Stakeholder Meeting Topics covered – Collections, Tax Assistance Counter, ITINs and more

Report from IRS Stakeholder Meeting – Los Angeles, June 28, 2012  

Stakeholder Meeting Topics covered – Collections, Tax Assistance Counter, ITINs and more

Collections

Fresh Start Initiative

1)      Quick and easy installment agreements for folks owing $50,000 or less who can pay off the balance in 6 years or less. You will face much less paperwork – likened to a signature loan. And IRS will not file liens, as long as you’re in compliance with the installment agreement terms.

2)      Easier and less costly Offers in Compromise. For qualifying taxpayers, the offer is based on

  1. Available cash flow for only two years, instead of the much longer term before (up to the end of the open statute of limitations on collections – or 5-10 years).  This is a HUGE savings!
  2. You are permitted to exclude some additional assets and cash. You can reduce your available cash flow by payments on student loans, state taxes and certain other debt (like credit cards) that were not previously permitted.

3)      Planned Field Call Initiative (a test program). IRS is testing a new programs in their Collections division. Instead of suddenly getting an impromptu visits by IRS Revenue Officers (collections agents) at your home or business, the IRS is testing to see what happens if they send an appointment letter instead. This is being tested in key areas all over the country.

  1. The hope is that this will bring more cooperation from the taxpayer. The IRS is aware that by giving you notice, you have time to hide your assets or lifestyle or cover up visible evidence of illegal activities.
  2. However, this appointment option will not be tested on tax avoiders (ATAT) , tax criminals, pyramiders, repeat offenders, or others, where the IRS feels their opportunity to collect the tax will be impaired.  (They’re kinder and gentler – not stupid.)

The  Voluntary Classification Settlement Program for employers is part of this Fresh Start Initiative. Read more details about VCSP – and some advice,  on TaxMama.com

General Questions that came up

Q. How can we get a case out of the ACS (automated collections system) and into the hands of a Revenue Officer (RO)?

A. Generally, you won’t. Don’t just drop into a field office and expect an RO to work with your case. They already have some pretty big, assigned case loads.  First try talking to a manager at ACS. If that doesn’t help, you can call the Practitioner Priority Service or go to the counter to get some help when the case is too complex for ACS, or if you want to get documents into the system and ACS keeps losing them.  Of course, there’s always the Taxpayers Advocate Service.

That’s IRS’s answer. TaxMama suggests that if ACS isn’t doing their job and you are not getting the help you need, you start working your way up the food chain. Start by calling the territory manager for Collections in the appropriate jurisdiction.  The best way to get your hands on a current directory is to contact your local chapter of your national tax society and they can help you find it. Or contact the IRS Stakeholder Liaison’s office in your area.

Q. How is this new Fresh Start initiative looking a dissipated assets?

IRS Answer.  Same as before. No new levels of leniency.

Change in ITIN Application Policy

IRS recently announced that they will no longer accept copies of documents with applications for ITINs. The ITINs are numbers, similar to Social Security Numbers (SSN), for foreign nationals or other individuals who do not qualify for an SSN.

Q. What about Acceptance Agents who have been approved by IRS to review these documents? They have been permitted to send in copies of the documents they have reviewed.

IRS Answer.  Nope. Only originals, or certified copies are acceptable.

Q. It’s a major hardship for the individual to release original documents. Sometimes, they simply cannot be replaced – and IRS has been known to lose originals. In other instances, people need the documents for travel, or in their day-to-day activities. IRS tends to keep these documents for months. This is an unreasonable hardship. What’s the alternative?

IRS Answer.  People can go to their countries embassies or consulates to get certifications of their copies. (Even then, I get the impression, IRS wants the originals – you can keep the certified copies.)

TaxMama note: Essentially, there doesn’t seem to be much leniency on these points.  The only thing I can think about is – there must have been extensive abuse in the program. And if the IRS is not trusting their Acceptance Agents, there must have been problems in that area, as well.

IMRS – Issue Management Resolution System

Nothing is perfect. And a system as big and complex as the one IRS manages is bound to run into systemic problems. That means – things that don’t work correctly, cumbersome processes that can be simplified, conflicts, breakdowns, etc.

IRS is open to ideas on how to do a better job. Believe it or not! It’s true.

You can submit ideas to the IMRS pipeline, especially if you also have a proposed solution.  You can also search the IMRS database or summaries to see if your issue has already been addressed.  I know this system works because several of my suggestions or problem referrals have either been implemented or are under consideration. (For instance – A state agency was having trouble interpreting information on checks from IRS to trust accounts for elderly or disabled individuals under the care of the state. IRS can find a better way to include more information on the check’s memo line.) 

Correspondence Audits

Still a pain. They are designed to manage queries and audits that don’t require masses of paperwork – things that can be easily and quickly resolved. If the issues become more complex or require submission of volumes of documents, you should ask for a field audit. Contact the Practitioner Priority Service for help.

  • They are open from 7:00 am to 7:00 pm in your time zone.
  • Since April PPS has a direct line to Correspondence Exam
  • Tip from a couple of people – call later in the afternoon, if you’re getting long waits in the morning. (after 4:00 pm and 6:00 pm have been suggested. )
  • All IRS units have access to more multi-lingual staff, if you or your client need special language assistance.

TaxMama’s advice?

Any time you are facing problems and getting nowhere – try asking for a manager. If the IRS staff person refuses or hangs up on you – call back again and you’ll get someone else. THEN ask for a manager.  

Yes, you may report the previous assistor’s conduct and provide the person’s name and employee number.  How would you know it?

EVERY time you have a telephone conversation with anyone at IRS, write down that person’s name and employee number at the beginning of the conversation. They rattle it off really quickly when they answer the phone. Politely, ask them to repeat it slowly, so you can write it down.  Then, use that person’s name (i.e. Mr. or Ms. Whatever – not first name) in your conversation. After all, people who know that you know who they are, are less apt to fly off the handle and hang up.

Tax Assistance Counter at IRS offices

The IRS recently announced that they will no longer accept large batches of tax returns for immediate, in-person processing from tax professionals at the IRS counters.  This has resulted in a bit of panic and some fury. So let’s clarify the policy and how it will work.

IRS simply doesn’t have the offices or the staff to stand there and log in large batches of tax returns brought in by tax professionals. This is logistically impossible – especially when there are large lines of taxpayers waiting for their turn to be helped. Tax professionals have a variety of other ways to submit tax returns, forms, etc. without using the counter.

What WILL they do for tax professionals at the counter?

  • They will accept one or two returns at a time.
  • If you have a large batch of returns, include two things with them:
    • A cover letter with a list the returns, showing taxpayer name, TIN, Form and Year.
    • A copy of the first page of each return.
    • The counter-person will stamp the cover letter and the first page of each return as received. They will not PROCESS them. The batch will be sent off the appropriate service center.
    • If you have cases that are on deadline – like imminent statute cases (the statute of limitations is about to expire), they will take those.
    • They will accept payments at the counter. IRS will always take your or your client’s money.

For taxpayers – YOU have access to help at the IRS counter. Please use the services, if you can find an office in your area. To get help, visit this page on the IRS website.

 

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