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Eight ways to save time and help your clients using IRS e-Services

April 22, 2013

Learning how to use e-Services tools can greatly improve your efficiency.

Update: On June 5, the IRS announced that it plans to retire the Disclosure Authorization and Electronic Account Resolution e-Services products in August. This represents a reduction in tax professionals’ ability to interact electronically with the IRS to file authorizations and help resolve client account problems. Read our full alert.

By Jim Buttonow, CPA, CITP

Some practitioners are spending too much time on the phone with the IRS. They’re needlessly navigating the phone lines to find the right person to help with what is often a small matter.

Fortunately, learning how to maximize the full range of the IRS’ e-Services tools can greatly improve efficiency. The rate of e-Services usage among practitioners is increasing as tax professionals learn more about the system. From 2011 to 2012, practitioners filed 17% more authorization forms and requested 33% more transcripts via e-Services.

The IRS has continually expanded e-Services to enable practitioners to use three e-Services products:

  • Disclosure Authorization (DA), which allows practitioners to file Form 2848, Power of Attorney and Declaration of Representative, and Form 8821, Tax Information Authorization.
  • Transcript Delivery System (TDS), which allows practitioners to obtain any of the five types of IRS transcripts.
  • Electronic Account Resolution (EAR), which allows practitioners to make inquiries and resolve client account-related issues. EAR inquiries are answered by the same IRS customer service representatives who handle Practitioner Priority Service (PPS) calls, but without the wait times. EAR also offers the ability to work with one PPS representative to resolve a client account issue. However, you can’t use EAR to resolve compliance issues, such as audits, appeals, and collection matters.

Most practitioners are aware of the most common uses of e-Services. But here are eight less commonly known ways to maximize e-Services to save time and help your clients:

Get a complete tax history for a new client.

Often, new clients arrive with incomplete tax records. Using TDS, you can obtain background information to use in tax preparation and planning. You can instantly download and review an electronic copy of your client’s returns from the past three years or review your client’s individual wage and income information from the past 10 years. Reviewing account transcripts will also reveal any challenges to your client’s tax returns, such as an underreporter notice or an audit. Having a complete picture of your client’s tax history can help you begin a new client relationship with all the facts.

Determine qualification and apply for first-time penalty abatement.

The IRS will abate certain filing and payment penalties for individual, business, and payroll clients if your client has a clean compliance history. First-time abatement is a little-known and infrequently used administrative waiver that can benefit taxpayers with an isolated incident. Using TDS, you can research your client’s compliance history to determine whether your client qualifies for first-time penalty abatement. You also can use EAR to request and receive abatement.

File an annual Form 8821 to get copied on your client’s notices.

In today’s compliance environment, it’s common for clients to receive IRS notices, which can stress the client relationship. However, you can turn IRS notices into an opportunity to strengthen your client relationships by submitting Form 8821 via e-Services DA to be copied on your clients’ notices immediately. This way, when your clients receive an IRS notice, they’ll know that you also have received it and will address the issue.

Use wage and income transcripts to prevent a CP2000 underreporter notice.

In 2012, the IRS sent more than 4.5 million CP2000 notices to individual taxpayers who may have incorrectly reported income on their returns. To prevent a CP2000 notice, you’ll need to file an extension for your client. That’s because the IRS historically makes wage and income information for the previous filing year available via TDS at the end of May. By comparing that wage and income information to your client’s return, you can file a return that includes all income reported to the IRS.

Get a status update.

Practitioners can use EAR to request a status update of actions on a taxpayer account. For instance, you can ask whether the IRS has received a penalty abatement request or appeal, which would not appear on an IRS transcript.

Research tax identity theft.

If you suspect that your client is the victim of tax identity theft, e-Services can be a helpful tool in researching and documenting the theft. Identity thieves commonly steal taxpayers’ Social Security numbers (SSNs) to file fraudulent returns or for employment purposes. Using TDS, you can request and review wage and income transcripts to identify unauthorized uses of your client’s SSN. You can also request account transcripts to determine whether a return has been fraudulently filed under your client’s SSN.

Establish a payment plan.

If your client owes the IRS and can’t pay at the time of filing, you can use the EAR installment agreement feature to set up most direct debit streamlined installment agreements for your client. For individuals, a direct debit installment agreement is applicable if your client owes $50,000 or less and can pay the balance within 72 months. The IRS also has an online payment arrangement tool on its website that allows taxpayers or their representatives to establish streamlined installment agreements.

Prepare for an audit.

In an IRS field audit, the agent will do a three-year comparison of line items on filed returns. The agent also will compare your client’s return to information statements filed on behalf of your client.

E-Services tools allow you to plan for these important audit steps. Using TDS, you can obtain electronic copies of your client’s last three tax returns to complete a three-year return comparison, reviewing for significant fluctuations in income and expenses. TDS also allows you to access your client’s information statements to confirm the proper reporting of specific sources of income.

E-Services doesn’t provide wage and income information on Employee Identification Numbers. Call the IRS Practitioner Priority Service (PPS) business line to get this information before the examination. In either case, reconcile the reporting of your client’s information statements before the examination, because the agent will ask questions about it.

With fewer resources and more to do, the IRS will expand its electronic capabilities. The IRS has experimented with video conferencing for certain compliance functions, and IRS officials have said that the agency would like to improve its technology. In the future, the IRS could expand e-Services to allow for more complex interactions; for example, practitioners could submit audit responses or receive copies of client notices. The IRS will continue to improve its capabilities and move to more efficient electronic processes to provide service to taxpayers and ensure revenues for the U.S. Treasury.

This article originally appeared in the AICPA E-Newsletter.

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New River and You agree that any claim, dispute or controversy, whether in contract, tort (intentional or otherwise), whether pre-existing, present or future, and including constitutional, statutory, common law, regulatory and equitable claims in any way arising out of or relating to: (1) the Services; (2) advertisements, promotions, or oral or written statements arising out of or relating to the services provided pursuant to this Agreement; or (3) the relationship between New River and You, including the validity, enforceability or scope of this Agreement or any part hereof (collectively, "Claim"), shall be resolved, upon the election of either New River or You, by binding arbitration pursuant to this arbitration provision and the applicable rules of American Arbitration Association or the National Arbitration Forum in effect at the time a Claim is filed. The party initiating the arbitration proceeding shall have the right to select one of these two arbitration administrators. In the event of a conflict between this arbitration provision and the rules of the arbitration administrator, this arbitration provision shall govern. No class actions or joinder or consolidation of any Claim with other persons are permitted in the arbitration without the written consent of New River and You. Any arbitration hearing that You attend will take place in Greensboro, North Carolina. This arbitration agreement is made pursuant to a transaction involving interstate commerce and shall be governed by the Federal Arbitration Act, 9 U.S.C. §§ 1-16 ("FAA"). The arbitrator shall apply substantive law consistent with (1) the FAA; and (2) except where inconsistent with the FAA, the choice of law provision of this Agreement. The arbitrator's award shall not be subject to appeal, except as permitted by the FAA. Upon request of either party, the arbitrator shall prepare a short, reasoned written opinion supporting the arbitration award. Judgment upon the award may be entered in any court having jurisdiction. Nothing in this arbitration provision shall prevent New River from seeking or obtaining injunctive relief as a result of a violation or threatened violation of this Agreement and any such injunctive action shall not constitute a waiver of the requirement of arbitration for any Claim.

15. Entire Agreement

This Agreement constitutes the entire agreement between New River and You in connection with Your use of the Services provided pursuant to this Agreement, and verbal communication with New River and any Content. New River may update the terms and conditions of this Agreement from time to time by: (i) posting a "change of terms" notice on the Beyond415 application home page, (ii) emailing an updated copy to the most recent email address You have provided to New River, or (iii) without notice to You, and Your subsequent use of the Services provided pursuant to this Agreement, is governed by such new terms and conditions. In the event of termination of this Agreement, all disclaimers and limitations of liability provisions set forth in this Agreement will survive. If any provision is deemed to be unlawful or unenforceable, it will not affect the validity and enforceability of the remaining provisions. The section headings are for convenience only and do not have any force or effect.

16. Miscellaneous

This Agreement is not for the benefit of any third party, whether directly or indirectly (including, if applicable, any user accessing the Services provided pursuant to this Agreement by means of Your Online Account). The failure to exercise in any respect any right provided for herein will not be deemed a waiver of any further rights hereunder. If any provision of this Agreement is found to be unenforceable or invalid, that provision will be limited or eliminated to the minimum extent necessary so that this Agreement will otherwise remain in full force and effect and enforceable. This Agreement is not assignable, transferable or sub-licensable by You except with New River's prior written consent. THESE TERMS AND CONDITIONS WILL BE GOVERNED BY AND CONSTRUED IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE LAWS OF THE STATE OF NORTH CAROLINA WITHOUT REGARD TO THE CONFLICT OF LAWS PROVISIONS THEREOF OR THE UNITED NATIONS CONVENTION ON CONTRACTS FOR THE INTERNATIONAL SALE OF GOODS. YOU AND PROVIDER AGREE TO SUBMIT TO THE EXCLUSIVE JURISDICTION OF THE COURTS LOCATED IN GUILFORD COUNTY, NORTH CAROLINA.


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Sign the petition

Commissioner of Internal Revenue
Washington, DC 20224

Mr. Danny Werfel, Acting Commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service:

The petitioners request that the Internal Revenue Service abandon any and all plans to retire the e-Services Disclosure Authorization (DA) and/or Electronic Account Resolution (EAR) products. We request that the Internal Revenue Service continue to provide these e-Services products, retiring them only if the products are immediately replaced by electronic solutions that provide the same functionality provided by the aforementioned products.

The IRS has repeatedly stated that it desires to cooperate with the tax professional community to promote tax compliance.  We, the undersigned, request that you grant our petition to help achieve our mutual goal of serving the American taxpayer with excellence.

This petition is being filed pursuant to the Administrative Procedures Act.