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National Taxpayer Advocate’s review of 2021 filing season pushes IRS to improve service, reduce backlog

In the annual midyear report submitted by the Taxpayer Advocate Service (TAS) to Congress last June 30, National Taxpayer Advocate Erin Collins pushed for the improvement of services at the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to reduce its backlog.

Collins commended the IRS for its efforts during the 2021 filing season, noting that it was perhaps the most challenging time for taxpayers, tax professionals, and the agency. However, she also identified serious problems, including a historically high backlog of over 35 million individual and business income tax returns that require manual processing, and historically poor phone service, with the IRS answering only about seven percent of calls.

To improve communication between the IRS and its customers, Collins offered the following proactive recommendations:

  • Prioritize the development of accessible, robust online accounts. Most taxpayers who try to establish online accounts fail because they cannot pass the e-authentication requirements. Tax practitioners having access to online accounts on behalf of their clients will allow virtual interaction with the IRS on most issues. 
  • Expand customer callback technology to all IRS toll-free telephone lines. The report said that this option is not yet offered on most lines, including the high-volume lines.
  • Reduce barriers to e-filing tax returns. Collins noted that about 10 percent of individual taxpayers still mail their returns on paper, which is mainly due to e-filing limitations. 
  • Utilize scanning technology for individual income tax returns prepared electronically but submitted on paper. Collins highlighted that using scanning technology will improve accuracy and reduce costs. 
  • Expand digital acceptance and transmission of documents and digital signatures. In 2020, the IRS temporarily allowed to accept and transmit documents, images of signatures, and digital signatures relating to the determination or collection of tax liability. Collins strongly recommended making this permanent. 
  • Offer video conferencing options. Collins noted that expanding this option will allow taxpayers and their representatives to be seen and heard and share documents without being physically present.

In response to the report, the IRS agreed with many of Collins’ points on providing better service delivery to taxpayers and modernizing operations, including the need for robust online accounts, electronic filing and video conferencing options, and reassessment of policies.

With these recommendations, clients of Stephano Slack who rely on our tax preparation services can expect better communication with the IRS for quicker refunds in the coming months.

If you have any questions or require professional assistance in processing your tax returns, send us a message at contact@stephanoslack.com, and our team of experts at Stephano Slack will make sure to help you out. Visit www.stephanoslack.com/services today to learn more about what we can do for your business.

 

August 4, 2021