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The Taxpayer Advocate Service

Susan B. Anders, PhD, CPA/CGMA

The Taxpayer Advocate Service (TAS) is an independent voice within the IRS to advocate for taxpayers and help resolve individual and business tax problems, as well as address system-wide issues. Its website at http://www.taxpayeradvocate.irs.gov has a user-friendly approach in the delivery and content of available resources. The TAS is a great resource for tax professionals and taxpayers, and CPAs will find many useful tools on this website to aid in their tax compliance practices.

The National Taxpayer Advocate, Nina Olson, has referred to the most recent tax season as one of the worst filing seasons ever. In a July 21, 2015, interview on Federal News Radio (http://www.taxpayeradvocate.irs.gov/news/nina-olson-reviewing-one-of-the-worst-tax-filing-seasons-ever-federal-news-radio), she discussed the negative effect of budget cuts and the increased workload from Affordable Care Act (ACA) compliance and Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) reporting on the IRS's customer service.

Additionally, readers can download the full 120-page National Taxpayer Advocate Objectives Report to Congress for Fiscal Year 2016, or review selected focus areas, such as identity theft, return preparer fraud, IRS levies on retirement plan assets, and review of the 2015 filing season (http://www.taxpayeradvocate.irs.gov/reports/fy-2016-objectives-report-to-congress).

Tax Professional Resources

The “For Tax Pros” main page is a great place for CPAs to access TAS materials targeted to accounting professionals. The guidance and tools area highlights information on obtaining a preparer tax identification number (PTIN), links to the main IRS site for continuing education and e-services, and features TAS-created ACA resources. CPAs might also be interested in resources for taxpayers, such as the article “5 Tips for Choosing a Tax Return Preparer,” which includes links for contact information on state boards of accountancy to check on the status of a tax preparer's license.

Tax professionals can report tax issues that have affected multiple clients to the TAS via the Systemic Advocacy Management System (SAMS). The types of issues that qualify for SAMS are those involving IRS systems, policies, and procedures, as well as protecting taxpayer rights and ensuring fair treatment.

For CPAs who encounter lower-income individuals in need of help in contesting disputes with the IRS, settling compliance obligations, or avoiding falling prey to unscrupulous return preparers, the TAS website offers background information on low income taxpayer clinics (LITC), links to locate them, and a downloadable version of the most recent annual report published by the TAS. The December 2014 LITC report includes the summary program statistics presented on the website, as well as the mission and history of the clinics. In 2013, the LITC case breakdown included 45% on collection issues, 17% on examinations (audits), and 16% on accounts management problems, such as problems in return processing and delays in receiving refunds (http://www.taxpayeradvocate.irs.gov/about/litc).

Many tax professionals are aware that the IRS sponsors annual tax education conferences, called “tax forums,” during the summer and early fall months. At the 2015 session, the TAS presented seminars on advocating for clients in matters of injured and innocent spouse relief, offers in compromise for victims of payroll service provider failures, and collection due process hearings. The TAS also runs a case resolution program at the annual forums, allowing tax professionals to meet with IRS specialists on an appointment basis on behalf of one client. CPAs should bring a Form 2848 power of attorney and a case resolution data sheet, available on the TAS website (http://www.taxpayeradvocate.irs.gov/news/2015-tax-forums-tas-seminars-and-case-resolution). Archived forum sessions are also available (http://irstaxforumsonline.com).

ACA Compliance

The TAS offers some great resources and several tools to help tax preparers assist their clients with ACA compliance. These resources are independent of the IRS and healthcare exchanges, so CPAs and taxpayers can explore them without concern for privacy. Nina Olson reported that 300,000 taxpayers overpaid shared responsibility payments, emphasizing the importance of having a full understanding of the law's provisions. The ACA main page provides brief summary information on provisions for individuals, including the individual shared responsibility payment and premium tax credit, with links to handy single-page PDF fact sheets. For employers, the TAS provides a similar brief explanation of the small-business healthcare tax credit, with an easy-to-read fact sheet detailing eligibility and credit rates (http://www.taxpayeradvocate.irs.gov/get-help/aca).

Three ACA estimators are available from the TAS: an individual shared responsibility provision payment estimator, a premium tax credit change estimator, and a small-business healthcare tax credit estimator. The shared responsibility calculator (http://www.taxpayeradvocate.irs.gov/estimator/isrp/.) estimates amounts that taxpayers who did not have minimum essential coverage may owe. The premium tax credit change estimator (http://taxpayeradvocate.irs.gov/estimator/premium-taxcreditchange/) calculates new values for advance payment and credit eligibility amounts due to changes in income and other circumstances.

The small business tax credit tool (http://www.taxpayeradvocate.irs.gov/estimator/smallbusiness2014/) uses detailed information on number of employees, wages, and insurance cost to calculate an employer's eligibility for the credit.

For each calculator, background information, instructions, and two examples are provided. The web pages also include userfriendly glossaries of key terms and explanations, along with links to IRS and Healthcare.gov resources. The TAS estimators do not report changes to the Marketplace, allowing tax preparers and their clients to determine the best course of action.

The TAS website offers links to three archived summer 2015 IRS webinars on the ACA's provisions concerning employer and insurance coverage providers. These 45-minute videos (http://www.taxpayeradvocate.irs.gov/news/health-care-law-tax-provisions-irs-webinars-for-employers-and-coverage-providers-now-available) address information reporting requirements.


U.S. Tax Brackets is a free Android mobile application that runs on smartphones and tablets and allows users to calculate tax rates, total tax liability, and average tax rate for federal and state income taxes. For each calculation, users can select from years 2011 through 2015, filing status for individuals or C corporation, state (optional), and the amount of federal and state income subject to tax. The results are presented in bar charts, pie charts, and graphs. Unlike many tax calculators, it includes corporate federal rate schedules, although unfortunately it does not offer state tax rates for corporations. The best feature, however, is the combined federal and state tax rate schedule for individuals, which could be used simply as a fast reference tool. The app (https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.irscalculators.taxbrackets&hl=en) is available at the Google Play store.

Susan B. Anders, PhD, CPA/CGMA is the Louis J. and Ramona Rodriguez Distinguished Professor of Accounting at Midwestern State University, Wichita Falls, Tex. She is a member of The CPA Journal Editorial Board.

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