AICPA meetings in D.C. seek path toward a 21st century IRS


 From left, Jeffrey A. Porter; Rep. Peter Roskam, R-Ill., chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee Oversight Subcommittee; Troy K. Lewis; Annette Nellen; and Michael P. Dolan meet in Washington.
From left, Jeffrey A. Porter; Rep. Peter Roskam, R-Ill., chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee Oversight Subcommittee; Troy K. Lewis; Annette Nellen; and Michael P. Dolan meet in Washington. (Photo by Sam Kittner/kittner.com)

AICPA tax advocacy committee members held two days of meetings with key members of Congress and IRS Commissioner John Koskinen in February intended to highlight dissatisfaction by practitioners and taxpayers with the IRS's levels of service and CPAs' potential role in improving the IRS.

The AICPA representatives were Troy K. Lewis, manager of Lewis & Associates CPAs LLC and chair of the AICPA Tax Executive Committee; Jeffrey A. Porter, owner of Porter & Associates CPAs and a member of the AICPA IRS Advocacy & Relations Committee; Annette Nellen, professor and director of the MST program at San José State University and vice chair of the Tax Executive Committee; and Michael P. Dolan, national director of IRS policies and dispute resolution at KPMG and a member of the IRS Advocacy & Relations Committee. Dolan also is a former deputy commissioner and acting commissioner of the IRS.

On Capitol Hill, they met with several key members and staff of the House Ways and Means and Appropriations committees and the Senate Finance Committee.

The discussions included effective use of the $290 million increase in IRS funding—most of it earmarked for taxpayer service—Congress approved for fiscal 2016 on Dec. 18 in the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2016, P.L. 114-113.

Koskinen has blamed budget cuts for poor telephone assistance to taxpayers during the 2015 filing season. Then, only 38% of calls to the IRS's toll-free line were answered, after taxpayers waited on hold for an average throughout filing season of 30 minutes. The so-called Practitioner Priority Service phone line also fared poorly, with only a 48% average answer rate (with weekly averages dropping below 36%) and an average hold time for those who did get through of nearly 47 minutes (one week, it was 82 minutes), according to National Taxpayer Advocate Nina Olson's most recent annual report to Congress.

The IRS also has been falling behind in answering its mail—an issue of importance to CPAs. Olson reported that its ability to timely process taxpayer correspondence has slipped in recent years.

In response to these and other administrative problems, the AICPA Council passed a resolution last May calling upon national policymakers to create an "objective, bi-partisan forum" in which stakeholders could recommend ways for the IRS to become "a modern-functioning, evolutionary, and respected federal agency for the 21st Century."

The February meetings started a path toward that solution, Porter said.

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