Posts Tagged ‘IRS.eServices’

My E-Services Follies

Thursday, December 15th, 2016

The IRS is trying to become a bit more security conscious. As part of their efforts, the IRS is having all e-Services account users who use the IRS’s “Transcript Delivery Service” re-validate their identities. Letters are being sent to impacted tax professionals. I received such a letter last week so I had the joy of re-validating my identity.

The IRS wants tax professionals to do this online using the “Get Transcript” online registration. I started to do this, entering my name, address, date of birth, social security number, and tax filing status. The IRS system said the information I entered wasn’t correct. I tried again, making sure I didn’t make any typographical errors. It was correct. I hit “Enter” and, of course, the IRS said it was wrong. Further, because it was wrong they locked me out of the system for 24 hours.

So I called the IRS e-Services help desk to re-validate my identity. After being on hold for 30 minutes, a gentleman picked up, but told me his computer was down so he transferred me to someone else. The new hold time was going to be an hour, and I had an appointment, so this got pushed back a day.

The next day I tried again online. The IRS application accepted that I knew my name, address, and other information. It accepted that I knew my credit card number. It then sends you a text message on your phone. Just one step was left: Entering that number on the screen and I would be re-validated! I got the text just moments later, entered it in, and…the system crashed.

Well, if it worked once it would work again, right? Wrong. When I entered my name and other personal information the system told me I had mis-entered the information and it was locking me out. I called IRS e-Services. After being on hold for 21 minutes a woman picked up and was able to ask me the same questions that the IRS computer did (I also had to read a code off the letter I had received). I’m now validated as me!

Seriously, I’m underwhelmed by this process. This is a prototypical example of a kluge (“A Workaround or quick and dirty solution that is clumsy, inelegant, inefficient, difficult to extend and hard to maintain.”). There’s no reason the IRS system accepted my personal information only one of four tries (it was entered correctly all four times). There’s no reason it should crash as frequently as it does. If you’re an IRS e-Services user, maybe you’ll get lucky and be able to re-validate your identity online…but don’t count on it.

While I Was Out…

Sunday, April 20th, 2014

I’ve recovered from Tax Day, my sleep is caught up, and it appears Las Vegas has moved smoothly towards summer (it reached 89 today). There has been a little bit of tax news during the past month:

Good News for Tax Professionals: The IRS announced that eServices has been updated and you can request a transcript for an individual where you have a Tax Information Authorization (Form 8821). I have not tested this new capability yet, but if this works we will no longer have to have a Power of Attorney in order to use eServices for transcripts.

That said, the IRS announcement (it came in late March) said that eServices was updated last fall. If it was, it wasn’t successfully updated; I tried to request a transcript for a client with an 8821 in December and couldn’t.

The IRS Scandal Continues to Percolate, with Bad News for Lois Lerner: Emails sent to and from the IRS and Lois Lerner have been made public, and these do not show Ms. Lerner in a good light. They show that Ms. Lerner was definitely involved in targeting conservative non-profits. They were obtained by Judicial Watch after filing a freedom of information act lawsuit against the IRS.

My favorite, though, is one where Cindy Thomas complains that Ms. Lerner and the White House through the Cincinnati “low-level” employees under the bus. I’ll let Ms. Thomas explain:

As you can imagine, employees and managers in EO Determinations are furious. I’ve been receiving comments about the use of your words from all parts of TEGE and from IRS employees outside of TEGE (as far away as Seattle, WA).

I wasn’t at the conference and obviously don’t know what was stated and what wasn’t. I realize that sometimes words are taken out of context. However, based on what is in print in the articles, it appears as though all the blame is being placed on Cincinnati. Joseph Grant and others who came to Cincinnati last year specially told the low-level workers in Cincinnati that no one would be “thrown under the bus.” Based on the articles, Cincinnati wasn’t publicly “thrown under the bus” instead was hit by a convoy of mack trucks.

Was it also communicated at that conference in Washington that the low-level workers in Cincinnati asked the Washington Office for assistance and the Washington Office took no action to provide guidance to the low-level workers?

One of the low-level workers in Cincinnati received a voice mail message this morning from the POA for one of his advocacy cases asking if the status would be changing per “Lois Lerner’s comments.” What would you like for us to tell the POA?

How am I supposed to keep the low-level workers motivated when the public believes they are nothing more than low-level and now will have no respect for how they are working cases? The attitude/morale of employees is the lowest it has ever been. We have employees leaving for the day and making comments to managers that “this low-level worker is leaving for the day.” Other employees are making sarcastic comments about not being thrown under the bus. And still other employees are upset about how their family and friends are going to react to these comments and how it portrays the quality of their work.

Another email shows that the IRS planned to meet with the Department of Justice over whether to prosecute conservative groups. I’ll leave it to the reader to decide whether or not there’s anything to see here.

Second Runner-Up for 2013 Tax Offender of the Year Gets 20 Years at ClubFed. Phillip Monroe Ballard decided to channel the spirit of 2012 Tax Offender of the Year Stephen Martinez: He decided to murder the judge of his tax evasion trial. Luckily for all concerned, an informer let authorities know of the plan. Mr. Ballard not only has a tax conviction but now a 20-year sentence for attempted murder-for-hire. Given he’s 72, he’ll likely spend the rest of his life at ClubFed.

Good Bye, Disclosure Authorization

Friday, August 30th, 2013

A couple of months ago the IRS announced that they were “retiring” Disclosure Authorization from IRS e-Services. For the laypeople who read this blog, this means that if you come to my office and we need to print a transcript and I do not currently have a Power of Attorney on file, we can’t immediately obtain a transcript. Instead, I can call the IRS and be put on hold (average hold time recently is about 45 minutes), I’ll then fax the completed POA to the IRS (average time to do this, about 15 minutes), and then within 72 hours I’ll obtain the transcripts. Alternatively, I can just fax the POA to the IRS CAF unit, and then within a promised three four days, the transcript will be entered into the IRS’s computer system. I’ll then be able to obtain the transcript. (If anyone believes that this standard won’t slip again–it already has once–I have a bridge to sell.)

As the NAEA said today, how can this be considered an improvement? Perhaps the IRS wants e-Services when it helps them, and not tax professionals. Of course, as I’ve noted before the loss of Disclosure Authorization will also impede the IRS: They will have more phone calls to handle, more paperwork to handle, etc.

In any case, the retirement is official:

There is a planned power outage scheduled this weekend from Saturday, Aug. 31 at 5 p.m. EDT through Tuesday, Sept. 3 at 12:00 p.m. All e-Services products, including the Transcript Delivery System, e-file Application, Registration, Disclosure Authorization, Electronic Account Resolution and TIN Matching will be unavailable during this time.

There will be several changes made to e-services while the system is unavailable including the retirement of Disclosure Authorization (DA) and Electronic Account Resolution (EAR) and TIN Matching reengineering. Additional information for TIN Matching Re-engineering is available on the e-services page under Tax Professionals.

As with any upgrade, users could experience intermittent downtime for the first few days following implementation. If you experience problems, you may contact the e-help Desk at 866-255-0654.

IRS Delays Disclosure Authorization Retirement for Three Weeks

Friday, August 9th, 2013

Good news for tax professionals. When I went to IRS e-services this morning, I was greeted by this message:

DA and EAR Retirement delayed by three weeks

The planned retirement of Disclosure Authorization and Electronic Account Resolution on August 11, 2013 has been delayed until September 2 while IRS completes the transition to our new web portal. DA and EAR users have an additional three weeks to use both electronic products. Once the portal transition work is complete, DA and EAR would then be retired as previously planned and will be unavailable for use.

So we have another three weeks, until September 2nd, when tax professionals can save the IRS money and time by entering Forms 2848 and 8821 ourselves in e-services.

Onwards and Upwards into the 20th Century!

Friday, June 21st, 2013

Not to sound like a broken record, but if today is a vision of the future, boy, do I want the past.

I have another new client and needed to order transcripts. I called the IRS Practitioner Priority Service (PPS) and received (as usual) the good news that, “The average wait time is greater than 30 minutes.” For phone call #1, the wait time was 45 minutes. Unfortunately, in the middle of talking to the IRS representative, “Click.” I waited ten minutes to see if I’d get a phone call from her, but I didn’t, so I called back. The second wait time was 48 minutes.

(For the record, the first representative did call me back, about 15 minutes into the hold time of call #2. Her system crashed, and she apologized and noted that she couldn’t call back until it rebooted. I do not blame her, or the IRS, for that mishap–these things do happen.)

In today’s E@lert (from NAEA), in a section labeled “Knuckleheads in the News…Continued,” the NAEA notes that the IRS has not changed its mind on eliminating disclosure authorization (DA). Once DA is retired, I expect average hold times on calls to the PPS to average ten to fifteen minutes longer than today. Perhaps the IRS’s motto should be, “Onwards and Upwards into the 20th Century!”

The fallacy is the IRS stating that by allocating more resources to the CAF unit–and their wonderful alleged ten-day processing period for faxed authorizations (Tax Information Authorizations and Powers of Attorney)–the problem will be handled. That’s just not the case. What most practitioners will do is (a) fax the authorization to the CAF unit (which I did) and call the PPS to order the transcripts. I don’t want to wait the average ten days to obtain a transcript. Apparently, the IRS hasn’t considered this.

Perhaps the next retirement from the IRS will be the ability to fax Tax Information Authorizations and Powers of Attorney to the PPS. I probably shouldn’t have written that; given the IRS’s most recent actions, someone at the agency could believe that doing that would solve the problem….

When 68 Minutes of Hold Time Is an Improvement

Thursday, June 20th, 2013

So after the debacle on Tuesday I called back yesterday afternoon. The hold time was far better: 68 minutes. That’s almost a 7% improvement!

On the other hand, the representative I spoke with was quite helpful. Indeed, most of the individuals I’ve spoken with over the years at the Practitioner Priority Service do an excellent job. They are trying to help practitioners. The gentleman I dealt with on Tuesday was an exception (based on past experience).

Unfortunately, it appears that lengthy hold times may be here to stay. Yes, two phone calls aren’t a statistically significant sample size, but this appears to be a pattern. I’m hoping that this composite from Airplane! isn’t what tax professionals will be relating to in the future:

Today’s Example on Why Removing Disclosure Authorization from IRS eServices Is a Miserable Idea

Tuesday, June 18th, 2013

Today I needed to order a transcript for a client. I had a signed Form 8821 (Tax Information Authorization). I couldn’t enter the form electronically using Disclosure Authorization as I didn’t have past information for the taxpayer. So I faxed the form to the IRS CAF unit, and I called the Practitioner Priority Service (PPS) to order a transcript.

Problem #1: I was on hold for 1:13:30 before the IRS picked up the call. That’s one hour, thirteen minutes, and thirty seconds. Now, I was warned that the wait time would be over thirty minutes, but 73 minutes is a bit ridiculous for the IRS.

Long hold times have been routine at the IRS. I keep track of this, and my four most recent calls to the PPS have had hold times of 31 minutes, 34 minutes, 38 minutes, and today’s 73 minutes. (I was told on the three previous calls, “The average wait time is greater than fifteen minutes.”)

Problem #2: The representative I reached did not have a working computer. In other words, he could not help anyone who reached him. Given that situation, and the fact that this situation only impacted him, why in the world was he connected into the PPS?

Now, I understand that the IRS computers do crash, and in that case an individual IRS representative shouldn’t be removed from the system. However, what good was there of having my representative answering calls when there was about a 0% chance of him assisting anyone?

Problem #3: The representative either couldn’t or wouldn’t transfer me to someone who could assist me. I explained what I needed (ordering a transcript). Why couldn’t he transfer me either back into the queue or to the IRS representative sitting next to him? The only option I received was to call back later, after he helpfully told me that the problem was impacting only his computer. He did apologize for the long hold time, though….


The joy of this is that this will be the new face of the IRS come August 12th. That’s when I’ll be explaining to my clients that the IRS is literally an agency stuck in the 1950s.

IRS Makes It Official: Disclosure Authorization Gone from eServices on August 11th

Saturday, June 8th, 2013

Buried in this week’s “e-News for Tax Professionals” was the following story:

E-Services: Disclosure Authorization and Electronic Account Resolution Applications Retire in August
________________________________________
Due largely to low usage, the IRS will retire and remove the Disclosure Authorization (DA) and Electronic Account Resolution (EAR) applications from e-Services effective Aug. 11.

Last year, users submitted less than 10 percent of all disclosure authorizations through the DA application. Similarly, only three percent of all account-related issues came in through the EAR application.

In anticipation of this change, the IRS has increased the number of employees who process authorizations and has improved internal work processes to decrease the average processing time significantly from the current 10-day processing period.

The IRS will continue to explore better ways to reduce processing time and improve overall service to the users. However, current budget cuts will impact their dedicated resources to this program and they are working to determine the impact on processing time.

Once IRS removes the two applications, former DA users will need to complete Form 2848, Power of Attorney and Declaration of Representative, or Form 8821, Tax Information Authorizations, and mail or fax it to the appropriate IRS location listed on the form’s instructions. Please allow at least four days for the authorization to post to the IRS database before requesting a transcript through the Transcript Delivery System. Former EAR users should call the Practitioner Priority Service at 1-866-860-4259 for help resolving account-related issues.

The IRS continues to look for ways to improve its current processes and is exploring an improved electronic solution for DA and EAR in the future.

This is not a good decision by the IRS. As I noted in my earlier post on this, this decision will increase costs for the IRS. As for the supposed ten-day processing time, I’ve had occasions where it’s been four weeks for a POA to post. One POA had to be resubmitted three times (over three months) before it finally made its way into the system.

I know that the National Association of Enrolled Agents is expressing its displeasure to the NAEA; I expect the AICPA to do the same. As for whether the IRS will change its mind over this decision, I have no idea.

IRS Reportedly Will Close eServices’ Disclosure Authorization Program

Thursday, June 6th, 2013

The National Association of Enrolled Agents (NAEA) is reporting via its Facebook page that the IRS has decided to “retire” two products from eServices: Disclosure Authorization (DA) and Electronic Account Resolution (EAR). Apparently the IRS, which is already cementing its reputation among Congress and the public, wants to make sure that the tax professional community isn’t left out.

For those of you who aren’t tax professionals, let me explain what this is about. In order for me to represent a taxpayer in front of the IRS, I must have a signed Power of Attorney (Form 2848). Once I have a signed POA, I can either enter it in through eServices, or I can mail or fax it to the IRS Centralized Authorization File (CAF) unit. Once in the IRS’s computer system, the IRS knows that I’m representing the taxpayer. If I have a POA, the IRS will discuss and disclose a clients’ information to me. Rightly, the IRS wants the taxpayers to authorize this before I have the ability to see information.

Using eServices to enter a POA has been a great boon for my practice, and I assume anyone who deals with any representation matters. After entering the POA, I can obtain transcripts from the IRS. If a client says he hasn’t filed a (say) 2011 return, I can obtain a Wage & Income transcript and know much of what needs to be on the return. This saves me time, saves the client money, saves the IRS time (I’ve done everything in an automated manner rather than, well, see below), and increases the efficiency of the system.

This shutdown will apparently be effective on August 11th. So beginning on August 12th, I will either have to fax or mail POAs, or I can call the Practitioner Priority Service (PPS). While on the phone with PPS, I can fax over a POA (yes, I have a real fax machine in my office) and the IRS will order transcripts to be faxed back to me. (PPS will also forward the POA to the CAF unit.) However, a transcript ordered through PPS takes up to 72 hours to be received. That means a client in a representation matter will most likely need two appointments before we can make a plan of action. It can take two weeks for a POA sent to the CAF unit to be entered into the system. (Last year there were times when it was taking over a month for the CAF unit to enter information.)

This will increase my costs (which I will pass on to clients). I will have more phone calls to make, and it will take more time to obtain information. While I can do other work while on hold for PPS (hold times have been running about 30 minutes), it usually takes about 15-30 minutes once I am off hold for the IRS to verify the information. I make my income from the time I spend, so I will have to charge a client an extra amount for this time.

This will also increase the costs to the IRS. I wrote my practitioner liaison an email, and noted the additional costs:

  1. There will be many more telephone calls to PPS.  Calls where practitioners must fax documents undoubtedly take longer, so this will increase the need for personnel.
  2. There will be many more faxes to the CAF unit, requiring additional personnel.
  3. The cost for the automated portion cannot be particularly significant.  The products are there already.  In general, the processes are automated, so human intervention is less.
  4. Because it will take longer for many practitioners to obtain information—especially practitioners dealing with collections matters—it will take longer for issues to be resolved.  This will increase the burden on the IRS (both in manpower and in slowing down collections).

I have no idea what the IRS was thinking when they made this decision. This decision is, at best, penny-wise and pound foolish. I guess Sir Isaac Newton’s Third Law of Motion has been proven again: For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. This morning, I reported on a decision by the IRS that makes complete sense and will save both the IRS and taxpayers time and money. So a decision by the IRS that would cost taxpayers and the IRS money was, I suppose, inevitable.