Three Projects for the New Commish

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Forbes contributor Stephen Dunn recently blogged about the challenges facing the presently-unnamed IRS Commissioner.  He identified three problems that he feels should be given serious attention once the new commissioner takes office.

1. IRS practioners need a more efficient way to get their hands on taxpayer transcripts.  It is inconceivable that Dunn, as a 27-year tax attorney, would be unable to gain access to his clients’ transcripts through IRS’ E-services.  However, I can personally attest to the complications involved in registering for E-services.  There is no reason why a tax attorney should have to call the IRS simply to order transcripts.  The procedure needs to be simplified.

2. The IRS should change its federal tax lien (FTL) filing procedure.  Dunn believes that the current practice of public lien filing opens the door for abuse by shady tax resolution firms who use lien lists to mass mail thousands of fliers encouraging recipients to call for tax help.  I can see his point here too, even though the abusive tax lien mailers are pretty easy to spot.  Instead, Dunn proposes a solution whereby firms or individuals would have to affirmatively request FTL information from the IRS instead of having that information available to the public.

3. The IRS must stop sending out refunds based on fraudulent 1099 forms.  This popular scam has truly gotten out of control, with millions of dollars being paid to criminals each year.  And it really needs to be prevented on the front end because after the refund has been paid, it costs way too much to try to get the money back.

The new commissioner is certainly going to inherit a large “to do” list.  This is only the start.

IRS Blunders

I knew it would be a mistake to call the IRS a couple of days before Tax Day, but I was already on the phone with the IRS and I really wanted to get some other things done.  One of my ancillary tasks that day was to request a 2011 tax return transcript for a client.  The first thing I noticed was the complete lack of urgency on the part of the IRS representative.  This is the busiest time of the year for the IRS, but I didn’t get a sense of that from this employee!  I spent nearly 30 minutes with this guy and all I wanted was a simple transcript.  I’ve had a bank levy released more quickly than that.

Eventually he informed me that the 2011 tax return had not been processed yet, so there was no transcript available for 2011 and he would be unable to process my request.  I thanked him for his help and ended the call.

Then, to my surprise, today I received the transcript in question via U.S. mail — it is a two-page letter.  The first page contains standard information about what a transcript is and is not.  The second page shows the taxpayer’s social security number as well as the tax form and tax period in question.   And where the details would normally go, there is the simple phrase: “No record of return filed.”

I didn’t ask for this.  We both agreed that the transcript was not available yet.  But somehow I received a completely unnecessary two-page letter.  That’s the IRS for you…