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House to Vote on Bills to Revamp IRS

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The full House is expected to take up and debate Tuesday the nine bills to reshape the IRS, including the Taxpayer First Act, which House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady, R-Texas, says will turn the IRS into a “modern, 21st century agency focused on ‘taxpayer first’ service.”

The House Ways and Means Committee unanimously approved on April 11 the package of bills that enhance customer service, improve the IRS’ outdated IT infrastructure and modernize the appeals process.

The full House is scheduled to take up and debate Wednesday the 21st Century IRS Act.

“Even without the fear of an unexpected audit, taxpayers often find the IRS to be inaccessible and intimidating when looking for help,” Brady wrote in a Monday Houston Chronicle op-ed. “Most Americans would agree that the IRS has forgotten that they work for the taxpayers, and not the other way around.”

Unfortunately, in many cases, Brady wrote, “the IRS has failed to provide the quality customer service they claim to be striving for, even when it comes to simply answering the phone when a taxpayer calls.”

He cited the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office report in 2015, which found that the IRS “not only had no strategy in place to define what quality customer service should look like, but there were no plans to develop one.”

Current IRS technology “does little to facilitate customer service or offer assistance during an audit,” Brady wrote, stating that the outdated systems “can leave the IRS vulnerable to serious cyber threats from around the world.”

Added Brady: “Every taxpayer’s personal and vital information continues to be a target of bad actors worldwide and we are working hard to ensure that the billions of dollars the IRS spends on IT will adequately protect it.”

The legislation also establishes an independent Office of Appeals to ensure that customers receive “a fair and impartial review of disputes,” Brady wrote. The IRS, he said, “will be limited in its ability to seize taxpayer funds, such as the payroll account of a small-business owner.”

IRS departments will be reorganized, for instance, with a “centralized point of contact” to deal with identity theft “that will be responsible for seeing cases all the way through.”

In the fiscal 2018 spending bill, the IRS was given a boost of about $300 million for taxpayer services, but its business systems modernization budget was more than halved, to $110 million, according to the Journal of Accountancy. The IRS’ full allocation, $11.4 billion, is 18% below 2010 funding levels when adjusted for inflation, according to the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities.

The Taxpayers Protection Alliance says it applauds Congress “for trying to improve cybersecurity, taxpayer identity protection, and modernizing information technology at the IRS.”

Other critical aspects of this bill, the group noted, “include establishing a program for the issuance of identity-protection personal identification numbers and providing for a single point of contact at the IRS for taxpayers victimized by tax-related identity theft.”

— Check out The IRS Really Needs a New Computer System on ThinkAdvisor.


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