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IRS announces reduction in certain services & shift to automatic resources

December 30, 2013

On its website, IRS has announced that it will be making a number of taxpayer service changes for the 2014 filing season to reflect “available resources and shifting taxpayer demands.”In general, these changes reflect a cutback of live assistance in favor of more automated options.

RIA observation:The “funding problem” of the IRS was recently discussed by newly-confirmed Commissioner John Koskinen in his testimony before the Senate Finance Committee.Koskinen said, “I don’t know any organization in my 20 years of experience in the private sector that has said “I think I’ll take my revenue operation and starve it for funds to see how it does.”The IRS will have 11,000 fewer people working during this upcoming filing season while processing the largest number of returns in its history.I don’t care how efficient you become, that is not a recipe for success or improved compliance and taxpayer service.”He also cited a recent report of the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) that concluded that the $1 billion in cuts to IRS’s budget resulted in $8 billion in lost compliance revenues.

IRS emphasized that these changes were made with input from stakeholders in the tax community and will free up IRS telephone assistors to deal with other matters, like identity theft, that can’t be resolved through other avenues.It also stated that any savings from these changes will go towards improving services on the phone and at IRS walk-in sites.

Tax return preparation services cut back.Beginning in 2014, IRS will no longer offer tax preparation services at walk-in offices.According to IRS, in recent years, fewer tax returns have been prepared at IRS walk-in offices, and return preparation services have been available only in limited format—i.e., only at certain offices and only at certain times.Qualified taxpayers seeking such services will be directed to volunteer partner sites for tax return preparation.IRS also emphasized that its Free File program offers free e-file and tax software to help taxpayers prepare their returns.

New “get transcript” service.Early in 2014, there will be a new online request option on that will allow individual taxpayers with a Social Security number to instantly view and print a copy of their tax transcripts.The online tool can also be used to request that a transcript by mailed to the taxpayer’s address of record.

Tax law assistance limited.According to IRS, most of the tax questions it receives are about basic tax law issues such as those pertaining to forms or filing status.IRS will continue to answer basic tax law questions during the filing season (January to mid-April).However, beginning with the 2014 filing season, taxpayers with more complex questions at any time, and taxpayers with basic tax law questions raised outside of the filing season, will be referred to other resources on, IRS tax publications, and tax law resources available on tax preparation software.

Tax refund inquiries.All tax refund inquiries made during the first 21 days after a taxpayer files electronically will be directed to the “Where’s My Refund?” tool,, and an automated telephone service.IRS customer service representatives will only be able to research the status of a refund if (i) it has been 21 days or more since the return was filed electronically, (ii) more than six weeks have passed since a paper return was mailed, or (iii) the “Where’s My Refund?” tool directs a taxpayer to contact IRS.

Practitioner Priority Service (PPS).The PPS is intended as a dedicated channel for tax professionals to resolve taxpayer client account issues.However, according to IRS, it has been used by customers over the past few years who weren’t tax professionals. Starting in January, IRS will limit PPS to tax professionals and requests related to resolving client-related issues, and all other requests will be referred to “other appropriate resources for service.”

Employer Identification Number (EIN) requests limited.Beginning with the 2014 filing season, all EIN requests will be referred to the EIN Online Assistant, and only questions about a previously assigned EIN will be referred to a live IRS representative. According to IRS, its EIN Online Assistant processes over four million requests per year electronically, as compared to just over 588,000 that are processed via IRS’s manual telephone option.