NU Online News Service, April 1, 6:39 p.m. ? Employers and benefits advisors who really hate the Internal Revenue Service determination letter system might be able to confront IRS officials in person.

The IRS is extending the deadline for public comments on an upcoming reform of the system to July 1, from March 31, according to a notice in Internal Revenue Bulletin 13, which appeared today.

The IRS is also suggesting that it might be willing to hold informal public hearings on the issue.

Commentators are “asked to comment on whether the Service should hold a series of nationwide town meetings to permit furtherance of dialogue on the future of the EP determination letter program,” the IRS says in the notice, which is available on the Web at http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-irbs/irb02-13.pdf

Determination letters are documents that employers and financial services companies get from the IRS when they organize new employee pension and savings plans, set up new plan prototypes, and make significant changes to plan designs. The determination letter shows an IRS official has determined that a proposed plan, prototype or modification appears to conform with the applicable laws and regulations.

The IRS is now looking for ways to redesign the infamously slow, expensive determination letter process to make it more convenient for plan sponsors.

Members of the public can contribute to the debate by mailing two copies of their comments to the IRS at: CC:M&SP:RU, (Announcement 2001-83), room 5626, Internal Revenue Service, POB 7604, Ben Franklin Station, Washington DC 20044.

The IRS official who placed the public comment extension notice is James Flannery. He can be reached at 202-283-9888.

Meanwhile, the IRS reports in the winter issue of its Employee Plans News newletter that it is setting up a special “technical clearinghouse” to help clear up confusion over the determination letter process.

The catch?

The clearinghouse is only for IRS employees.

“Practitioners, taxpayers and our other external customers are advised that the members of the Clearinghouse will not generally be responding to direct requests for their assistance from the public,” the IRS warns.

The newsletter is available on the Web at http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-utl/win02.pdf