The Internal Revenue Service is having another bad year providing service to taxpayers. Its backlog of returns is epic:
Nearly 24 million taxpayers are still waiting for the Internal Revenue Service to process their tax returns from last year — a number far larger than previously reported by the agency — with many refunds being held up for 10 months or more.
The IRS is focusing on cutting the backlog, and it is assigning more resources to the return processing. But, this shift increases its struggle to answer its phones so people can ask questions or resolve misunderstandings. As it is, only 11% of people who phone the IRS reach someone to talk to, according a February, 2022 article in the Sacramento Bee.
Chronic underfunding of the agency is resulting in chaos as COVID shutdowns, outdated technology, and vacancies caused by low-wages combine to frustrate attempts to improve government/citizen cooperation.
There is one way that many people can get the information they need quickly. That’s by establishing an online account with the IRS at this page on their website.
Once an account is set up you can log in and check your past tax records, including how much money you may have received from Economic Impact Payments and Child Tax Credit payments. You can view payments you’ve made, IRS notices you’ve received, and your account balances.
This information is also available to your accountant if you have filed a power of attorney with the IRS. However, processing a power of attorney takes at least 10 days, and if you are facing a deadline or want to provide your accountant with information more quickly, you can get it ASAP through your online account.
The IRS lets you download any number of documents which you can then upload to your CPA (using an encrypted, secure service). We at RINA frequently encourage clients to establish an IRS account. Then we tell them which documents they should download and forward to us so we have the information we need to help plan their taxes, prepare their return, or respond to the IRS.
This “self-service” process gets your accountant the information at the speed of light AND gathering the information yourself means we don’t spend time (and your money) gathering the data.
To set up an account you’ll be able to verify your identity in one of two ways:
Biometric comparison. You can take a selfie on your phone and send it along with a photo of an existing government ID such as a driver’s license or passport.
Live virtual interview. Taxpayers will have the option of verifying their identity during a live, virtual interview with agents.
These options were announced by the IRS February 21st. Previously the IRS was requiring taxpayers to verify their identity through a third-party, ID.me, that uses biometric data. That process raised privacy concerns so now the use of photos is optional and, if you do choose to the biometric, data deletion rules have been established.
In an ideal world you would ask your accountant to help with taxes and check a box or two on the IRS site telling the IRS that we were authorized to view your information in their system. Then your accountant would login to the IRS and retrieve and use the information.
Unfortunately the IRS’s technology and procedures need a lot of updating before such an efficient process can be implemented. For many documents the IRS actually requires us to FAX a copy to them… they do not accept emailed attachments. When was the last time you FAXed anything?!!
So until the IRS is given the funding for personnel and equipment, consider going the “self service” route for some of the information that we both need for your tax work.
Kati Oliver is a Tax Manager in the Oakland office. She graduated from California State University, Hayward with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Business Administration with a concentration in accounting. Kati provides tax services to businesses in a variety of industries. She focuses on partnerships, trusts, high-net-worth individuals, real estate taxation and estate planning.