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The IRS and You in 2014

While you probably heard the new tax filing season opens at the IRS January 31st, you may not have seen some other changes in how the IRS does business.

Many of our tax laws come from the Internal Revenue Service’s administration of tax law, and this agency’s authority was greatly expanded in recent years. Here are some highlights:

Return Preparation Help Was Cut Back

The IRS budget has been cut in some ways over the past few years, and one effect is a reduction in tax preparation services at the 250 walk-in offices. With some 13,000 volunteer partner sites, many qualified taxpayers will be directed to these other resources. The definition of “qualified” depends on the specific volunteer sites (meaning it will vary) but generally will be those with low income, the military, and seniors. Other almost free resources may be available with online tax preparation software.

Need to Know Your IRS History

If you ever tried contacting IRS staff about your filing history, the experience can strain your patience. They’re trying to balance modernizing their systems against their need to guard your privacy. Finally, they expect to roll out a new service in the next few months: an online option called “Get Transcript.” Five options will be available to access, view and print: tax account, tax return, record of account, wage and income, and verification of non-filing. If it works as well as most online banking services, this should be a good thing.

Promoting ‘Where’s My Refund?’

This handy website tool has been gradually expanding, and is now available for checking on amended returns. To encourage use of the tool, the IRS stopped providing phone information about refunds until 21 days after your filing date. (Perhaps agents were growing weary of daily repeat calls from anxious taxpayers.) Check out “Where’s My Refund?” – available at http://www.irs.gov and via the automated telephone service. There’s even a mobile app (IRS2Go).

Employer Identification Numbers Go Online

The IRS no longer issues new EINs (employer identification numbers) by phone. The fastest way to request your number is online. It’s already the more popular option – with more than four million online requests vs. 588,000 by phone. So now you must hang up the phone.

Putting You in Your Place – When Calling the IRS

It seems some ambitious taxpayers were using IRS resources reserved for tax professionals. The IRS offers specially trained teams available through the Practitioner Priority Service (PPS). Believe it or not, this specialty phone service is available only for practitioners. The IRS says in recent years “…a growing number of customers who were not tax professionals used this service.”

While its statement may seem unfair, the IRS actually staffs call centers and offices based on specific services. The earned income tax credit (EITC) would be difficult to explain by those trained to answer the international/FATCA questions. The criminal investigations (CI) department is not prepared to respond to questions about itemized deductions. So the PPS folks are specially trained to handle the questions from tax professionals.

They’re prepared to explain to your tax advisor why you received a particular letter or if they can stop or delay a levy. Generally taxpayers calling this number just get rerouted somewhere else, slowing you down and taking resources reserved for these complex problems. Think of it like hotel guests riding the staff elevator.

If you’re in need of a tax professional who will always hold open our elevator door…well, if we actually used an elevator…the partners and staff at Patrick & Robinson CPAs would be honored if you’d consider us!

Reach us at Office@CPAsite.com or 904-396-5400.

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