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Advocate: IRS Needs More Digital Services

The Internal Revenue Service needs to increase the availability of online tools, national taxpayer advocate Erin M. Collins said in her recent report to Congress. That includes reducing barriers to electronic filing, utilizing scanning technology and expanding the use of digital documents and signatures.

 The report’s first recommendation was the development of what it called “accessible, robust online accounts.” Online accounts for individual taxpayers are limited because more fail to establish the account fail because they cannot pass the e-authentication, while functionality is also very limited. The Taxpayer Advocate Service  recommends  taxpayers be given the option of utilizing accounts for all common transactions and that practitioners be granted access to their clients accounts.

In addition, TAS said callback technology should be expended to all IRS toll-free telephone lines, but is not currently available on most lines, including the high-volume ones.
 
 While e-filing accounts for the overwhelming number of returns processed, some taxpayers continue to file paper returns primarily because of the following:: taxpayers sometimes are required to submit statements or other substantiation with their returns, and these generally cannot be e-filed; some forms are not accepted electronically; and (taxpayers sometimes need to override default entries when preparing their returns via tax software, with some of overrides rendering returns ineligible for e-filing.

Noting the March 2020 closure of IRS offices and mail sites, the report said temporary procedures adopted during the pandemic should be made permanent. Among these are the ability of employees to accept and transmit documents related to the determination or collection of taxes by email using a secured messaging system. They were also permitted

images of signatures (scanned or photographed) and digital signatures on documents related to the determination or collection for those purposes.

Finally, the report  cited the use of video conferencing by the IRS Independent Office of Appeals and IRS Office of Chief Counsel and the U.S. Tax Court as adding “a vital human interaction option to enable communication with taxpayers when appropriate, and it provides options for taxpayers with difficulty traveling or the inability to take extended time off from work.”

Bob Scott
Bob Scott has provided information to the tax and accounting community since 1991, first as technology editor of Accounting Today, and from 1997 through 2009 as editor of its sister publication, Accounting Technology. He is known throughout the industry for his depth of knowledge and for his high journalistic standards.  Scott has made frequent appearances as a speaker, moderator and panelist and events serving tax and accounting professionals. He  has a strong background in computer journalism as an editor with two former trade publications, Computer+Software News and MIS Week and spent several years with weekly and daily newspapers in Morris County New Jersey prior to that.  A graduate of Indiana University with a degree in journalism, Bob is a native of Madison, Ind
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