The National Association of Enrolled Agents sent a letter to members of Congress’s tax-writing committees calling for a series of changes at the Internal Revenue Service.

The NAEA represents more than 55,000 enrolled agents. “The tax professional community should be a critical part of any plan that hopes to create a well-run, efficient IRS,” wrote NAEA president James R. Adelman in a letter Thursday to members of the House Ways and Means Committee and the Senate Finance Committee.

The move came as Congress passed a $320 million increase in funding for the IRS to implement the new tax law (see Congress to give IRS $320M funding boost to administer new tax law while fixing ‘grain glitch’). House Ways and Means Committee chairman Kevin Brady, R-Texas, has also announced plans for an IRS reform bill, along with a possible “phase 2” follow-up to the new tax law that would make the individual tax cuts permanent and lower capital gains rates.

The NAEA noted that in 2017, taxpayers filed 132 million returns electronically, and 79 million of those originated with approximately 700,000 paid preparers. The NAEA said that in order to leverage the tax professional community, “Congress should provide guidance on private sector electronic signature options for Forms 2848 and 8821 used by Circular 230 practitioners. IRS should debut tax practitioner online accounts that include a robust and secure means of communicating with IRS.”

The organization said the reform effort should reestablish an annual joint congressional hearing to provide guidance on acceptable levels of service and enforcement and inform the appropriations process. The group is also calling for workforce reform at the IRS to focus on the agency’s culture and leadership. “To that end, IRS needs to have a dialog centered on its values and its approach to providing top-quality service to the public,” said Adelman. “The agency cannot provide excellent customer service if it cannot train and develop its staff and secure the right leadership.”

The NAEA also wants the IRS to create a dedicated, executive-level practitioner services unit that would centralize and modernize its approach to all practitioners. It also called on Congress to provide the IRS with the authority to establish minimum standards for unenrolled tax preparers, empower the Office of Professional Responsibility to issue cease-and-desist letters to any person or corporation improperly using the agency’s credential, and clarify who may verify any element of a return for purposes of qualifying for any federal program or benefit.

“In sum, IRS should develop a strategic mission shared by its many stakeholders—employees, congressional overseers, and tax professionals alike,” said Adelman. “To help sustain this shared mission, Congress must consider governance, management, personnel, and budget. Only in this comprehensive approach do we believe the agency can be successful in its mission, which is to provide top quality service.”

The word "Taxes" on the facade of the IRS headquarters in Washington, D.C.
The word "Taxes" on the facade of the IRS headquarters in Washington, D.C. Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

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