In the summer of 2013, after some delay, the IRS retired several online features that many tax practitioners utilized to conduct faster service. Rather than extinguish useful tools that are common for Enrolled Agent tax work, the IRS has been asked to expand the number of accessories available online. This is more consistent with past IRS pronouncements of developing better procedural methods.
The disclosure authorization (DA) and electronic account resolution (EAR) processes have departed the IRS suite of e-Services. This is a discouraging event for all tax professionals, but especially Enrolled Agents. They commonly need DA and EAR for their clients. Learning to use these steps for taxpayers was as important to EAs as mastering study for the Enrolled Agent examination. These automation procedures sped the execution of EA efforts. Electronic tools are aimed at delivering substantial improvement to service by removing the need to wait for IRS personnel.
The IRS cited low usage of DA and EAR as the rationale for retiring these online functions. This claim sent Enrolled Agents wondering how such a statement could be true. Data from 2010 released by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration indicate that the IRS sent about 200 million notices to taxpayers. A representative with Enrolled Agent training uses an authorization form to act on behalf of a taxpayer. This filing procedure was instantaneous with automated DA services.
The DA tool informed the IRS about existence of the professional representation. EAR was even more useful during an Enrolled Agent career. That system helped EAs understand details relating to the tax notice, request account changes, and establish taxpayer installment agreements with the IRS. No need to wait for acceptances of faxes or endure long hold times on the phone. And yet those time-consuming measures are the new alternatives given to tax practitioners. Waits should be longer than ever because the upcoming IRS budget reflects several thousand fewer employees.
Instead of cutting back on e-Services, more utilization of the platform could occur from expanding the available tools. One simple possibility is automating withdrawal of disclosure authorization forms. This is a companion process to the DA step of implementing authorizations. Electronic submission of both elements removes the common 10-day wait. In fact, this ineffectiveness at addressing the full range of tax practitioner needs is cited as one of the reasons for low usage of IRS e-Services.
Another reason for frustration in using e-Services to deliver EA solutions is that the system does not have a simplified dashboard providing information about client status. For example EAs need to know which IRS unit is assigned to a specific client. In addition, e-Services has not allowed tax practitioners to obtain wage and income transcripts for verifying taxpayer information. Also recommended for improving e-Services is expanding EAR to include penalty abatement requests.
Perhaps the most innovative way of modernizing IRS e-Services that expands usage of the system is enabling electronic communications. Enrolled Agents are still unable to securely communicate via email with employees at the IRS. At the least, taxpayer representatives should receive IRS notices in a secure electronic mailbox. Many EAs have suggested that an ideal place for starting this arrangement is e-mail of CP2000 notices and responses. This would create considerable efficiencies in the work of Enrolled Agents. The Government Accountability Office reported that the IRS received 21 million pieces of mail in 2012 and that 40 percent of it was not processed on time.
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