When E-Filing Isn't Fast Enough

The IRS always prefers that you file your tax return electronically.  The number of electronically filed returns continues to increase each year, and there is no question about the benefits of E-filing in terms of both accuracy and efficiency.  However, from the perspective of a tax attorney, there are definitely situations when it is better for the taxpayer to drop off a paper return at the local Taxpayer Assistance Center (TAC).

Here is just one example.  Suppose taxpayer has a delinquent 2010 tax return, and now that it is well overdue, the IRS has given him an arbitrary new filing deadline.  If taxpayer misses this deadline, the IRS has promised there will be enforced collection activity, including the possibility of a wage garnishment or bank levy.  If taxpayer finds himself right up against his new filing deadline and he files electronically, the return is not going to show up in the IRS computer system immediately and there could be trouble.  Even if the return is filed before the deadline, the IRS won’t know it, and it could quickly shut down negotiations for tax relief.  However, if taxpayer walks his return down to the local TAC, he can get the return date stamped as “received” and, providing a copy of that date-stamped return as proof, can more expeditiously get the IRS to back down on the levy threats.

At the core of this problem is the fact that the customer service people at your local TAC are ordinarily not the same people who process the returns.  The TAC people will normally have to ship returns they receive off to processing centers.  Practitioners who drop off stacks of returns at local TACs tend to overburden these walk-in offices, which can diminish the level of service given in truly urgent situations like the one described above.  The IRS is trying to eliminate this practice.  Beginning this year, the IRS will no longer accept bulk return filing at its Assistance Centers.  This will be the general rule; exceptions will be considered on a case-by-case basis.

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