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National Taxpayer Advocate Discusses IRS's Continuing Paper Problem at AICPA Conference

S.J. Steinhardt
Published Date:
Jun 7, 2023

GettyImages-494777797 Erin Collins IRS Taxpayer Advocate KPMG

Paper is still a problem for the IRS, National Taxpayer Advocate Erin Collins told an audience of accounting and tax professionals this week, Accounting Today reported.

Speaking at the AICPA’s Engage Conference in Las Vegas, Collins said that the IRS still has “a huge backlog with amended returns. They also have problems with correspondence—that has been delayed. They're back to four- to six- to eight-week processing for paper returns.”

The problem for the IRS, she said, is paper. The IRS “[doesn’t] have the resources to quickly deal with it.”

She cited some statistics about backlogged tax returns and correspondence: 3.7 million amended returns; 6.8 million other returns that are "in suspense"(missing a form or a signature or are what she described as "otherwise unpostable"); and 5.3 million pieces of correspondence.

Collins noted that the IRS and her office, the Taxpayer Advocate Service (TAS), are still recovering from COVID-19. Where it used to take 60 to 90 days to close a case, it's now more like 12 months, she told the conference.

The TAS's Strategic Operational Plan proposes ways to recover from the pandemic and to improve customer service, she said.

She mentioned the reduction in IRS funding as a result of the debt ceiling deal, but still said that the funding will help the agency. "I'd like every dollar of the IRA money to go to the taxpayer service and IT areas," she said. "I believe if we fix our IT, that's going to make a huge difference."

The technology difficulties include 1,100 tax forms that are not compatible with e-filing – “that's bizarre to me," she said – and having 60 to 70 legacy systems. She hoped that the IRS would collapse that into one system, with the ultimate goal of being paperless by 2025.

Collins also said that she would also like to see more input from tax pros in general, calling on the audience at the Engage Conference to use the TAS's Systemic Advocacy Management System (SAMS) to report issues.

She also encouraged tax pros to consider a career at the IRS.

"You are what the IRS needs—people who know what they're doing," she said. "You're not going to bring someone in from college and say, 'Go audit Bill Gates.' We need experienced people to come in and give back (and not necessarily be there for a paycheck ...)," she said. "So if you want to give back, and you want to feel good about what you're doing, and you don't want to have billables and to have to track your time—we're hiring!"

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