Each year the IRS sponsors the Nationwide Tax Forums, a three-day series of tax education and networking conferences for tax professionals in cities around the country. These events feature the latest information from the IRS, news about tax law changes, the chance to meet with software vendors, and the opportunity to attend nearly 50 seminars presented by IRS employees and members of professional associations.
At this year’s Forums, Taxpayer Advocate Service (TAS) will present a series of seminars, oversee the Case Resolution Program, and host two focus groups. TAS’s seminars include: Read More
The IRS has been increasing user fees to fund its operations. It recently increased or proposed to increase a wide range of fees including the fees for installment agreements (IAs), offers-in-compromise (OICs), pre-filing agreements (PFAs), private letter rulings (PLRs), and special enrollment examinations (SEE). I raised concerns about these increases in my 2015 and 2017 Annual Reports to Congress.
On Feb. 9, 2018, Congress enacted the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 (P.L. 115-123), which addresses concerns about the IRS’s largest fee revenue generator – the IA fee increases. The law prevents the IRS from increasing the IA fee again without legislation. It also requires the IRS to waive or refund the fee for taxpayers with income below 250 percent of the federal poverty level who authorize the IRS to directly debit the IA payments (DDIA) from a bank account or who cannot set up a DDIA (e.g., because they do not have a bank account). This legislation suggests that Congress shares some of my concerns. This blog summarizes our concerns. Read More
As we near the end of the 2018 filing season, it is worth reflecting on the challenges taxpayers face in complying with complex tax law provisions. In my 2017 Annual Report to Congress, I identified IRS customer service and information provided to military taxpayers as one of the Most Serious Problems facing taxpayers. In this blog, I will discuss the needs and preferences of military taxpayers and recap some of my recommendations on how the IRS can substantially improve its service to this taxpayer population. Read More
As the IRS steers taxpayers toward self-help digital tools, it is necessary to bring the “statutory mailbox rule” into the 21st century. Currently, the statutory mailbox rule in IRC § 7502 does not apply to the electronic transmission of many time-sensitive documents and payments to the IRS. The rule provides that if the requirements set forth in the statute are met, a document or payment is deemed to be filed or paid on the date of the postmark stamped on the envelope.
If the postmark date is on or before the last day of the period prescribed for filing the document or making the payment, the document or payment is considered timely filed or paid even if it is received after the due date. Further, IRC § 7502(c) provides that registered or certified mail, or methods deemed substantially equivalent by the Secretary of Treasury, is prima facie evidence of delivery. Read More
In last week’s blog, we discussed how broad amnesties can blunt economic deterrence, but narrow amnesties or amnesty alternatives (e.g., amnesties that forgive only penalties before noncompliance is detected) do not necessarily have the same negative effects. We also cited research suggesting that those who participate in amnesties also tend to be people who made inadvertent errors (i.e., “benign” actors, rather than bad actors). Furthermore, without an amnesty, a sudden increase in penalties or enforcement is more likely to be viewed as unfair and erode trust for the government – a view that can erode voluntary compliance. Read More
Can a simple educational letter to taxpayers who appear to have erroneously claimed the earned income tax credit (EITC) actually avert future noncompliance? Based on recent TAS research studies, the answer appears to be yes.
As readers of this blog already know, the EITC is a refundable credit designed to provide financial support to low income working taxpayers, especially those with children in the household. Because it focuses on household composition, the administration of the credit is very complex. While the IRS can generally establish the age of the child from various government databases, and sometimes the parent-child relationship, it cannot easily establish other relationships nor can it independently determine with whom the child lived for over half the year, as the law requires. Read More
On Jan. 22, 2018, the IRS began implementation of the passport certification program. IRC § 7345 authorizes the IRS to certify a taxpayer’s seriously delinquent tax debt to the Department of State for the purposes of passport denial, limitation, or revocation. A seriously delinquent tax debt is an assessed, individual tax liability exceeding $51,000 for which either a notice of federal tax lien has been filed or a levy has been made. IRC § 7345(b)(2) provides exceptions for current installment agreements (IAs), offers in compromise (OICs), and Collection Due Process (CDP) hearings. In addition, the IRS has created certification exclusions, such as for taxpayers in currently not collectible (CNC) hardship status and those with pending IAs and OICs. IRM 22.214.171.124.19.4 includes the full list of current discretionary exclusions. Read More
Imagine how you would feel if you were expecting your tax refund to arrive imminently, and checked the mailbox or your bank account day after day, only to be disappointed. Finally, you receive the hoped-for letter from the IRS, which you open eagerly. Disappointed to find no refund check enclosed, you read a letter that in part says, “We’re holding the portion of your refund that relates to the withholding credit you claimed…while we review it. Our review can take up to 6 months from the date we received your return or the due date of the return, whichever is later.” Read More
The NTA is hosting a series of conversations that bring together experts to discuss relevant issues that impact and influence tax administration.
The first NTA Conversation panel discussion “An International Ethnographic Perspective on Tax Administration and Tax Compliance” was held on Dec. 1, 2017. The discussion included five international tax researchers who shared their approach to tax research and their work experiences with tax administration and tax compliance. Read More
In last week’s blog, Telephone Service in an Omnichannel Environment – The IRS Must Make Communicating with the IRS Over the Phone Easier for Taxpayers, I discussed some of the struggles taxpayers will face during filing season while trying to get help from the IRS over the phone. Given the challenges of increased call volume and confusion over the tax law changes, along with the uncertainty of the IRS’s final funding level for Fiscal Years 2018 and 2019, the IRS has projected its “level of service” (LOS) on its Accounts Management lines will be anywhere from 40 percent to 80 percent for Filing Season (FS) 2018. In a later blog, I will discuss my concerns about how the IRS calculates LOS and whether that measure provides accurate information about callers’ experience with the phones. Read More
Jan. 29th marked the start of the 2018 tax filing season, as the IRS began accepting and processing an estimated 155 million individual tax returns for Tax Year 2017. Taxpayers have between now and April 17, 2018 to file their individual tax returns with the IRS, either online or through the mail, or obtain a filing extension until Oct. 15th. Filing season can be stressful for taxpayers in the best of times, as many have questions about how to properly report their earnings, claim deductions, and comply with their tax obligations. Read More
Taxpayers can claim the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) in more than one tax year, so using the audit as an opportunity to educate them about the requirements for claiming EITC is of particular benefit to them and to the IRS. If a taxpayer claims the credit in error but understands why there was an error, he or she can not only become compliant for the year of any audit, but remain compliant going forward. However, audits are expensive for both the IRS and taxpayers, and are intrusive and intimidating for the taxpayer. There are many EITC returns the IRS does not audit but identifies as containing an error. Thus, while the IRS may not have the resources to audit these taxpayers, through other cost-effective approaches, it can educate them about why they appear to have erroneously claimed EITC, and avert future noncompliance.