Improving IRS practitioner services

By Cheri H. Freeh, CPA, CGMA

Currently, the first point of contact for practitioners looking to obtain help for their clients is the IRS's Practitioner Priority Service (PPS) phone line at 866-860-4259. In addition to providing phone services for practitioners, the IRS has developed e-Services, a suite of web-based tools that allows tax professionals to complete transactions online. To access these services, practitioners must register and create an account that uses multifactor authentication.

Once a practitioner is registered, the following information can be accessed:

  • Transcript Delivery System (TDS): To view a client's return and account information.
  • Taxpayer Identification Number (TIN) Matching: To validate TIN and name combinations before submitting information returns. Bulk and interactive options are available.
  • Other services: E-file provider services to apply and participate in e-filing of returns, Affordable Care Act (ACA) services to e-file ACA-related information returns, and state agency services.

While these tools can be of great help to practitioners, they are not without issues. Hold times on IRS phone lines can be long, individual IRS departments do not always effectively communicate internally, the registration process can be daunting, and setting up multifactor authentication requires practitioners to provide their own sensitive personal information that has no connection to the taxpayer they are trying to assist.

For many years the AICPA Tax Division has worked diligently to improve the situation for members. Members of various committees within the Tax Division, along with many key AICPA staff members, have worked to bring the various issues to the attention of the IRS and Congress. In 2015, the AICPA's governing Council adopted a resolution regarding tax administration (available at aicpa.org). In addition, the AICPA has provided written testimony to members of Congress, has communicated regularly with the IRS, and recently took the issue directly to members of Congress as part of the AICPA spring Council meeting.

On July 1, the Taxpayer First Act, P.L. 116-25, was signed into law. It calls for modernizing the IRS's organizational structure. This is consistent with the message of the AICPA's advocacy efforts that have called for the development of a framework to modernize the IRS. In particular, the AICPA has specifically asked that the IRS consolidate existing resources spent on represented taxpayers and organize a dedicated Practitioner Services Division. AICPA advocacy publications on this topic have pointed out that consolidating practitioner services would increase the effectiveness of practitioners as an IRS resource and ultimately lead to overall better taxpayer/customer service.

The Taxpayer First Act presents an opportunity for improved practitioner services, and the AICPA Tax Division and advocacy teams will continue to be involved to offer assistance in developing a structure that is centralized, staffed with higher-skilled IRS staff, and offers more opportunities for practitioners to access their clients' data.

For a detailed discussion of the issues in this area, see "Tax Practice & Procedures: IRS Practitioner Services and AICPA's Ongoing Advocacy for Improvement" in the October 2019 issue of The Tax Adviser.

Cheri H. Freeh, CPA, CGMA, a member of the AICPA Tax Practice & Procedures Committee


The Tax Adviser is the AICPA's monthly journal of tax planning, trends, and techniques.

Also in the October issue:

  • A look at recent developments in estate planning.
  • An analysis of events that could cause a partnership to terminate.
  • A discussion of the Taxpayer First Act's effect on practitioners.

AICPA members can subscribe to The Tax Adviser for a discounted price of $85 per year. Tax Section members can subscribe for a discounted price of $30 per year.

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