Home Accountant Call or write, it’s nearly impossible to reach the IRS

Call or write, it’s nearly impossible to reach the IRS

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As taxpayers begin to send their 2021 returns to the IRS, many are hoping for quick processing of their refunds. But people with a question or a backlog this season may have trouble getting an answer from the IRS, either by phone or by mail.

The tax agency itself warns taxpayers that they are unlikely to be able to reach an IRS employee through their phone lines this tax season: “We expect our phone lines to be jammed in a foreseeable future,” IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig said in a January conference call with reporters. “Demand is up sharply.”

Call demand hit a record high in the previous fiscal year, with Americans making 282 million phone calls to the agency, according to the National Taxpayer Advocate, an independent division of the IRS dedicated to helping taxpayers. Of these calls, only about 11% received a response.

Rettig said the agency also expects an “extremely high call volume this season” this year.

And, if your tax return has a problem, the IRS will likely contact you by mail to clarify the issue — but don’t count on the tax agency to quickly read your response. The IRS is already sitting on a backlog of nearly 5 million letters from taxpayers and accountants — in addition to a backlog of 6 million unprocessed individual tax returns, according to the NTA.

Both blockages are causing delays and delays in processing returns and resolving taxpayer issues, experts say. Tax experts say it takes hours to reach the IRS on the phone – if they can even reach anyone. All of this elicits a primal howl from tax practitioners and taxpayers.

“It’s creating a mess,” Thad Inge, legislative counsel for the National Association of Enrolled Agents, said in a conference call last week with tax professionals to discuss IRS issues, including the backlog of correspondence. “This creates harm to the taxpayer.”

It takes nearly six months for the tax agency to respond to taxpayer correspondence — such as letters taxpayers send to the IRS after the agency requests more information — compared to 45 days, before the pandemic, noted Inge. The IRS largely does not allow taxpayers to contact it by secure email, instead inviting them to write through the US Postal Service.

But, as the NTA said in January, the paper has become the IRS’ “kryptonite” during the pandemic.

Experts say the IRS needs more funding to hire additional staff and upgrade its systems. President Joe Biden’s Build Back Better Act reportedly directed $80 billion to the tax agency, but the the future of this legislation is unclear after losing the support of Senator Joe Manchin, a Democrat from West Virginia.

IRS: “Stop those letters”

In response to concerns from a coalition of tax organizations including the NAEA as well as lawmakers, the IRS said Thursday it will suspend certain automated notices, which are letters that can be triggered by issues ranging from non- tax payment for failure to file.

But during the pandemic, the taxpayer may not be liable for issues for which they may have received notices. For example, the IRS last year sent automated notices to taxpayers for whom it had no record of receiving a tax return. But in many cases, the taxpayer had in fact filed their return — it was simply caught in the IRS backlog.

If taxpayers responded to the IRS, those mailed responses were then likely to become trapped in the agency’s correspondence backlog, adding to taxpayer stress.

The IRS acknowledged on Thursday that “the tax return may be part of our current paper tax inventory and has simply not been processed.”

He added: ‘Stopping these letters – which could otherwise have been sent to thousands of taxpayers – will help avoid confusion.’

However, the IRS said it could not stop all automated notices, adding that many must be issued within a certain time frame to be valid. “That means they should be sent, absent congressional action,” the IRS said.

The American Institute of CPAs called the IRS’ decision a “positive first step,” but added that the tax agency could do more to reduce unnecessary automated notices. The group said it disagrees with the need for congressional action to suspend more automatic notices sent to taxpayers. He is also asking for additional help for taxpayers, such as underpayment and late payment penalty relief for the 2020 and 2021 tax years.

“Where’s my refund?”

Tax professionals said they would also like to see improvements to the “Where’s my refund?” website, which is designed to provide taxpayers with guidance on when they will receive their check. About 3 in 4 taxpayers receive a refund, which averaged around $2,800 last year – often the largest check a family will receive all year.

But the “Where’s my refund?” the site does not provide information to taxpayers in certain situations. For example, a tax return must be accepted by the IRS to appear on the site – a huge problem during the pandemic when millions of unopened paper tax returns were literally stored in trailers. People mired in this backlog have been unable to get clarification from “Where’s my refund?” site.

Even people who filed electronically are faced with limited information from the “Where’s my refund?” site, said tax professionals. That’s because the tool typically doesn’t provide details about what’s causing a delay, according to the NTA.

“We had a [client] who filed his tax return in February – his refund was not processed until October,” said Carlos Lopez, founder and CEO of the Latino Tax Professional Association. .’ It’s just not enough,” Lopez said.

NTA: Provide weekly data

The National Taxpayer Advocate is also calling on the IRS to create a more robust online system that will provide more detailed information to taxpayers about their refund status.

“The IRS should provide additional details regarding the current stage of processing refunds, including an expected timeline for processing,” the NTA said in its January report to Congress. “More specific messages updated weekly would increase taxpayer satisfaction” and decrease the volume of calls to the IRS, the NTA said.

Last week, the IRS said most taxpayers will receive their refunds within 21 days — as long as they file electronically, request direct deposit, and have no issues with their tax returns.

When asked how long it might take to get a refund if, say, someone files on paper or has an error in their returns, IRS Taxpayer Experience Manager Ken Corbin , said: “At the moment, we are not really sure.”