A pair of reports from IRS advisory and watchdog groups outline a set of priorities for the agency, including remote work, uncertain tax positions and security.

On Wednesday, one of the IRS’s main advisory panels, the Internal Revenue Service Advisory Council, issued its report at a public meeting. In the report, IRSAC made several recommendations on a broad variety of issues and concerns, including “how the use of remote work concepts by the IRS can be expanded and improved to more efficiently deploy the Service's limited resources, identifying ways [the IRS’s Large Business and International division] may gain greater commercial awareness, additional guidance regarding Schedule UTP, how distance learning methods employed by the IRS may be improved, insights regarding expanding usage of fast track settlement in order to facilitate earlier resolution of issues and to assist in managing the workload of IRS Appeals, and how the IRS could take advantage of the mandated research conducted within the academic community."

On the matter of improving Schedule UTP for reporting uncertain tax positions, a subgroup on the advisory council suggested additional guidance in the form of new FAQs or clarifications of those already published. It also recommended that any future guidance be vetted in draft form with taxpayer groups to ensure such guidance aligns with the accounting rules and practices followed by taxpayers.

"During the past year, IRSAC has tackled many important tax policy and tax administration issues," said IRS Commissioner Doug Shulman in a statement. "We welcome the committee’s suggestions as we address future challenges."

The other report offering recommendations to the IRS came from the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration. Inspector General J. Russell George issued his office’s annual memorandum for Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner outlining the management and performance challenges facing the IRS for fiscal year 2012.

For fiscal year 2012, the top 10 management and performance challenges in order of priority are: 1. security for taxpayer data and employees; 2. tax compliance initiatives; 3. modernization; 4. implementing major tax law changes; 5. fraudulent claims and improper payments; 6. providing quality taxpayer service operations; 7. human capital; 8. globalization; 9. taxpayer protection and rights; and 10. achieving program efficiencies and cost savings.

TIGTA’s assessment of the major IRS management challenges for fiscal year 2012 has changed from the prior fiscal year, the report noted. “Due to the mission-critical nature of both modernization and tax compliance initiatives, TIGTA considers tax compliance and modernization as serious enough management challenges to jointly rank at number two, following security. However, the current status of the United States economy and the watchful eye of the American public on the management of our nation’s government are driving the need more than ever for the IRS to efficiently and effectively collect taxes.”

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