(Washington, DC) The IRS Oversight Board held its 2008 Public Forum at the Department of the Treasury as part of the Board’s February 19-20th meeting. Topics of discussion included taxpayer service, tax preparer regulation, and employee recruitment, development and retention.
At the Public Forum, the Board released its annual Taxpayer Attitude Survey that found more than 86 percent of those surveyed believed it is it important that paid tax preparers be required to meet competency and ethical standards. Today, not all paid preparers of federal tax returns are subject to regulation. However, the survey also found that three out of four taxpayers would be influenced in their choice of a preparer based on whether the preparer was licensed or regulated by either a government entity or an industry association. This is the first year that the Board has included a question about tax preparer qualifications and integrity. The survey is available on the IRS Oversight Board web site at www.treas.gov/irsob/reports/documents/2007_Taxpayer-Attitude-Survey.pdf .
A number of organizations were asked to comment on proposed congressional legislation that would regulate the preparation industry. Some of the different bills’ components include registration, ethics, competency testing, continued professional education requirements and enforcement. Given these parameters, the panelists had been asked to create a program that was effective yet revenue neutral and discuss any potential impact of regulatory fees on clients and taxpayers.
Oversight Board Chairman Paul Cherecwich commented, “If current trends hold true, it is expected that more than 60 percent of the nation’s 130 million individual taxpayers will use a paid tax preparer during the 2008 filing season, and they have every reason to expect that their preparers are capable, diligent and adhere to high ethical standards. The Board intends to continue to work with policymakers, regulators, industry and the larger tax administration community to ensure that the best interests of taxpayers are being addressed as Congress considers new legislation in this area.”
Participants at the Forum also discussed customer service as it applies to tax administration. The mix of tax professionals and customer service experts created a good opportunity for creative thinking, and representatives agreed that simplicity is the key to help taxpayers understand and comply with our complex tax code, and strongly encouraged taxpayer education at every level. Human capital was also discussed at length, as tax professionals and human capital experts described the critical need and best practices to attract, develop and retain employees as the baby boomer generation begins to retire. To read written statements submitted to the Board for the Forum, visit the Board’s web site at www.treas.gov/irsob/meetings/.
National Taxpayer Advocate Congressional Report and Other Briefings
At its February 20th meeting, the Board heard from National Taxpayer Advocate (NTA) Nina Olson who briefed the members on her 2007 Annual Report to Congress. The Board was interested in a number of the findings and recommendations, such as the impact on taxpayers of late tax law changes. The NTA report said that taxpayers may not have claimed tax deductions to which they were entitled in 2006, such as educator expenses, simply because they did not know about them.
The Board also expressed interest in the NTA’s suggestion that a comprehensive strategy is needed to target the “cash economy” portion of the tax gap. Olson expressed concern that there is no coordinated approach for all of the different IRS initiatives dealing with cash economy noncompliance. In addition, the Board and the NTA discussed issues relating to transparency and the IRS’ Office of Professional Ethics, identity theft and the need for continued and expanded research on taxpayer service.
The Board received a briefing on the status of the filing season and the IRS' implementation of the Economic Stimulus Act, which was signed into law earlier this month and provides stimulus payments for approximately 130 million households in the U.S.
"The IRS is to be commended for all its hard work. Implementing the stimulus plan is a large and complex undertaking, and the IRS is devoting a lot of effort into the program. More management attention on the stimulus program stretches the IRS thin in other areas, but executing the filing season and stimulus program flawlessly is the IRS' highest priority at the moment,” said Chairman Cherecwich.
The Board also heard from a number of IRS senior officials, including Acting Commission Linda Stiff, on the following topics:
- The Office of Privacy, Information Protection and Data Security’s proposed data loss prevention action plan;
- A progress report on revising the IRS strategic plan;
- A report on updating IRS long-term measures, including a Business Systems Modernization performance measure; and
- An FY2008-2009 IRS budget status briefing.
The Board’s next meeting will be held on April 23-24, 2008 in Washington, DC.