NTA Releases Mid-Year Report

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Last week the NTA released her mid-year report. As all of the TAS reports, it is required information for those interested in tax administration and tax procedure. The first volume of the report has three main areas: an update on the public forums that the NTA has been conducting over the last year on the IRS’s Future State plans, an overview of the IRS’s 2016 filing season performance, and selected areas of focus, including FATCA, private debt collection, EITC compliance, identity theft assistance procedures, and levies on retirement accounts.

Volume 2 contains the IRS’s response to the administrative recommendations that the NTA made in her 2015 annual report.

As usual, there is lots in the report. I provide the links with the hope that I will come back to this in a future post.   Some quick things jump out, however.

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The NTA is hoping to get additional input on the needs of taxpayers as the IRS continues with its plans to modernize the way in interacts with taxpayers. Given the importance of this issue to tax administration, the NTA in its press release states that Future State is “its most important area of focus.” The public forums will continue and TAS will be conducting a nationwide survey to learn more about taxpayer “needs, preferences, and experience with IRS taxpayer service and will hold focus groups on the IRS Future State at the IRS Tax Forums this summer.”

The press release summarizes the good news when looking at the last filing season:

The report says the IRS delivered a generally successful filing season in 2016. Of particular note, the IRS substantially improved taxpayer service on its toll-free telephone lines as compared with 2015. In every year since FY 2008, the IRS has received more than 100 million telephone calls. During the 2015 filing season, IRS telephone service reached a low; the IRS answered only 37 percent of taxpayer calls routed to customer service representatives overall, and the wait time for taxpayers who got through averaged 23 minutes. During the 2016 filing season, the IRS answered 73 percent of its calls, and the wait time dropped to 11 minutes. Thus, the IRS nearly doubled the percentage of calls it answered and reduced wait times by more than half.

Volume 2 contains the IRS’s response to the recommendations in the 2015 year end report. According to the press release, “IRS has implemented or agreed to implement 65 of the Advocate’s recommendations, or 56 percent.” The volume also contains in some instances replies from TAS to IRS responses. As the NTA notes, this exchange is important:

People who work in the field of tax administration and taxpayers generally can benefit greatly from reading the agency responses to our report,” Ms. Olson said. “Tax administration is a complex field with many trade-offs required. Reading both my office’s critique and IRS’s responses in combination will provide readers with a broader perspective on key issues, the IRS’s rationale for its policies and procedures, and alternative options we recommend.”

Kudos to TAS and IRS for engaging with the key issues of tax administration and providing a forum for an exchange of views and greater transparency in tax administration.

Leslie Book About Leslie Book

Professor Book is a Professor of Law at the Villanova University Charles Widger School of Law.

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