I’m quite perturbed at the IRS today. The NAEA in its weekly eAlert email confirmed that I am now a second-class citizen. I reported last week about being told that tax professionals might be unable to order transcripts through the Practitioner Priority Service. The NAEA wondered about this, too:
The trouble is that we have also received several messages from members who have been turned away from PPS [Practitioner Priority Service] when requesting client transcripts. When we forwarded examples from EAs who had been denied service and instructed to file Forms 2848 (by fax, of course, because IRS cares about its partners) and wait five days to download transcripts through e-Services, the response was:
We are monitoring implementation of the changes to PPS Service and addressing any inconsistencies identified. The new policy is intended to focus the service we provide on those requests from Tax Practitioners who are working with their clients on tax account related issues that require direct contact with IRS. We will direct requests that do not support tax account work with a client and related to non-tax matters to other appropriate resources. That said, if a Tax Practitioner meeting the above criteria requires a transcript, a transcript will be provided through PPS. [Emphasis added]
So if I’m working on a tax account issue, I can call PPS, hope they agree that it’s a tax account issue, and obtain a transcript. It also means I can no longer obtain a transcript with a Tax Information Authorization (Form 8821) even though the form specifically allows for transcript requests! And even though TIGTA wanted more tax professionals to use 8821s rather than a Form 2848 (Power of Attorney) in situations where all the tax professional needs is a transcript.
I have a few clients who only want me to obtain transcripts on their behalf and do not want me to have a Power of Attorney. They now have the choice of:
- Giving me a Power of Attorney, allowing me to obtain transcripts, and then, after I let them know I have obtained the transcripts, revoking the Power of Attorney (giving the overworked IRS CAF unit double-work);
- Using the new Get a Transcript option to obtain a transcript themselves. (Though see below for problems with this service.)
- Giving me a Tax Information Authorization, and hoping that PPS will bend the rules and order the transcripts.
Meanwhile, the Get a Transcript has its own problems. My partner attempted to use the service, but it could not verify either him or his wife as living where he’s lived for years. Second, the verification information relies on publicly available information for many. (It did for my partner, myself, and one other individual.) This is anything but a secure system. (I have sent a request to TIGTA noting the weakness of the system and requesting that they audit it. If TIGTA audits this, it’s unlikely we will hear anything for many months–probably not until 2015.)
A special demerit needs to be awarded to NAEA for this bad advice:
As we mentioned last week in our coverage of IRS’ new online transcript delivery system (“Get Transcript”), in many cases you may find the process easier if your client goes online to pull his or her own transcript and e-mails it to you. And yes, we know this approach is complete nonsense and share our concern with the agency during nearly every conversation. [Emphasis Added]
While I agree completely with the NAEA that the new IRS policy is complete nonsense, a client should never email a transcript (unless he redacts his social security number by each entry). I requested my Wage & Income Transcript for 2012, and the document has my social security number printed by each item of income. Email is fast, but it is not secure; that’s why we and most tax professionals use a web portal for secure communications. (Had NAEA written, “…and send the transcript by secure means to you,” I’d agree completely with them.)
Overall, we have another step backwards for tax professionals. This will especially impact those with Tax Information Authorizations (8821s) on file and use them for obtaining transcripts. You will now have to obtain Powers of Attorney from every client. There is one other possible solution to this portion of the problem: Have the IRS modify eServices so that we can also obtain information when we have a Tax Information Authorization on file. Until this is done, the Tax Information Authorization has only one value: the ability to be copied on notices the IRS sends to a client.