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IRS E-Services: Where are We Now? And Where are We Going?

QuestionsAs the staff liaison for the AICPA’s Internal Revenue Service Advocacy and Relations volunteer committee, I am in the unique position to listen to our members’ concerns and discuss those issues with the IRS.  When the online e-services of Power of Attorney and Electronic Account Resolution were terminated on Sept. 2, I heard concerns from numerous practitioners.  In fact, we received more calls regarding this issue than all other issues combined last year. 

The AICPA adamantly voiced members’ frustrations and concerns to the IRS.  The backlash the IRS felt from the AICPA and other members of the practitioner community was so severe that IRS officials made it clear they never wanted this situation to repeat itself.  This was a top priority to then-Acting Commissioner Danny Werfel.  The IRS also quietly looked into different possibilities to bring back these online e-services.

Unfortunately, this ship has sailed. I was recently informed (officially) there is no way to turn on the old PoA or EAR online services and that due to budget restraints, it won’t be revived in the new platform because:
  • The original platform is antiquated;
  • A total rewrite would be required to transfer the program to the new platform;
  • The estimated cost of the rewrite is $10 million; and
  • The new program needs to comply with Federal Information Security Management Act (the old system is not compliant with FISMA and this is also the reason the price tag is huge).

Practitioners will need to continue submitting PoA through fax or mail and then call the Practitioner Priority Service line for assistance with client account issues.  The wait times to speak with an agent averaged more than 1.5 hours.

As an alternative, the IRS said they are developing an intuitive online program to manage PoAs.  This would be the first tool we’ve seen so far, with the new platform, which is for the benefit of practitioners.  In theory, this tool would allow a preparer to authenticate themselves with a valid PoA, which in turn would permit the practitioner to access information electronically on behalf of the taxpayer.  The pilot of this program would be available in 2015.   

As exciting as the news was, a member commented on the fact that had the practitioner community been involved in the initial decision to terminate the online services, this new program could already be in use instead of having the year lag between services. 

Since we can’t turn back time to lament the “should have’s” and “could have’s,” the AICPA will focus on opportunities for the practitioner community to have meaningful input on the new tool to make it a truly functional program. 

I also hope that this one program isn’t the only tool for practitioners.  The IRS focuses heavily on providing additional services for taxpayers; however, practitioners are the front line to over half of the taxpaying population.  For example, after the IRS created the online transcript service, which made it easier for taxpayers to request their tax data, many clients still called their practitioners to understand what type of transcripts they needed. I hope that many more practitioner tools will be developed in the near horizon and that this PoA program is the gateway.

Melanie Lauridsen, Technical Manager - Taxation, American Institute of CPAs. Melanie is the staff liaison for the AICPA’s IRS Advocacy and Relations Committee, Tax Practice Responsibilities Committee and SSTS Task Force. Her public accounting experience includes working for PwC, where she provided tax expertise to high net worth individuals and privately-held companies, as well as public accounting at a regional firm. Melanie has her Master’s degree in accountancy from George Washington University and her Bachelors in economics from Brigham Young University.

Questions image via Shutterstock

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