The nature of my practice is such that I have a relatively large number of clients who live outside the United States. When one of my expatriate clients gets an IRS notice, I shudder. The IRS offices that handle international issues have issues with correspondence coming from the US. I’ve had to send the same item five times to the ITIN office…where it was lost five times. (At least they were consistent.) It turns out that the IRS doesn’t know what happens to much of the mail the agency sends overseas.
It was no surprise when I read a report issued by TIGTA (the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration) today titled, “Planned Improvements Have Not Been Made to Manage and Track Correspondence With International Taxpayers.” Here’s what TIGTA found:
Even though the IRS sent approximately 855,000 notices and letters to U.S. taxpayers living in other countries during Calendar Year 2014, it cannot determine taxpayer response rates. The lack of data on response rates for international taxpayers is problematic because this information is needed to determine the effectiveness of international correspondence on increasing taxpayer compliance and to make program improvements.
IRS data systems are not designed to accommodate the different styles of international addresses, which can cause notices to be undeliverable. Other factors complicate the delivery of international mail, making its delivery less certain than domestic correspondence.
In addition, the IRS generally does not know if international taxpayers receive the tax correspondence sent to them. Without specific controls to monitor and metrics to measure international tax correspondence, the IRS cannot determine the impact of its international tax correspondence on taxpayer compliance.
TIGTA made five recommendations; the IRS disagreed with all but one of them:
While the IRS generally agreed that TIGTA’s recommendations could provide additional insight into the factors contributing to undeliverable international mail, it does not believe this information would permit the IRS to overcome budgetary, statutory, and operational constraints as needed to achieve appreciable improvement in its current processes. TIGTA does not believe that the IRS’s response is adequate because current IRS processes for addressing international mail issues are ineffective or nonexistent.
So what should you do if you’re an international taxpayer? The easiest solution is to have someone in the US designated to receive a copy of your correspondence from the IRS. You can do this by completing Form 8821 and checking box 5a (“If you want copies of tax information, notices and other written communications sent to the appointee on an ongoing basis, check this box”). The instructions for Form 8821 are here.
By the way, I completely agree with what TIGTA wrote–that the IRS’s response is inadequate. But don’t worry, the IRS’s Annual Filing Season Program is continuing….