Following a pause to allow time for the IRS to develop a new online application process, the agency is once again accepting applications for acceptance agents.
Acceptance agents assist resident and nonresident aliens obtain an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN), which are issued for those who need a Taxpayer Identification Number for tax reasons but do not or cannot possess a Social Security Number (SSN). The IRS’ Certifying Acceptance Agent (CAA) program was put on ice via a moratorium in August 2022 as the agency worked to modernize and digitize application procedures. The moratorium was lifted January 19, 2024.
“Many individuals who require ITINs for themselves or members of the family find that working with an Acceptance Agent is simpler and quicker than submitting all documents directly to the IRS for verification,” wrote National Taxpayer Advocate Erin Collins in a January 30 blog post. “The resumption of Acceptance Agent applications means that there will be more Acceptance Agents to provide assistance to taxpayers and their dependents in obtaining an ITIN.”
New Acceptance Agents will be able to aid taxpayers this filing season for 2023 returns. Forms 13551, Application to Participate in the IRS Acceptance Agent Program, are no longer accepted by mail. Applicants must now use IRS e-Services and upload required documents through the CAA upload tool.
Before submitting, applicants need to complete the mandatory ITIN Acceptance Agent training course. New and renewing CAA applicants are also required to complete Forensic Document training. According to the IRS, the move to an online process should reduce processing time from 120 days to 60 days. The IRS posted updated FAQs with more information for applicants.
In her 2023 Annual Report to Congress, Collins and her team said getting an ITIN “burdens and confuses taxpayers” while taking up to 11 weeks for international taxpayers. “ITINs are critical for taxpayers to be able to comply with their U.S. tax obligations, but delays receiving them occur because the application and tax return are submitted and processed on paper, not electronically,” the NTA reported. “If a taxpayer abroad wants to know the status of an application or is struggling with the documentation rules, it can be difficult to get assistance.”
Collins recommended that the IRS explore the feasibility of expanding the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) grant program to allow funds be used for ITIN certification services.
Earlier in January, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) published an audit of the CAA program, finding deficiencies in how it has been handled in recent years. Document verification times could be reduced from 20 minutes to two seconds if the processed used modernized identification tools, TIGTA found. Further, the IRS has erroneously allowed retroactive credits to be awarded to taxpayers whose TIN was not issued on or before the return date. Conversely, the IRS also erroneously denied credits to those with timely issued TINs.
“This analysis was not restricted to those claims involving ITINs and could also involve claims using SSNs and/or Adoption Taxpayer Identification Numbers,” TIGTA reported. For more, see TIGTA Criticizes IRS Oversight of Certifying Acceptance Agents in ITIN Program (1/5/2024).
For more information regarding CAAs, see Checkpoint’s Federal Tax Coordinator ¶S-1582.6.
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