Friday, April 6, 2012

The IRS May Allow Videoconferencing

I am just finished reading Nina Olson’s most recent blog post. Nina Olson is the National Taxpayer Advocate with the IRS. The Advocate’s office is independent from the IRS, although it works with the IRS to resolve tax problems. I have worked with the Advocate’s office before, and in general I have been pleased. Recent contacts have concerned me, though. It sounds to me that they are being overworked, at least here in Cincinnati. I suspect they are feeling IRS budget restrictions.
Ms Olson commented on taxpayer frustrations with “corr exams.” These are correspondence exams and frequently address areas using computer matching. You may get a “corr” notice concerning missing dividends or interest income, for example, or possibly the sale of stock. The corr notices are notorious and can frequently take multiple contacts to resolve. Why? Well, a key reason is that no single examiner is assigned to work on your case. Rather, it floats in a pool, and when you send a letter it gets randomly assigned to an examiner. Say that the letter resolves many, but not all, the issues. The IRS sends out another notice. You respond, but it will not go to the same person who earlier worked on your file. There is no continuity in the corr exam process.
Ms Olson is proposing the use of videoconferencing in conjunction with corr exams. Upon receiving a notice, a taxpayer would have the option of making an appointment for an online meeting. The taxpayer gets a PIN and logs on from his home or office computer. If the taxpayer does not have a computer, he/she could alternatively go to the local IRS office or perhaps to a specially designated room at another government building. With a high-resolution camera, the examiner could even read a document that the taxpayer brought to the videoconference. The examiner would retain the case, and all future correspondence would contain his/her name, phone number and e-mail address.
Here is how Ms Olson phrased it:
As anyone who has looked at both the literacy levels of the United States population and the poor quality of IRS exam notices can attest, there is not a whole lot of communicating going on in IRS correspondence exams.”
A virtual face-to-face meeting would allow for diversity in taxpayers’ ability to read, write and express themselves verbally. The taxpayer would be able to explain himself and the examiner could better explain any necessary documentation without the back-and-forth of a correspondence exam.
What does this tax CPA think? Great idea! I am becoming quite the fan of Nina Olson.

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