The Taxpayer Advocacy Panel has sent the Internal Revenue Service recommendations for easing taxpayer burdens in five areas.In a 12-page report dated Aug. 18, the panel made the following suggestions:

* Sec. 7216 regulations. The panel said that it supports proposed changes to regulations that allow for criminal sanctions when a person involved in tax prep "knowingly or recklessly" discloses taxpayer data. However, the panel believes that regulations should be put in place to ensure that the preparer provides informed consent, especially where outsourcing is used.

* Licensing return preparers. The panel recommended the licensing of all paid tax preparers, and that a background check should be required.

* Direction of Volunteer Income Tax Assistance and tax counseling for the Elderly The panel stated that the IRS should expand the Volunteer Return Preparation Program to provide more effective services to a larger group.

* Outsourcing to private collection agencies. The panel said that the IRS should abandon plans to outsource the collection of some taxpayer debts to private contractors.

* Availability of Free File for taxpayers. The panel said that the Free File program should be available to all taxpayers, though it allowed that if income limits must be set, the cap should be set at adjusted gross income of $100,000. The panel also said that the software companies participating in the Free File Alliance should include a standard list of tax forms and a description of their offerings, and that ultimately, the IRS should have a filing portal through which taxpayers can submit tax returns for free.

The report is available at www.improveirs.org/.

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