IRS update: Getting ready for tax season

The IRS has been undertaking a number of steps to hone its approach to the filing season ahead. Among these are launching its 2021 “Get Ready” campaign, addressing online services and enterprise digitalization and case management, and implementing e-signatures on additional forms.

In addition, it has reviewed the 2020 Tax Forums and is planning for next year’s forums, according to Stephen Mankowski, a CPA and tax chair of the National Conference of CPA Practitioners. Mankowski recently attended a virtual meeting with government officials who discussed these issues.

Online services

Karen Howard assumed the role of director of online services approximately four months ago, Mankowski noted: “As a new leader in the federal government, she is working to bring her business expertise to taxpayer services. Ms. Howard has extensive experience in the retail industry, manufacturing operations and digital transformation. It’s no surprise that COVID-19 has underscored and accelerated the need for digital services,” he said.

“The IRS website had record traffic of 78.7 million viewers, more than six times the previous level. This was primarily attributable to the launch of the Get My Payment app, which had 47 million sessions,” he said. “At times there were over 4 million users per hour — a positive sign, since despite the high number of simultaneous users, the system kept going and didn’t crash.”

Enterprise digitalization and case management

An IRS office building in the East Harlem neighborhood of New York
In July 2020, the IRS created a new Enterprise Digitalization and Case Management Office, co-directed by Justin Abold-LaBreche and Harrison Smith, according to Mankowski.

“The objective of the office is to take enterprise case management to the next level,” he said. “More and more areas will be migrating into this office over the next three years. Digitalization data is much more accessible for the IRS and taxpayers, as well as more accurate and timelier. There are many opportunities to make the IRS more efficient over the next year, especially with some 1,438 forms between electronic and paper. While certain legislative requirements mandate that some items remain on paper, that is rare. Newer technologies, such as machine learning, are allowing the IRS to enhance its service both in the near and long term.”

E-signature update

The IRS is progressing with the implementation of e-Signatures on Forms 2848, “Power of Attorney,” and 8821, “Tax Information Authorization,” Mankowski noted: “They are planning to launch the Taxpayer Digitalization Platform in January 2021."

The platform will give both tax professionals and taxpayers secure access to create forms electronically. Taxpayer authentication will not be necessary as long as the tax professional submits the forms through the TDP. Submissions to TDP will be limited to one form at a time. The IRS is scheduling focus groups in November to gain feedback, and there will be a webinar in December to promote the platform.

'Get Ready' campaign

A pedestrian walks past the IRS headquarters in Washington, D.C.
The IRS is readying its 2021 “Get Ready” campaign, now entering its fourth consecutive year, Mankowski said. The campaign is designed for a smoother taxpayer experience this coming filing season, including:
  • What to do to prepare now — year of changes, gathering records, and reminders to renew expiring ITINs.
  • What’s new, including Economic Impact Payment reconciliation Forms 1444 and 1444A, and new income sources for taxpayers, such as refund interest and unemployment — Forms 1099INT and 1099G.
  • Using online resources and the IRS website to help taxpayers stay safe.

IRS Tax Forums

Tax forms
“The IRS intends to return to the in-person format sometime in the future, pending the COVID-19 situation,” according to Mankowski. The 2020 forums attracted 10,300 paid attendees with access to more than 30 seminars and a virtual exhibit hall, he said. "Eighteen of those including the IRS commissioner’s address, are available on demand for a fee. They’re committed to having forums in 2021 but are leaving the format open,” he said.

A number of sessions will be available on demand, Mankowski indicated. “If you want to catch one but don’t want to do the whole forum, you can go in and register for one session at a reduced price,” he said.