Internal Revenue Service commissioner John Koskinen addressed a special thank you to the tax community in an email to tax professionals Friday, noting that their work is “critical to running the tax system and helping the nation.”

“With the end of the filing season just a few days away, I want to take a moment to thank all the tax professionals and other partners who have helped to make this filing season run smoothly,” he wrote. “It’s a long list, ranging from attorneys, Certified Public Accountants and Enrolled Agents to the software industry and payroll community.”

“Tax professionals and other partners are a vital link between the IRS and taxpayers, particularly given that most people seek assistance in doing their taxes,” Koskinen added. “Your work is critical to running the tax system and helping the nation. As the final days and hours approach before April 15, I just wanted to let you know that we appreciate your hard work and continued dedication. Of course, the work does not stop on April 15. The tax professional community works throughout the year helping individual and business clients with extensions, amended returns and many other issues. We look forward to continuing to work with tax professionals and all of our partners in the tax community as we start to wrap up the work of this filing season and turn our attention to preparing for next year.”

The IRS also included a link in the same email to Koskinen’s prepared testimony on Tuesday during a Senate Finance Committee hearing on incompetent and unethical tax preparers (see Senate Committee Mulls Regulation of Tax Preparers). While the hearing had focused mostly on negative findings about tax preparers and efforts by the IRS and the states to regulate after federal courts invalidated the IRS’s Registered Tax Return Preparer program, Koskinen had also made sure to emphasize the IRS’s reliance on the tax preparer community.

“We view our relationship with tax professionals as a partnership, one that has enabled a system that interacts with hundreds of millions of taxpayers to nimbly adjust to new tax laws, speed the average time for refunds, and encourage the voluntary compliance of taxpayers,” he said. “Return preparers are a vital link between the IRS and taxpayers, especially given that the vast majority of people seek help in doing their taxes.”

Koskinen noted that each year, paid preparers are called upon by taxpayers to complete about 80 million returns, or about 56 percent of the total individual income tax returns filed, while another 34 percent of taxpayers use tax preparation software, for a total of 90 percent who seek some form of assistance.

Separately, the IRS also reassured tax professionals in Friday’s e-newsletter that its systems had not been affected by the so-called “Heartbleed” bug that was identified this week as a security vulnerability on many popular Web sites across the Internet.

“The IRS continues to accept tax returns as normal,” said the IRS. “Our systems continue operating and are not affected by this bug, and we are not aware of any security vulnerabilities related to this situation. We continue to monitor the situation and remain in contact with our software partners. The IRS advises taxpayers to continue filing their tax returns as they normally would in advance of the April 15 deadline.”

The IRS also reminded tax professionals that they can help their clients file for a tax extension if they need more time after April 15. The IRS said it has received nearly 100 million tax returns so far this year and expects to receive about 35 million more by April 15. However, it anticipates that approximately 12 million taxpayers will have requested extensions by the filing deadline by submitting Form 4868, giving them an extra six months until October 15 to file their tax returns.