by Ron Yates, Former AICPA Council Rep,
MSCPA Past President 2010-2011
Greetings MSCPA Members. As you may have seen recently, American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) President/CEO Barry Melancon said the AICPA is pushing the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to improve its services for both taxpayers and CPAs. As reported by Michael Cohn of Accounting Today on January 26, 2016, Melancon gave a speech to the Accounting Club of America regarding the AICPA and the future of the profession. Pertaining to the IRS, Melancon is quoted as saying, “Basically the service levels in the Internal Revenue Service to preparers and taxpayers are at an all-time low,” he said. “To use a South Louisiana French term, it sucks. We do not have a 21st century IRS, and we are not likely to get one in the short term. We’re not going to get one because the Congress absolutely loathes the Internal Revenue Service and the leadership of the Internal Revenue Service.”
According to Cohn, Melancon went on to discuss some of the political challenges facing the IRS in Congress, and the $290 million that Congress earmarked in the December 2015 tax extenders legislation, the Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes Act of 2015, toward improving taxpayer service and cybersecurity and combating identity theft. “They [Congress] refuse to fund the Internal Revenue Service with any additional dollars,” he said. “In the last tax extenders bill, it looked like they funded it, but it was sort of a shell game, moving dollars around. And it is not going to change with this administration and this Congress and this IRS commissioner. On the political side, bridges have been burned and it is just not going to change. We have been big advocates that it needed to change. We have actually been on the Hill advocating for specific, dedicated funding to the IRS only for customer service—which, by the way, the IRS hates because they want just general funding—and even on that, we couldn’t get any traction from Congress.”
According to Cohn, Melancon hopes to make some headway this year. “We have called upon Treasury—and we are working with the Department of Treasury…to convene a group in 2016 prior to the results of the election, prior to us moving into a new election, to map out a vision of what a 21st century IRS might look like so that when we have new players and a new Congress and a new deal, we’ve got a blueprint to try to get that done,” he said. “Treasury has not yet been totally receptive to doing that, but we envision a forum in which preparers and not just CPAs, but lawyers and enrolled agents and others, come to the table, with representatives of the Service, representatives of Congress, and try to create a meeting of the minds, a rational way rather than the irrational political way. Hopefully we can be successful with that. No guarantees.” Finally, Melancon noted that an identity theft bill currently moving through Congress may provide an opportunity for the AICPA to address some of the current IRS funding and service concerns.
As Montana CPAs and accountants, what has been your experience with IRS service lately? Please share with us your thoughts and comments on what you are seeing and any “tips of the trade” that might be helpful over the next 10 weeks of tax season. Also, please share your opinion about the current level of IRS funding and what can be done to improve both customer service and move toward a “21st century IRS”.