The National Taxpayer Advocate Submits Year-End Report to Congress

tax-updateEvery year the National Taxpayer Advocate submits a report to Congress identifying the most significant issues encountered by taxpayers.  On January 14th, 2015, National Taxpayer Advocate Nina E. Olson released the 2015 annual report which expresses concern that taxpayers will experience the worst service since 2001 when the IRS implemented its current performance measures.  In the report’s preface she detailed the following four points:

  • “First, the budget environment of the last five years has brought about a devastating erosion of taxpayer service, harming taxpayers individually and collectively;
  • “Second, the lack of effective administrative and congressional oversight, in conjunction with the failure to pass taxpayer rights legislation, has eroded taxpayer protections enacted 16 or more years ago;
  • “Third, the combined effect of these trends is reshaping U.S. tax administration in ways that are not positive for future tax compliance or for public trust in the fairness of the tax system; and
  • “Fourth, this downward slide can be addressed if Congress makes an investment in the IRS and holds it accountable for how it applies that investment.”

She goes on to explain, “Taxpayers who need help are not getting it, and tax compliance is likely to suffer over the longer term if these problems are not quickly and decisively addressed.”

Olsen attributes the decline in taxpayer service to the following factors:

Scope of Taxpayer Service Needs.  About 200 million taxpayers interact with the IRS yearly; that’s triple the amount of individuals interacting with any other federal agency.  And because of the complexity of the tax code, many of these individuals are looking for assistance in completing their returns.  The press release states, “The IRS typically receives more than 100 million phone calls, 10,000 million letters, and 5 million visits.”

Decline in Taxpayer Service Levels.  In 2004 87% of taxpayer phone calls were answered, with an average hold time of 2.5 minutes.  Expectations for 2015 include a 43% answer rate, with an average hold time of 30 minutes.

More Work, Reduced Resources.  A couple weeks ago we learned that Congress cut the IRS budget by 1.5 billion.  In addition they are required to comply with a mandated federal employee pay raise of one-percent.  This leaves the IRS with fewer resources, including a reduction in its workforce by 12,000 employees.  Olson explains, “The only way the IRS can assist the tens of millions of taxpayers seeking to speak with an IRS employee is to have enough employees to answer their calls.  The only way the IRS can timely process millions of taxpayer letters is to have enough employees to read the letters and act on them.  And the only way the IRS can meet the needs of the millions of taxpayers who visit its walk-in sites is to have enough employees to staff them.”

Other Issues Addressed

In addition to Taxpayer Bill of Rights, the following issues were also addressed:

  • Lack of clear rationale for taxpayer service resource allocation decisions.
  • Lack of a functional IRS presence in many areas.
  • Potential Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) burdens.
  • Offshore Voluntary Disclosure (OVD) Program inequities.
  • New TAX research studies.

The National Taxpayer Advocate submits two annual reports to the House Committee on Ways and Means and the Senate Committee on Finance.  The first report is due every year at the end of June and must detail the TAS’s objectives for the upcoming fiscal year.  The second report is due on December 31st, and, in addition to other requirements, must identify 20 of the most serious problems encountered by taxpayers.

A Lucrative Investment

Acquiring tax preparation skills not only affords you the opportunity to earn upwards of $100 per hour, but it exposes you to a limitless potential client base.  The fact that nearly every adult and business in the nation must report their tax liability on a yearly bases means that your tax preparation skills will be very appealing to a significant population.  And as your practice grows, so will your income.  Call Universal at 1-877-833-7908 to enroll in the Professional Tax Preparer Program today!

Resource

–.  “National Taxpayer Advocate Delivers Annual Report to Congress: Focuses on Taxpayer Service and Taxpayer Bill of Rights.”  14 January 2015 IRS.gov

IRPAC’s 2014 Annual Report

advocate-reportThe Information Reporting Program Advisory Committee (IRPAC) is a federal advisory committee that, using public forums, gathers information regarding IRS reporting issues.  Members of the committee come from a cross-section of individuals from the professional community, including tax professionals, financial institutions, small and large businesses, universities and colleges, and securities and payroll firms.

Once a year they submit a report to the Commissioner of Internal Revenue which details new and existing issues needing attention.  IRS Commissioner John Koshinen said, “The IRS values the insight and perspective IRPAC provides.  The committee members have experience working with an incredibly diverse range of individual taxpayers and organizations both large and small.  Their feedback helps us improve tax administration for the nation, and we will study their recommendations closely.”

IRPAC recommendations include the following:

  1. An expansion of the TIN matching program to include filters of all nonwage information returns to which incorrect-TIN penalties apply. 
  2. The amendment of Revenue Procedure 2003-9 to provide that after filing an information return other than those types potentially subject to backup withholding, the filer may check the TIN furnished by the payee (or other recipient) against the name/TIN combination contained in the IRS Matching database and receive TIN validation information.
  3. The issuing of a Notice announcing relief from IRC § 6721 and § 6722 incorrect TIN penalties for all nonwage information return types that the TIN Matching Program may not be used to validate payee/recipient TINs.
  4. The addition of a checkbox to Form W-9 and Form W-4P which can be checked by the payee to indicate that permission has been granted to submit the payee’s name and TIN to the IRS TIN Matching Program for validation.
  5. The development of a new premium-level TIN Matching service (in addition to maintaining the current basic TIN Matching Program), that, while requiring an enrollment fee paid to the IRS, would process bulk files submitted through the information return filer’s account on the IRS secure site for information return filing. 

You can access the full report on the official IRS website.

Universal Accounting Helps Tax Preparers Succeed

At Universal, we believe it’s important to prepare for the future, and we’re interested in seeing your future success as a tax preparer. Our online tax training, the Professional Tax Preparer Program, is designed to help professionals like you master tax preparation, become efficient in the completion of individual and business returns, and establish thriving home-based tax businesses.  If you would like to learn more, visit Universal for a free video today!

Resource

–. “Information Reporting Program Advisory Committee Issues Annual Report.” 29 October 201 IRS.gov

The IRS Releases Educational Media

Annette officeIn attempts to better educate tax payers, the IRS has recently released a new video series on the IRS YouTube channel, featuring Commissioner John Koskinen discussing Affordable Care Act provisions that will impact 2014 tax returns: the premium tax credit and the individual shared responsibility provisions.

In one of the videos, Koskinen details how the premium tax credit can make health care more affordable for taxpayers with moderate incomes through the Health Insurance Marketplace. He explains, “You can get advance payments of the premium tax credit paid directly to the insurance company to lower your monthly premium, or you can apply for the premium tax credit when you file your tax return for 2014.”

Regarding the individual shared responsibility provision, Koskinen focuses on coverage requirements and exemptions as well as the shared responsibility payment.  He says, “For most people, filing their returns in the spring of 2015 is going to be fairly simple—with regard to this issue, and that is they’ll simply check a box indicating that they have qualifying insurance or they’ll indicate that they’re eligible for an exemption.  Otherwise, they’ll calculate their shared responsibility payment and add it to their tax return.”

In addition to these videos, the IRS plans to release even more about the Affordable Care Act, all of which can be accessed through the IRS Health Care video playlist.

Small Business Webinars for Tax Professionals

In efforts to increase education among small business owners, including the tax professionals who file their taxes, the IRS is also releasing webinars designed to help them prepare for the upcoming tax season.

The newest webinar entitled Business Use of Your Home, can be viewed today at 2pm eastern time; it focuses on how to determine whether one qualifies for the home office deduction.  Better Business through Better Records can be viewed on September 11th and 2014 Affordable Care Act Provisions for Individuals, Families and Small Businesses can be viewed on September 17th.

For more information, visit the official IRS website.

Universal Accounting Helps Tax Preparers Succeed

At Universal, we believe it’s important to prepare for the future, and we’re interested in seeing your future success as a tax preparer.  Our Professional Tax Preparer Program is designed to help professionals like you master tax preparation, becoming efficient in the completion of individual and business returns.  If you would like to learn more, visit Universal for a free video today!

 

Resources

IRS YouTube channel

–.  “New YouTube Videos Provide Tips on Health Care, Tax Returns.” 8 September 2014 IRSgov.com

–.  “Webinar Spotlights Home Office Deduction.” 8 September 2014  IRSgov.com

–.  “Webinars for Small Businesses.”

IRS Offers Online Tax Seminars

tax-tipsOn October 1st the IRS announced the availability of online seminars filmed at the 2014 IRS Nationwide Tax Forums.  Tax professionals can register for these self-study seminars and receive continuing professional education credits.

These 14 seminars can be accessed at the IRS Nationwide Tax Forums Online (NTFO) and cover the following topics:

  • Highlights of the 2014 income tax law changes
  • Overview of the premium tax credit and the individual shared responsibility provision
  • Updates to and overview of Treasury Circular No. 230
  • Improvements to the process for securing an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number 

This online training is delivered through various media, including interactive videos, PowerPoint slides and transcripts.

According to the press release, “The online forums are registered with the IRS Return Preparer Office and the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA) as a qualified sponsor of continuing professional education (CPE). For a fee, Enrolled Agents and CPAs taking NTFO seminars can earn CPE credits. To earn CPE credits, users must create an account, answer review questions throughout the seminar, and pass short tests at the end of the seminars.”

The seminars can also be audited for free.  However, those who audit the seminars will not be able to access review questions, nor can they receive credit for completing the seminar.

For more information or to see seminars from prior-year IRS Nationwide Tax Forums, visit the NTFO.

Universal Accounting’s Tax Training

UA’s Professional Tax Preparer program will help you establish yourself as a trained and trustworthy tax professional.  You can earn the Professional Tax Preparer Designation while receiving up to 60 CPE credits, depending on the number of modules you complete.

UAC’s Professional Tax Preparer (PTP) program will not only give you hands-on training in completing full individual (1040) and business returns (1065, 1120, 1120S), but it will also provide you with the following:

  • 20 hours of valuable video instruction
  • 2 instructional manuals
  • Step-by-step instruction in becoming a sole practitioner
  • One year of follow-up support from expert tax preparers
  • The opportunity to earn valuable professional certification
  • Our iron-clad, risk-free guarantee

Call 1-877-833-7909 to enroll today, and improve your competitive advantage while securing your professional standing in the tax industry.

Resource

–.  “Online Seminars from the 2014 IRS Nationwide Tax Forums are Now Available.”  1 October 2014  IRS.gov

IRS Warns of “Phishing” Scam

fraudOn September 24th, the IRS issued a press release warning financial institutions of scams designed to steal FATCA-related account data.  Scam artists posing as the IRS have fraudulently requested Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FACTA) holder identity and financial account information.  The press release emphasizes that the IRS does not require institutions to provide such data over the phone, by fax or via email.  Nor does the IRS ever require FATCA registration passwords or other confidential account access information.

IRS Commissioner John Koskinen explains, “Tax scams using the IRS name can take many forms and they are not limited by national borders.  People should always be cautious before sending sensitive information to anyone.”

Reports of such fraud have been reported in multiple countries and continents.  Those targeted are financial institutions registered to comply with FATCA and those in jurisdictions required to uphold intergovernmental agreements (IGAs) to implement FATCA.

These types of fraudulent requests qualify as “phishing” scams, and anyone who suspects having been likewise approached are asked to report it to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) or through the TIGTA secure website.  For more information, please visit the official IRS website.

Become an Official Tax Professional

Tax preparation is a lucrative business.  Consider that first-time preparers submit tax forms for 50 clients, charging an average of $150 each.  They make, roughly, $7500 working the 45 days before April 15th, and that’s before they have had much time to build a solid clientele.  For many people, this represents 3 months of salary.  That’s an appealing career path for many individuals.

Whether you want to earn a significant amount of money on the side or start your own full-time tax practice, you can appreciate the value of comprehensive tax preparation training.

The Professional Tax Preparer Program 

UAC’s Professional Tax Preparer (PTP) program will enable you to become proficient in the completion of individual and business returns.  The PTP provides you with the following:

  • Convenient online training
  • 20 hours of valuable video instruction
  • Hands-on training in completing full individual (1040) and business returns (1065, 1120, 1120S)
  • Step-by-step instruction in becoming a sole practitioner
  • One year of follow-up support from expert tax preparers
  • The opportunity to earn valuable professional certification
  • Our iron-clad, risk-free guarantee 

The Value of Tax Training

In today’s world of complex tax laws and increasing tax fraud occurrences, like the one described above, tax payers are looking for specialists with credentials.  It affords clients peace of mind to know that the individual they’re working with is qualified and knowledgeable.  It also affords the tax preparer peace of mind to know they’ve been properly trained.  Universal recognizes the value of a professional designation and awards Professional Tax Preparer Certification to those who successfully pass the final exam with a score of 90% or higher.

The program is comprised of the following 4 modules with their corresponding topics: 

  1. Module I establishing the Tax foundation
  2. Module II Becoming the 1040 Expert
  3. Module III Profitable Business Returns
  4. Module IV Building Your Successful Tax Practice 

A Lucrative Investment

Acquiring tax preparation skills not only affords you the opportunity to earn upwards of $100 per hour, but it exposes you to a limitless potential client base.  The fact that nearly every adult and business in the nation must report their tax liability on a yearly bases means that your tax preparation skills will be very appealing to a significant population.  And as your practice grows, so will your income.  Call Universal at 1-877-833-7908 to enroll now!

Resource

–.  “IRS Warns Financial Institutions of Scams Designed to Steal FATCA-Related Account Data.”  24 September 2014  IRS.gov