NTA Weblog: Nationwide Taxpayer Advocate releases 2021 Annual Report back to Congress

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On Wednesday, January 12, 2022, I launched the Nationwide Taxpayer Advocate’s 2021 Annual Report back to Congress and the fifth version of the Nationwide Taxpayer Advocate’s Purple E book, which presents legislative suggestions designed to strengthen taxpayer rights and enhance tax administration for all taxpayers.

There isn’t any solution to sugarcoat the 12 months 2021 in tax administration. It was probably the most difficult 12 months taxpayers and tax professionals have ever skilled – lengthy processing and refund delays, problem reaching the IRS by telephone, correspondence that went unprocessed for a lot of months, assortment notices issued whereas taxpayer correspondence was awaiting processing, restricted or no data on the The place’s My Refund? instrument for delayed returns, and – for full disclosure – problem acquiring well timed help from TAS.

To its credit score, the IRS carried out effectively beneath tough circumstances. Because the begin of the pandemic, it has carried out vital packages enacted by Congress, together with issuing 478 million Financial Influence Funds totaling $812 billion and sending Advance Little one Tax Credit score (AdvCTC) funds to over 36 million households totaling over $93 billion.

Nevertheless, taxpayer service was the worst it’s ever been. The mix of processing delays and questions on new packages such because the AdvCTC brought about IRS phone name volumes to nearly triple to 282 million calls, and customer support representatives answered simply 11 p.c of these calls. Taxpayers and tax professionals had been understandably pissed off and dissatisfied. In spite of everything, it’s tough to adjust to the tax legal guidelines when you may’t get your query answered in a well timed method.

Alongside the identical strains, the IRS took months to course of taxpayer responses to notices, additional delaying refunds. It took a mean of 199 days for the IRS to course of taxpayer responses to proposed changes, up from 74 days in fiscal 12 months 2019, the latest pre-pandemic 12 months. In lots of instances, if the IRS didn’t course of a taxpayer response, automated processes took opposed motion or didn’t launch the refund. And when taxpayers tried to test the standing of their refunds on the The place’s My Refund? instrument greater than 632 million instances final 12 months, the instrument too typically didn’t present data on unprocessed returns or clarify standing delays, the explanations for delays, the place the returns stood within the processing pipeline, or what actions taxpayers wanted to take, if any.

Now we have written in depth about these points in our Annual Report back to Congress, the place we establish the ten Most Critical Issues taxpayers are dealing with this 12 months: processing and refund delays; worker recruitment, hiring, and coaching; phone and in-person taxpayer service; transparency and readability; submitting season delays; limitations of on-line taxpayer accounts; limitations in digital taxpayer communications, together with e-mail; e-filing boundaries; correspondence audits; and the impression of assortment insurance policies on low-income taxpayers. We additionally make administrative suggestions to the IRS to think about in tackling the issues.

By statute, we handle the ten tax points most litigated in federal courtroom. Traditionally, TAS utilized industrial authorized analysis databases to assessment printed opinions in a number of courts to find out the ten most litigated points. To achieve a broader view of tax litigation, this 12 months TAS used a hybrid methodology by additionally reviewing the roughly 28,000 taxpayers petitioning Tax Court docket in fiscal 12 months (FY) 2021. We imagine analyzing the problems raised within the discover of deficiency for 1000’s of Tax Court docket petitions gives a extra correct view of litigation points moderately than analyzing a couple of hundred issued opinions.

Within the Purple E book, I suggest 68 legislative suggestions for consideration by Congress. Whereas these don’t cowl each situation, we expect Congress can and may contemplate them to deal with the problems we now have recognized. These suggestions embrace however are usually not restricted to:

  • Offering adequate funding for the IRS to enhance taxpayer service and modernize its data know-how techniques;
  • Extending the interval for receiving refunds when the IRS postpones the tax submitting deadline, because it did in 2020 and 2021 as a result of pandemic;
  • Authorizing the IRS to ascertain minimal requirements for paid tax return preparers;
  • Increasing the U.S. Tax Court docket’s jurisdiction to listen to refund instances;
  • Restructuring the Earned Revenue Tax Credit score (EITC) to make it easier for taxpayers and cut back improper funds;
  • Amend IRC §6402(a) to ban offset of the Earned Revenue Tax Credit score portion of a tax refund; and
  • Increasing the safety of taxpayer rights by strengthening the Low Revenue Taxpayer Clinic program.

A particular due to all the Annual Report back to Congress workforce and all TAS and IRS workers who had a task within the report’s improvement and supply. There are numerous who contribute to the report’s success. I’m particularly appreciative of their time, dedication, and experience. This can be a workforce effort all year long to get this report delivered to Congress in January.

We in TAS proceed to be the advocate for the taxpayer. This report is without doubt one of the instruments we use to encourage the IRS to implement administrative modifications and Congress to think about the way it can change legal guidelines for the advantage of the taxpayer. I encourage you to take a second to look by way of the 2021 Annual Report back to Congress (or perhaps the Govt Abstract) and the 2022 Purple E book and begin a dialogue on how collectively we will work in the direction of enhancing taxpayer service and tax administration.

On a tragic be aware, I want to acknowledge the passing of Invoice Hoffman, long-time senior IRS reporter for Tax Notes. We in TAS have labored with Invoice for a few years, and Invoice coated our annual stories intimately and was all the time open to beginning a dialogue. Invoice by no means minced phrases, requested questions his interview topics didn’t need to hear, and sharply questioned IRS insurance policies and procedures. But it surely was all carried out to assist the general public higher perceive the workings of tax administration and pinpoint areas the place IRS procedures had been falling in need of assembly taxpayers’ wants and expectations. He will likely be missed.

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