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Filing federal income tax returns could soon become more costly or challenging for many Americans.
Those are among the concerns voiced in National Taxpayer Advocate Nina Olson’s latest annual report to Congress.
The report details what’s sometimes referred to as the Internal Revenue Service’s “future state vision,” which is the federal agency’s multi-year plan to revamp its future operations in light of budget constraints.
The plan calls for more focus on assistance via online accounts and less on phone and face-to-face services, for example.
Olson, who heads the independent watchdog Taxpayer Advocate Service within the IRS, describes the plan as “long overdue” and commends the IRS for undertaking it. But she also expresses concerns about the plan’s possible negative effects on taxpayers.
Olson states in her opening remarks:
These proposed changes have serious ramifications for taxpayers and taxpayer rights. Most significantly, the IRS future state vision redefines tax administration into a class system, where only taxpayers who are the most noncompliant or who can “pay to play” will receive concierge-level service or personal attention. The compliant or trying-to-comply taxpayers will be left either struggling for themselves or paying for assistance they formerly received for free from the IRS.
The Associated Press reports that taxpayers currently make more than 100 million calls to the IRS and more than 5 million visits to its walk-in assistance centers each year.
Due to cutbacks in services that the IRS has made following budget cuts imposed by Congress, many people who call IRS centers do not get through, or only receive answers to simple questions, according to the AP. The IRS has also stopped assisting low-income taxpayers with their returns and conducts fewer audits.
Olson also warns that millions of taxpayers still don’t go on the Internet and therefore can’t get help via the IRS website. Millions more are hesitant to share sensitive information online, she says.
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