IRS had 73,554 full-time equivalent (FTE) positions, which is a decrease of 22 percent from 94,711 FTE positions in FY 2010. Adding to this compounding issue of a reduced work force is the fact that between employees who are eligible to retire, and the average number of employees who leave each year for work elsewhere, the IRS could potentially lose about a third of its current workforce within the year. These are skilled, experienced employees who will take with them years or decades of experience. Even with technological advancements allowing the replacement of manual tasks, the IRS faces an inability to backfill behind these employees as it cannot keep pace with attrition.

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Offset Of Recovery Rebate Credits: The IRS Has Agreed To Exercise Its Discretion To Stop Offsets Of Federal Tax Debts

Offset Of Recovery Rebate Credits: The IRS Has Agreed To Exercise Its Discretion To Stop Offsets Of Federal Tax Debts

In a previous blog, I pointed out that a change in the law made in late December affected the treatment of recovery rebate credits (RRCs) claimed on taxpayers’ 2020 income tax returns. Unlike the advance payments issued to individuals last spring and in early January, the credit claimed on a 2020 tax return will be reduced to pay off certain outstanding debts. This offset creates an inconsistency between the treatment of the advance payments and the treatment of RRCs claimed on 2020 tax returns where the RRC will be reduced by outstanding liabilities. This is a big deal for taxpayers affected by the change.

Good news:  The IRS has agreed to use its discretion to bypass offsets for federal tax debts for taxpayers filing 2020 returns that claim the RRC.

By Way of Background

When Congress directed the IRS to issue stimulus payments (otherwise known as Economic Impact Payments or EIPs) of $1,200 per adult and $500 per qualifying child beginning in April 2020 and then for an additional $600 per person beginning in December, it required that the payments be issued without reduction to satisfy other debts of the recipient (except for child support for the first round of payments). The rationale seemed clear: Individuals in debt are often the ones financially struggling the most, and Congress wanted the funds to reach these people without any reductions as soon as possible.

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Offset Of Recovery Rebate Credits: The IRS Has Agreed To Exercise Its Discretion To Stop Offsets of Federal Tax Debts

https://www.taxpayeradvocate.irs.gov/news/nta-blog-update-on-offset-of-recovery-rebate-credits-the-irs-has-agreed-to-exercise-its-discretion-to-stop-offsets-of-federal-tax-debts/

In a previous blog, I pointed out that a change in the law made in late December affected the treatment of recovery rebate credits (RRCs) claimed on taxpayers’ 2020 income tax returns. Unlike the advance payments issued to individuals last spring and in early January, the credit claimed on a 2020 tax return will be reduced to pay off certain outstanding debts. This offset creates an inconsistency between the treatment of the advance payments and the treatment of RRCs claimed on 2020 tax returns where the RRC will be reduced by outstanding liabilities. This is a big deal for taxpayers affected by the change.

Good news: The IRS has agreed to use its discretion to bypass offsets for federal tax debts for taxpayers who file 2020 returns that claim the RRC.

By Way of Background

When Congress directed the IRS to issue stimulus payments (otherwise known as Economic Impact Payments or EIPs) of $1,200 per adult and $500 per qualifying child in April 2020 and then for an additional $600 per person in December, it required that the payments be issued without reduction to satisfy other debts of the recipient (except for child support for the first round of payments). The rationale seemed clear: Individuals in debt are often the ones financially struggling the most, and Congress wanted the funds to reach these people without any reductions as soon as possible.

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Feel Like You Are Not Responsible For A Debt Owed By Your Spouse Or Ex-Spouse?

ERIN COLLINS - NATIONAL TAXPAYER ADVOCATE

Taxpayer Advocate Service Tax Tip

Saying “I do” doesn’t necessarily mean you’re responsible for your spouse’s or ex-spouse’s debts.

If your spouse has a debt (this debt could be for any number of things – child support, spousal support, a federal debt (e.g., student loans), or a federal tax debt) and you file your taxes using the Married-Filing-Joint tax filing status, the IRS can apply your refund to one of these debts, which is known as an “offset”. Or they can take a collection action against you for the tax debt you and your spouse owe, such as filing of the Notice of Federal Tax Lien or issuing a levy. However, if you’re not legally responsible for the past-due amount, you may still be entitled to receive your share of the refund or request relief from joint and several liability, depending on the facts of the situation.

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Wait, When Did This Virtual Currency Question Appear On My 1040 Tax Form?

Wait, When Did This Virtual Currency Question Appear On My 1040 Tax Form?

The IRS Form 1040 now includes a checkbox which taxpayers must address regarding virtual currency. The form asks taxpayers if “at any time during 2020, did you receive, sell, send, exchange, or otherwise acquire any financial interest in any virtual currency?”  The key question at hand is who is required to answer “Yes” and who may answer “No?” National Taxpayer Advocate Erin M. Collins addresses these and many other questions taxpayers have when it comes to virtual currency and their taxes.

Given the explosion in virtual currency, the IRS has increased its focus on virtual currency tax compliance. In 2019, the IRS sent letters to over 10,000 American taxpayers who may have failed to report their virtual currency transactions and pay the associated income taxes. The National Taxpayer Advocate says, “taxpayers should proceed with care in order to experience the benefits of virtual currency while avoiding its pitfalls.”

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National Taxpayer Advocate 2021 Purple Book

National Taxpayer Advocate 2021 Purple Book

The National Taxpayer Advocate is releasing the National Taxpayer Advocate 2021 Purple Book. In it, she presents a concise summary of 66 legislative recommendations that she believes will strengthen taxpayer rights and improve tax administration. Most of the recommendations have been made in detail in prior reports, but others are presented in this book for the first time. She believes that most of the recommendations presented in this volume are non-controversial, common sense reforms that the tax-writing committees and other Members of Congress may find useful.

Among the 66 legislative recommendations for consideration by Congress are:

• Provide the IRS with sufficient funding to meet taxpayer needs and improve tax compliance. Since fiscal year (FY) 2010, the IRS’s budget has been reduced by about 20 percent after adjusting for inflation. As a result, the IRS has been unable to meet taxpayer needs (e.g., the IRS received over 100 million telephone calls in FY 2020, yet employees were only able to answer about 24 percent). IRS also has been unable to modernize its information technology (IT) systems. In FY 2020, the IRS collected about $3.5 trillion on a budget of about $11.51 billion, producing a remarkable return on investment of more than 300:1.

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If You Didn’t Get Your Economic Impact Payment, Your Joint Tax Return May Be the Reason Why

ERIN COLLINS - NATIONAL TAXPAYER ADVOCATE

If you didn’t receive your Economic Impact Payments (EIPs) and a 2018 or 2019 joint return was filed in your name without your consent, you may be eligible to claim the Recovery Rebate Credit (RRC) on your 2020 tax return. Since the issuance of the first round of EIP, our office has been working with the IRS Office of Chief Counsel and the IRS to establish procedures to help a victim of domestic violence where their spouse filed a joint return without the victim’s consent, and kept the EIP that was based on that joint return. On November 16, 2020, the IRS updated its procedures specific to EIP when a joint return election is invalid, and therefore there is an invalid return as to one of the spouses.

Economic Impact Payments

The IRS issued EIPs by looking at taxpayers’ recent federal income tax returns, either 2018 or 2019 for the first round of EIP, and 2019 for the second round. But what if the EIP was based on a return with married filing jointly filing status that was not valid? What if one spouse signed a married filing joint return under duress? What if one spouse never intended to file a joint return and the other spouse forged his or her signature? What if the individuals were not legally married? These are just some of the questions that may point to a conclusion that the joint election was invalid, and the return was invalid as to the victim; it’s an issue that often comes up with victims of domestic violence. When the IRS concludes that a joint election was invalid, the IRS follows Internal Revenue Manual (IRM) procedures, found in IRM 21.6.1.5.7, for changing the taxpayers’ accounts from “married filing jointly” status to single, married filing separately, or head of household.

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Tax Professional Alert: Protecting The Rights Of Taxpayers Who Rely On IRS Frequently Asked Questions

Protecting The Rights Of Taxpayers

Consider this: In the course of preparing your federal income tax return, you are wondering whether a particular expense is deductible. You go to the IRS website and find a “Frequently Asked Question” (FAQ) that’s directly on point. Good news: The IRS says the expense is deductible. So you deduct it. The next year, the IRS audits your return. The examining agent informs you the IRS changed its position after you filed your return. The examining agent not only denies the deduction, but he imposes a 20 percent accuracy-related penalty as well. You go back to IRS.gov to try to find the FAQ you relied on, but it’s gone.

If the Taxpayer Bill of Rights is to be given meaning, this scenario violates “The Right to Informed” and “The Right to a Fair and Just Tax System.” It is neither fair nor reasonable for the government to impose a penalty against a taxpayer who follows information the government provides on its website.

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National Taxpayer Advocate Annual Report To Congress

National Taxpayer Advocate Annual Report To Congress
National Taxpayer Advocate delivers Annual Report to Congress; focuses on taxpayer impact of COVID-19 and IRS funding needs

National Taxpayer Advocate Erin M. Collins released her 2020 Annual Report to Congress, focusing on the unprecedented challenges taxpayers faced in filing their tax returns and receiving refunds and stimulus payments during a year consumed by the COVID-19 pandemic. The report also finds that a roughly 20% inflation-adjusted reduction in the IRS’s budget since fiscal year (FY) 2010 has left the agency with antiquated technology and inadequate staffing levels to meet taxpayers’ needs.

As part of the report, Collins released the fourth edition of the National Taxpayer Advocate’s “Purple Book,” a compilation of 66 legislative recommendations designed to strengthen taxpayer rights and improve tax administration.

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