New Refund Status Check Put Through Trial Run: The Internal Revenue Service is testing a new Internet-based service that will allow taxpayers to check the status of their refunds at anytime from anywhere. The Web application is expected to be fully operational for the 2003 filing season.

The agency moved the pilot project to the front page of www.irs.gov in order to test its ability to handle a large volume of users. Taxpayers who filed Form 1040, Form 1040-A or Form 1040-EZ and are due a refund may use the application. The program will mark the first time that taxpayers have been able to access their accounts directly through the Internet.

"This program proves our modernization efforts are paying off for taxpayers," said Charles O. Rossotti, the IRS’s commissioner. "Taxpayers will be just a couple of mouse clicks away from knowing exactly where their refunds are. This type of real benefit for our customers is made possible through the IRS Business Systems Modernization program."

Taxpayers can use the Internet service to find out if their tax return has been processed and when their refund will be mailed or direct-deposited. The application also can help taxpayers learn if there is a problem with their refund and recommend steps to resolve problems. Taxpayers also can find out if their check was returned to the IRS as undelivered.

IRS Tests New Procedures To Speed Technical Advice Process: The Internal Revenue Service is testing a pilot program to streamline the process for issuing technical advice in audit situations. During the pilot, the new product - called a Technical Expedited Advice Memorandum - will be limited to income tax and accounting issues. If successful, the TEAM process will expand to all tax issues.

"The TEAM process will speed advice to IRS agents and appeals officers and taxpayers, resolve audit issues more fairly and reduce confusion over the agency’s legal positions," said IRS chief counsel B. John Williams.

The TEAM process will make liberal use of technology - including fax, e-mail and teleconferences - to minimize expenses and burdens for both taxpayers and the IRS. "TEAMs will create a more open process for resolving difficult tax issues," said Williams. "Taxpayers and IRS agents, alike, can move audits to a speedy conclusion."

One TEAM innovation is that if the taxpayer and the auditor do not agree on the facts of the case, the chief counsel may issue two separate answers - one based on the taxpayer’s submission of facts and the other based on the auditor’s. In such cases, the IRS field office will not be bound by the findings of the TEAM.

JEC Says More Flexibility Needed in Scoring Legislation: Current budget rules are biased against tax relief and should be modified to level the playing field, according to a study recently released by Joint Economic Committee chairman Jim Saxton.

The new JEC study, Extending the Budget Enforcement Act: Revision of PAYGO Rules Necessary for Better Tax Policy , analyzes the operation of budget procedures up for revision this year and their often-negative effects on tax policy.

"The current budget process is as complicated as it is dysfunctional," Saxton said. "Instead of improvement in tax policy, the budget rules provide many incentives to contort tax legislation to comply with various budget mandates. One consequence is a distorted tax code that may comply with the budget rules, but engenders unnecessary complexity and economic inefficiency. Both the budget process and the tax code are a mess, at least partly as a result of the maze of budget rules."

"If Congress is to extend the Budget Enforcement Act, several reforms should be considered to lessen its bias against tax relief. "

"As Congress frames tax policy, the most important question should not be how to game the scoring system, but how to best improve the economic efficiency and simplicity of the tax code," Saxton concluded

SBA, IRS Team to Provide Resource for Small Biz Owners: The U.S. Small Business Administration and the Internal Revenue Service have teamed up to offer a free resource guide to help small businesses manage tax issues.

Jointly developed by the SBA and the IRS, "The Small Business Resource Guide 2002 - What You Need to Know About Taxes and Other Topics," is an interactive tool that provides tax information, forms, instructions and publications, as well as information from government agencies, non-profits organizations and educational institutions.

The guide includes a full-text search engine, business tutorials, a comprehensive resource directory, e-filing videos and basic tax law training, as well as information on how to prepare a business plan and locating financing.

The free guide is available online at www.sba.gov (click item No. 5, "SBA/IRS CD Small Business Resource Guide").

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