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Hitting it Out of the Ballpark with the IRS’s Future State

Baseball IRSBaseball is ninety percent mental and the other half is physical.

-Yogi Berra

Spring time.  The first busy season is done – that’s when CPAs can catch their breath, relax a little, maybe even catch a baseball game. Speaking of baseball, CPAs are in a league of their own, no question about it, and our Tax Section helps get you there. Baseball also brings me back to my childhood when I was a huge Washington Senators baseball fan. But the future for the Senators was never bright; thoughts of the playoffs, let alone the World Series, were out of the question. But now with the Nationals in town, the future is much brighter.

I’m hoping that’s the case with the IRS as well.  Unlike Yogi Berra’s concept of accounting, the numbers have just got to add up for the IRS and, well, the IRS has dropped the ball in service.  We all know that, including the IRS. With two strikes against them in the realm of public opinion, the IRS has unveiled its Future State Initiative. You may know from reading my recent blog on IRS service levels that I thought the signs were starting to look good in terms of possibly starting to move the IRS service needle back in the right direction. 

We recently conducted a survey of all AICPA members to gauge their experience with IRS service levels. It was a way to give everyone an opportunity to be heard – the CPA perspective from the bleachers in deep center field, if you will. The survey, conducted right after busy season, was a reprise of the survey we undertook in April 2015 so we’ll be able to track the changes in experience. Did the relief pitcher in the form of additional money Congress allocated in December have a measurable impact?  We’ll report on the survey results shortly. I’m hoping for a home run but even a bunt single in results would look good at this point (and be more realistic).

This is where the Future State Initiative comes in but it is only in the outline stage at this point. In essence, the IRS is attempting to take a strategic view of its evolutionary needs to support taxpayers, the tax community and the country’s needs in a more comprehensive way. Future State relies heavily on technology to alter the way IRS interacts with taxpayers. This endeavor is not just about service but it is a significant focus.

National Taxpayer Advocate Nina Olson believes there are many positive aspects to the plan but has also raised concerns in her 2015 Annual Report to Congress regarding its significant reliance on technology that could adversely affect some taxpayers. The report points out that:

(1) 16% of adult Americans do not use the Internet;

(2) Millions more who do use the Internet are concerned with data security; and

(3) Those who use the Internet and are comfortable with security issues will find that the tax law’s complexity will make online resolution impractical.

Olson commented in the report that the proposed approach could have serious ramifications and urges the IRS to seek input from the public and interested stakeholders. 

That’s where the AICPA has stepped up to the plate. We’ve formed a task force to develop our thoughts on the Future State, and believe me, we have some heavy hitters in that group. The task force is also responsible for advancing the concept AICPA Council espoused last year. Also, Tax Executive Committee chair Troy Lewis will be testifying on May 17 at the National Taxpayer Advocate’s Public Forum on the IRS Future State. We have a high batting average in tax advocacy and we will make our voice heard. We know how important this is for CPAs – for everyone – and so we will be swinging for the fences.

Boston Red Sox legend Ted Williams said, “Baseball is the only field of endeavor where a man can succeed three times out of ten and be considered a good performer.” That just won’t cut it for the IRS.

Edward Karl, Vice President-Taxation, American Institute of CPAs. 

 

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