Tax pro groups call out IRS on ‘unacceptable’ service

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Nine organizations representing diverse segments of the tax practitioner community have presented federal lawmakers with a set of recommendations to improve IRS services.

The groups called for an improved governance and oversight structure for the IRS, and proposed a new unit within the IRS that would centralize the agency’s services to tax practitioners.

“The current degradation of the IRS taxpayer services is unacceptable,” the groups stated in their framework, “Ensuring a Modern-Functioning IRS for the 21st Century.

The recommendations are endorsed by the American Institute of CPAs, the National Association of Enrolled Agents, the National Association of Tax Professionals, the National Conference of CPA Practitioners, the National Society of Accountants, National Society of Tax Professionals, alliantgroup LP, Crowe Horwath and Padgett Business Services.

“We have spent years calling for these improvements and better funding for the IRS to serve the needs of American taxpayers, yet funding continues to be cut and IRS service levels are abysmal,” NSA executive vice president John Ams pointed out in a separate statement. “In 2016 the IRS only answered 53 percent of calls from taxpayers. That’s not good enough.”

As an example of how poor the service has become, the paper cited figures from the National Taxpayer Advocate’s 2016 report to Congress that showed that the percentage of taxpayer calls answered by the IRS between 2004 and 2016 has dropped from 87 percent to 53 percent.

The groups noted the similarities between the condition of the IRS today and the circumstances that motivated creation of the National Commission on Restructuring the Internal Revenue Service more than 20 years ago. The groups recommended that any effort to modernize the IRS and its technology infrastructure today should build on the foundation established by the Restructuring Commission. Among the governance and oversight recommendations are:

  • Setting and maintaining consistent priorities and strategic direction;
  • Re-establishing the annual joint hearing review by the Joint Committee on Taxation;
  • Requiring the Joint Committee on Taxation to provide a bi-annual report;
  • Requiring a Government Accountability Office review of the IRS Oversight Board;
  • Enabling the hiring of qualified and experienced professionals at the IRS;
  • Determining the appropriate level of service and compliance they want the IRS accountable to provide and dedicating appropriate resources for the agency to meet those goals; and,
  • Gauging performance with customer satisfaction surveys.

Also recommended is a new dedicated “executive-level” practitioner services unit within the IRS that would centralize and modernize the agency’s approach to all practitioners, maintaining that IRS employees are dispersed across the agency and not coordinated in a way that enables practitioners to timely access critical information, such as clients’ account status or the availability of dispute resolution opportunities.

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