The IRS is unprepared to answer taxpayer questions about the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (P.L. 115-97), National Taxpayer Advocate Nina Olson predicted on her blog. The IRS has already witnessed taxpayer confusion about withholding changes, the deductibility of prepaid property taxes, and more, according to Olson.
Since 2014, the IRS has limited the scope of questions it answers over the phone, Olson noted. This filing season, the IRS will only answer what it characterizes as “basic” questions about tax law. The Service will answer no tax law questions on the phones or in the Taxpayer Assistance Centers for the rest of the year.
“The IRS can expect to receive a significant number of questions over the coming year, especially after taxpayers file their 2017 returns and wonder how items will be treated for 2018,” Olson predicted. “I don’t expect the IRS to give taxpayer-specific advice, but it must explain the basic outlines of provisions so taxpayers can determine whether provisions apply to them and whether they need to seek professional advice with respect to their specific situation,” Olson said.
“Despite technological advances, telephone calls remain an important way taxpayers chose to contact the IRS,” Olson noted. “Many taxpayers use the phone even when it’s not their first choice, as they’ve already tried using online resources but have been unable to resolve their issue or find an answer to a tax question on their own.”
Olson predicted that calls to the IRS will increase this filing season because of the new tax law. “The implementation of major tax reform legislation is always a heavy lift for the IRS,” Olson said. Ten years ago, the calls to the Service jumped 125 percent after passage of the Economic Stimulus Act of 2008 (P.L. 110-185), she reported.
Olson recommended that the IRS create an “omnichannel” service environment. This would encompass telephone service, online applications, and more. “An omnichannel taxpayer service environment would ensure all channels of communication are alive, active, and interconnected,” Olson said.
By George L. Yaksick, Jr., Wolters Kluwer News Staff