Tax and accounting groups urge IRS to set up Practitioner Services division

A group of IRS stakeholder organizations has submitted a letter to the Treasury Department and the Internal Revenue Services with suggestions on the implementation of the Taxpayer First Act.

The group includes the American Institute of CPAs, alliantgroup, H&R Block, the Latino Tax Professionals Association, the National Association of Enrolled Agents, the National Association of Tax Professionals, the National Conference of CPA Practitioners, the National Society of Tax Professionals, Padgett Business Services, and Prosperity Now.

The letter came in response to a call from the IRS for recommendations as it prepares reports to Congress as mandated by the IRS reform law, which was enacted last year in an effort to improve taxpayer service and technology. In the letter, the group noted they are providing “collective input” as the IRS prepares these reports and “most importantly,” recommends that the IRS establish a new Practitioner Services division as an integral part of the organizational modernization.

In its recommendation for a dedicated Practitioner Services division, the group noted that practitioners play a vital role in tax administration.

“Without a dedicated ‘executive -level’ Practitioner Services division that can participate in the design of key practitioner-impacting policies and programs, the IRS will not achieve the success it desires with the tax preparer community,” the group stated. “At a minimum, the Practitioner Services division should: (1) engage with the tax professional community; (2) ensure practitioner feedback is acted upon through a liaison with all major operating divisions; (3) maintain robust practitioner hotlines; and (4) provide an online tax professional account.

“The IRS…needs to adopt a visionary approach looking beyond immediate constraints to develop long-term goals…The IRS should provide flexibility in its design to ensure the agency will continue to evolve,” the group said.

In their feedback, the tax practitioners highlighted key priorities in each of the three areas in which reports are being submitted to Congress.

  • Comprehensive customer service strategy: The IRS’s comprehensive customer service strategy should provide its customers with access to empowered employees, timely information and tailored resources.
  • Comprehensive training strategy: The IRS’s strategy on training should include customer-focused subject matters, a consistent and high-quality format, and the leveraging of trained employees.
  • IRS redesign plan: The IRS’s comprehensive plan to redesign the organization should incorporate a customer-focused culture, provide an integrated technological infrastructure, and create a dedicated Practitioner Services Division.

“I see this as a positive set of interactions between the IRS and the stakeholder groups,” said Roger Harris, president of Padgett Business Services. “I give the IRS credit for holding focus groups and seeking input from us. And the AICPA did a good job of taking the comments of all the groups and melding them into a document we could all support.”

There needs to be one more letter, according to Harris. “If any of this is going to work, there needs to be an additional letter to Congress telling them to give the IRS the money they need to implement the plan,” he said.