The Internal Revenue Service can use the efforts of CPAs and other tax practitioners as a springboard to leverage IRS initiatives to improve taxpayer compliance, Tom Purcell, chair of the American Institute of CPAs' Tax Executive Committee, told the IRS Oversight Board.

"We view pro bono activities by tax practitioners as one of the best opportunities for the service to leverage its resources and, at the same time, foster an increase in tax compliance," Purcell said this week.

Purcell said that the AICPA and the IRS are discussing a pilot program to use CPA volunteers to augment IRS employee volunteers at disaster relief sites so that other IRS employees can continue working on examination and collection cases. The IRS has also asked CPAs to conduct small business tax workshops that were previously conducted by IRS staff as a means of freeing up the time of IRS employees.

Purcell noted that ethics training for IRS employees is also important, because IRS examination and collections employees must be able to "step into the shoes" of tax professionals and vice versa.

"Government workers and professional tax practitioners must be able to understand each other, including the ethics requirements expected of the other, in order to ensure greater strides in tax compliance," Purcell told the oversight board.

He also cited continuing professional education, IRS employee training, and tax simplification as ways to foster compliance among the public.

Purcell told the board that the IRS should seek advice from outside stakeholders in designing employee training programs and use these stakeholders to help teach the training courses. He said that when the IRS has collaborated with outside stakeholders in the past, on projects such as soliciting feedback on draft IRS forms, examination re-engineering proposals and National Research Program training materials, the efforts have been successful. Purcell also stressed the importance of full funding of the IRS budget. "Absent proper funding, administrative simplification is unlikely to yield any significant results," he said.

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