2018 TAP News

 
 

NTA Blog: As the IRS Redesigns Form W-4, Employee's
Withholding Allowance Certificate, Stakeholders
Raise Important Questions

In her latest blog, the National Taxpayer Advocate (NTA) discussed the changes being made by the IRS to Form W-4, which will affect nearly every employee and employer. To read the full blog, click here. Find her posts on the Tax Toolkit – NTA Blog page.
 
 

TAP Members Volunteer at IRS Tax Forums

Each year, TAP members volunteer to participate in the six IRS tax forums. The forums are an excellent opportunity for members to provide an awareness of TAP and TAP activities and for members to reach out to the tax practitioner communities to identify problems or concerns facing their clients. This year, 34 issues were received from forum participants. The issues TAP members receive from their outreach efforts often results in successful recommendations to IRS. 
 
    
 
 

TAS Assistance Offered at Local Problem Solving Days

The Taxpayer Advocate Service (TAS) will conduct Problem Solving Day events in communities throughout the country in the coming months and year. During these events, TAS employees from a local office will be available to assist taxpayers in person with tax problems they have not been able to resolve with the IRS. Generally, TAS can assist taxpayers whose problems with the IRS are causing financial difficulties, who’ve tried but haven’t been able to resolve their problems with the IRS, or believe an IRS system or procedure isn’t working as it should. The service is free.

Upcoming TAS Problem Solving Days
 

NTA Blog: TAS Cases Demonstrate the Harm Caused by
IRS Policies on Passport Certification

In her latest blog, the National Taxpayer Advocate (NTA) provided an update on TAS cases and discussed examples that show how the IRS’s refusal to provide a stand-alone notice prior to certification harms taxpayers. To read the full blog, click here. Find her posts on the Tax Toolkit – NTA Blog page.
 
 

NTA Blog: Low Income Taxpayer Clinic Program
Celebrates 20th Anniversary

In her latest blog, the National Taxpayer Advocate (NTA) outlined the history of the Low Income Taxpayer Clinic Program on its 20th anniversary and shared success stories from taxpayers who have been helped by the clinics.  To read the full blog, click here. Find her posts on the Tax Toolkit – NTA Blog page.
 
 

Tax Reform Changes

The Tax Reform Changes website shows you how the new tax law may change your future tax filings and helps you plan for these changes. Currently the site addresses the most common 2017 IRS Form 1040, US Individual Income Tax Return topics and whether the tax law has changed or not. It provides line by line explanations and scenarios to describe how the new law may affect you. You can also sign up to receive email notifications as the website is updated with new tax law information.
 
The information on this page is categorized by tax topic in the order of the IRS Form 1040. Simply choose a tax return category such as income or payments and find information including the previous (2017) tax law information and the tax law change, if any, plus scenarios to describe how the new law may affect you.
 
 

NTA Identifies Priority Areas in Mid-Year Report to Congress;
Focuses on Customer Service Challenges

National Taxpayer Advocate (NTA) Nina E. Olson today released her mid-year report to Congress that presents a review of the 2018 Filing Season, identifies issues the Taxpayer Advocate Service (TAS) will address during the upcoming fiscal year, and contains IRS responses to the 100 administrative recommendations the NTA made in her 2017 Annual Report to Congress.
 
A significant challenge the IRS faces in the upcoming year is implementing the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 (TCJA). Olson expresses confidence that the IRS will implement the law successfully. “I have no doubt the IRS will deliver what it has been asked to do,” she writes.
 
However, she reiterates her concern that IRS funding reductions have undermined the agency’s ability to provide high-quality taxpayer service and modernize its information technology infrastructure. The report finds that IRS funding has been reduced by 20 percent since fiscal year (FY) 2010. “Because of these reductions, the IRS doesn’t have enough employees to provide basic taxpayer service.”
 
In light of the TCJA, TAS launched a new website, Tax Reform Changes, that lists key tax return items under current law (2017), shows which ones have been impacted by the TCJA, and illustrates how the changes will be reflected on tax year 2018 returns filed in 2019.
 
 

Anytime of the year is a good time for taxpayers to
review their rights

Whether it’s tax time or summertime, taxpayers have fundamental rights under the law when they interact with the IRS. The Taxpayer Bill of Rights presents these rights in 10 categories.
 
Here is a wrap-up of these rights with links to more information about each right:
 
Taxpayers have the right to know what is required to comply with the tax laws.
 
Taxpayers have the right to receive prompt, courteous and professional assistance in their dealings with the IRS and the freedom to speak to a supervisor about inadequate service.
 
Taxpayers have the right to pay only the amount of tax legally due, including interest and penalties.
 
Taxpayers have the right to object to formal IRS actions or proposed actions and provide justification with additional documentation.
 
Taxpayers are entitled to a fair and impartial administrative appeal of most IRS decisions, including certain penalties.
 
Taxpayers have the right to know the maximum amount of time they have to challenge an IRS position and the maximum amount of time the IRS has to audit a particular tax year or collect a tax debt.
 
Taxpayers have the right to expect that any IRS inquiry, examination or enforcement action will comply with the law and be no more intrusive than necessary.
 
Taxpayers have the right to expect that their tax information will remain confidential.
 
Taxpayers have the right to retain an authorized representative of their choice to represent them in their dealings with the IRS.
 
Taxpayers have the right to expect fairness from the tax system. This includes considering all facts and circumstances that might affect their underlying liabilities, ability to pay or ability to provide information timely.
 
More Information:
 

New TAS NTA Blogs

The National Taxpayer Advocate (NTA) has posted new blogs this month, analyzing tax issues and news. Recent blogs explore an Omni-channel taxpayer service strategy, automated revocations of 1023 EZ-exempt organizations and innocent spouse relief. To see all the latest blog posts and read more, visit the Tax Toolkit – NTA Blog page.
 

Volunteer Opportunity: There is still time to apply to serve on
the Taxpayer Advocacy Panel

The Internal Revenue Service seeks civic-minded volunteers to serve on the Taxpayer Advocacy Panel (TAP), a federal advisory committee that listens to taxpayers, identifies major taxpayer concerns and makes recommendations for improving IRS service and customer satisfaction. Taxpayers interested in serving on the panel may apply through May 11, 2018.
 
To the extent possible, the TAP includes members from all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico and one member abroad who represents international taxpayers. Each member is appointed to represent the interests of taxpayers in his or her geographic location as well as taxpayers overall. IRS is seeking additional applicants in the following states: Alaska, Hawaii, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Rhode Island, Vermont and Wyoming.
 
To be a member of the TAP, a person must be a U.S. citizen, be current with his or her federal tax obligations, be able to commit 200 to 300 volunteer hours during the year and pass a Federal Bureau of Investigation criminal background check. Members cannot be federally-registered lobbyists. In addition, current Department of Treasury or IRS employees cannot serve on the panel, and former Department of Treasury or IRS employees and former TAP members must have a three-year separation from prior service to be considered for appointment. New TAP members will serve a three-year term starting in December 2018. Applicants chosen as alternate members will be considered to fill any vacancies that open in their areas during the next three years.
 
The TAP is seeking members in the following locations: Alaska, California, Hawaii, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Dakota, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Texas, Vermont and Wyoming.
 
The panel is seeking alternates in the following locations: All states mentioned above, but particularly Colorado, Washington, DC, Delaware, Kansas, Ohio, South Dakota, Virginia and Washington.
 
Federal advisory committees are required to have a fairly-balanced membership in terms of the points of view represented. As such, candidates from underrepresented groups like Native Americans and non-tax professionals are encouraged to apply. All timely applications, however, will be given consideration.
 
Applications for the TAP will be accepted through May 11, 2018. You may apply online. For additional information about the TAP or the application process call 888-912-1227 (a toll-free call) and select prompt number five. Interested applicants may also contact TAP staff for assistance.
 

NTA Blog: Analysis of Tax Settlement Programs as Amnesties
(part 2)

In a recent blog, the National Taxpayer Advocate (NTA) continued her blog series analyzing tax settlement programs as amnesties. In this blog, the NTA focused on why the IRS’ offshore voluntary disclosure settlement programs posed risks to voluntary compliance, and covered topics spanning noncompliance as a “norm,” the IRS’ programs to address the issue, including the Offshore Voluntary Compliance Initiative, the Last Chance Compliance Initiative and the Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Programs.
 
To read the full blog, click here. Find all of the NTA’s blog posts on the Tax Toolkit – NTA Blog page.
 

Join the Taxpayer Advocacy Panel and Help Improve the IRS

The Internal Revenue Service seeks civic-minded volunteers to serve on the Taxpayer Advocacy Panel (TAP), a federal advisory committee that listens to taxpayers, identifies major taxpayer concerns and makes recommendations for improving IRS service and customer satisfaction. Taxpayers interested in serving on the panel may apply between now and April 27. Read more about applying to serve on the TAP here.
 

Tax Withholding Information

Following major tax law changes, the IRS is urging taxpayers to check their tax withholding to make sure they have the right amount of tax taken out of their pay for their personal situation. Having too little tax withheld could mean a tax bill or a penalty. And with the average refund topping $2,800, some may prefer to get more money in their pay now. To perform a Paycheck Checkup today to make sure your tax withholding is, visit https://www.irs.gov/payments/tax-withholding
 

NTA Blog: Analysis of Tax Settlement Programs as Amnesties

In her latest blog, the National Taxpayer Advocate (NTA) provided an analysis of tax settlement programs as amnesties, following the end of the offshore voluntary disclosure program.
 
In her analysis, the NTA addresses topics like settlement programs and the erosion of voluntary compliance, limited amnesties, and providing amnesty alternatives. To read the full blog, click here. Find all of the NTA’s blog posts on the Tax Toolkit – NTA Blog page.
 

Tax Time Guide: Use IRS.gov to Find Qualified
Tax Professionals

With more than half of the nation relying on tax practitioners, the Internal Revenue Service today reminded taxpayers that IRS.gov offers useful information and tips in finding a qualified tax professional.
 
This is the third in a series of nine IRS news releases called the Tax Time Guide, designed to help taxpayers navigate common tax issues. This year’s tax-filing deadline is April 17.
 
More than 149 million individual returns were filed last year and over 83 million of those were prepared by a paid return preparer. Here are some basic tips to keep in mind when selecting a tax professional:
 
  • Select a trusted preparer. Taxpayers entrust vital personal data with the person preparing their tax return, including income, investments and Social Security numbers.
  • Review the tax return and ask questions before signing. Taxpayers are legally responsible for what’s on their tax return, regardless of whether someone else prepared it.
  • Make sure the paid preparer signs the return and includes their Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN).
  • Never sign a blank tax return. It’s a red flag when a taxpayer is asked to sign a blank tax return.
 
At IRS.gov, taxpayers can utilize several options to help them find a tax preparer. One resource is Choosing a Tax Professional that includes a list of consumer tips for selecting a tax professional. There is also a page with IRS Tax Pro Association Partners that includes links to national nonprofit tax professional groups that can help taxpayers seek the right type of qualified help from a tax preparer.
 
The Directory of Federal Tax Return Preparers with Credentials and Select Qualifications is a free searchable and sortable database. It includes the name, city, state and zip code of credentialed return preparers who are CPAs, enrolled agents or attorneys, as well as those who have completed the requirements for the IRS Annual Filing Season Program. A search of the database can help taxpayers verify credentials and qualifications of tax professionals.
 
The IRS requires anyone who prepares any federal tax return for compensation to have a valid PTIN. For 2018 the IRS has issued more than 728,000 PTINs.
 
Other tips in the Tax Time Guide are available on IRS.gov.
 
For more information, see:
 
Related Items:
  • FS-2018-4, IRS Highlights Free Tax Preparation Help; Offers Many Ways to Get Publications and Forms
 

NTA Blog: How a Simple EITC Educational Letter Can Help
Avert Noncompliance

Can a simple educational letter to taxpayers who appear to have erroneously claimed the earned income tax credit (EITC) actually avert future noncompliance? Based on recent TAS research studies, the answer appears to be yes. In her latest blog post, the National Taxpayer Advocate (NTA) describes the IRS’ efforts to understand and correct noncompliance in EITC tax filings. To learn more about EITC findings, read the NTA’s full blog post here. Find all of the NTA’s blog posts on the Tax Toolkit – NTA Blog page.
 

3rd International Conference on Taxpayer Rights

The National Taxpayer Advocate of the U.S. Internal Revenue Service is convening the third International Conference on Taxpayer Rights, hosted by the International Bureau of Fiscal Documentation in The Netherlands, and sponsored by Tax Analysts. This conference connects government officials, scholars, and practitioners from around the world to explore how taxpayer rights globally serve as the foundation for effective tax administration. For two days, we will consider:
 
  • Perspectives on Taxpayer Rights: A Multidisciplinary Approach
  • Preventing Disputes: Early Warnings and Intervention, and Early Resolution
  • Taxpayer Protections in Cross-Border Taxation
  • Penalties: Theory and Administration
  • Taxpayer Access to Appeals and Mediation
  • Good Governance and Remedies: Taxpayer Rights in Application
 
 

NTA Blog: Inadequate Training of IRS Employees Harms
Taxpayers, IRS and IRS Employee Morale

The National Taxpayer Advocate (NTA) has issued a blog post addressing IRS employee training as a Most Serious Problem facing taxpayers. The NTA states, “It may seem counterintuitive that an internal issue such as training could be a most serious problem for taxpayers; however, if the IRS does not properly train its employees, taxpayers will feel the negative consequences of that failure.” To read more about the NTA’s position on the issue, click here. Find her posts on the Tax Toolkit – NTA Blog page.
 

NTA Blog: Phone Service in an Omnichannel
Environment Part 2

In her latest blog post on taxpayer telephone service, the National Taxpayer Advocate (NTA) writes, “Merely having a telephone assistor answer the phone is not a successful call outcome in the mind of a taxpayer...Taxpayers who have an issue or concern or dispute with the IRS want to talk with the IRS to resolve the issue or at least identify the specific steps they must take to do so.” To read the full blog, click here. Find her posts on the Tax Toolkit – NTA Blog page.
 

NTA Blog: Phone Service in an Omnichannel Environment

In her latest blog post the National Taxpayer Advocate (NTA) writes, “While more funding and additional telephone assistors are necessary to allow the IRS to answer more calls, prioritizing these changes would make contacting the IRS easier for taxpayers even in an environment where resources are limited.” To read the full blog, click here. Find her posts on the Tax Toolkit – NTA Blog page.
 

Special Rules Help Many with Disabilities Qualify for EITC

The Internal Revenue Service wants taxpayers with disabilities and parents of children with disabilities to be aware of the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and correctly claim it if they qualify.
 
The IRS says that many with disabilities miss out on this valuable credit because they do not file a tax return. EITC could put a refund of up to $6,318 into an eligible taxpayer’s pocket. Many people who do not claim the credit fall below the income threshold requiring them to file. Even so, the IRS urges them to consider filing anyway because the only way to receive this credit is to file a tax return and claim the EITC.
 
The EITC is a federal income tax credit for workers who earn $53,930 or less for 2017 and meet other eligibility requirements. Because it’s a refundable credit, those who qualify and claim the credit could pay less federal tax, pay no tax or even get a tax refund.
 
To qualify for EITC, the taxpayer must have earned income. Usually, this means income either from a job or from self-employment. But taxpayers who retired on disability can also count as earned income any taxable benefits they receive under an employer’s disability retirement plan. These benefits remain earned income until the disability retiree reaches minimum retirement age. The IRS emphasized that Social Security benefits and Social Security Disability Income (SSDI) do not count as earned income.
 
Additionally, taxpayers may claim a child with a disability or a relative with a disability of any age to get the credit if the person meets all other EITC requirements. Use the EITC Assistant, on IRS.gov, available in English and Spanish, to determine eligibility and to estimate the amount of the credit.
 
People with disabilities are often concerned that a tax refund will impact their eligibility for one or more public benefits, including Social Security disability, Medicaid, and SNAP -- the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. The law is clear that tax refunds, including refunds from tax credits such as the EITC, are not counted as income for purposes of determining eligibility for such benefits. This applies to any federal program and any state or local program financed with federal funds.
 
The best way to get the EITC is to file electronically through a qualified tax professional, using free community tax help sites or through IRS Free File.
 
Many EITC filers will receive their refunds later this year than in past years. That’s because by federal law, the IRS cannot issue refunds for tax returns that claim the EITC or the Additional Child Tax Credit (ACTC) before mid-February. The IRS expects the earliest EITC/ACTC related refunds to be available in taxpayer bank accounts or on debit cards starting Feb. 27, 2018, if they chose direct deposit and there are no other issues with the tax return. Even so, taxpayers claiming the EITC or ACTC should file as soon as they have all the documents they need to prepare a complete and accurate return.
 
The IRS and partners nationwide will hold the annual EITC Awareness Day on Friday, Jan. 26, 2018, to alert millions of workers who may be missing out on this significant tax credit and other refundable credits. One easy way to support this outreach effort is by participating on the IRS Thunderclap to help promote EITC Awareness Day through social media. For more information on EITC and other refundable credits, visit the EITC page on IRS.gov.
 

NTA Blog: IRS Rolls out Passport Certification Program

On Jan. 22, 2018, the IRS began implementation of the passport certification program. The National Taxpayer Advocate (NTA) stated in her blog, “Will continue to advocate for the IRS to exercise its significant discretion to exclude from passport certification all taxpayers with open TAS cases.” To read the full blog, click here. Find her posts on the Tax Toolkit – NTA Blog page.
 

Free Tax Software Available Now through Free File

Although the tax filing season officially opens Jan. 29, taxpayers starting today can begin preparing and e-filing their taxes for free with IRS Free File software. Free File software will automatically submit returns as soon as the filing season begins.
 
A dozen brand-name Free File partners, acting through the Free File Alliance, offer their software free to eligible taxpayers. Each partner sets its own criteria, but any taxpayer earning $66,000 or less will find one or more software products available. Some providers offer both free federal and free state tax preparation, a seamless way to file taxes.
 
Active duty military personnel with incomes of $66,000 or less may use any Free File software product of their choice without regard to the criteria.
 
Use the Free File Software Lookup Tool to find free federal and free state return options that match your situation.
 
Taxpayers now may use their smart phones or tablets to electronically prepare and file their federal and state tax returns through IRS Free File. Taxpayers may access the products using mobile devices in two ways: (1) Use the IRS2Go app, which has a link to the Free File Software Lookup Tool, or (2) use the device’s browser to go to www.IRS.gov/freefile. The IRS2Go app is available for Android and iOS devices.
 
The Internal Revenue Service and Free File Alliance mark their 16th year of providing free tax preparation products to taxpayers.
 
In those 16 years, taxpayers have filed 51.1 million free federal tax returns. This means a savings of $1.5 billion to taxpayers, using a conservative $30 per return preparation fee.
 
For taxpayers who earned more than $66,000, there are Free File Fillable Forms, which will be available Jan. 29. Free File Fillable Forms, provided by the Free File Alliance, is best for those taxpayers experienced in preparing returns by hand and with limited assistance.
 
The IRS urges taxpayers to prepare and file their returns only when they have all the tax documents they need to support their claims on income, credits and deductions. Taxpayers who use a final pay stub instead of a Form W-2 could end up with errors on their returns.
 
Although taxpayers may complete and file their taxes now through Free File, the returns will not be submitted to the IRS for processing until Jan. 29. The fastest way to get a refund remains e-file and direct deposit. The IRS issues most refunds in less than 21 days, although some require additional time.
 
The IRS reminds taxpayers that if their refund includes the Earned Income Tax Credit or the Additional Child Tax Credit, the agency by law must hold that refund until mid-February.
 

NTA Blog: The National Taxpayer Advocate “Purple Book”

The National Taxpayer Advocate (NTA) explains why the Purple Book was developed and what it’s intended to accomplish, in her latest blog post. To read the full blog, click here. Find her posts on the Tax Toolkit – NTA Blog page.
 

National Taxpayer Advocate Report to Congress
and inaugural “Purple Book” now available

National Taxpayer Advocate Nina E. Olson today released her 2017 Annual Report to Congress, describing challenges the IRS will face as it implements the recently enacted tax reform legislation and outlines the Most Serious Problems, including the Private Debt Collection program. It also unveils a new publication, “The Purple Book,” that presents 50 legislative recommendations intended to strengthen taxpayer rights and improve tax administration.
 

Taxpayers and Tax Preparers Can Connect with the IRS
Over Social Media

The IRS uses social media tools to share the latest information about taxes, as well as about services offered to taxpayers. With just a couple months before people start filing their taxes, it’s the perfect time for taxpayers and tax preparers to connect with the IRS through these social media tools:
 
IRS2Go
Taxpayers can use this app to get quick access to IRS social media, sign up for helpful tax tips, check their refund status and make a payment. IRS2Go is available in both English and Spanish for Android and iOS mobile devices.
 
YouTube
Tune in to the IRS YouTube channels to watch short, information videos about a range of tax topics. Videos are in English, Spanish and American Sign Language.
 
Twitter
IRS tweets highlight information for individual taxpayers, as well as businesses, tax preparers and tax-exempt organizations. The IRS uses three Twitter accounts:
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