It’s rare for me to agree with IRS Commissioner John Koskinen. However, he spoke to some tax practitioners today and I do agree with some of what he said. From Accounting Today:
Once again, Congress has been working on legislation to extend a group of expired tax provisions, but it has not completed action yet. The uncertainty we face over the extenders legislation raises operational and compliance risks for the IRS in its administration of the tax law and delivery of the filing season. This uncertainty imposes stress, not only on the IRS, but also on the entire tax community, including everyone in this room.
If this uncertainty persists into December, we could be forced to postpone the opening of the 2016 filing season…This would delay the start of processing of tax refunds for millions of taxpayers. It’s also important for lawmakers to understand what the effect would be if they made any substantive changes to tax provisions that are extended, or decided to approve any new tax provisions. We would need to reprogram our systems and make processing changes that would result in delays. So I will continue to urge members of Congress not to let this uncertainty drag on. We believe it is critical for Congress to make a decision one way or another on the extenders legislation no later than the end of November in order to ensure there are no disruptions to the upcoming filing season.
Commissioner Koskinen is correct. Congress should get off its duff and pass the extender legislation. That said, the calendar hasn’t hit December so I don’t expect anything to happen for four weeks.
Meanwhile, Commissioner Koskinen complained about the funding cuts to the IRS. Yes, they’ve hurt service (on that, he’s correct). However, the biggest villain isn’t Congress; it’s the IRS. The 501(c)(4) scandal and the wishy-washy testimony from almost everyone at the IRS (including Commissioner Koskinen) has led directly to the cuts in funding. Republicans aren’t going to fully fund an agency being used against them. Until this is resolved, Commissioner Koskinen can complain all he wants but the funding levels aren’t going to increase.
Interestingly, IRS Taxpayer Advocate Nina Olson also appeared and spoke at the same meeting. She noted that the funding issues are hurting morale (I’m sure they are) and that there is resistance to the Taxpayer Advocate from the IRS.
We are finding instances where the IRS is refusing to let me or my staff have access to the administrative files of the taxpayers unless I sign a document agreeing in writing not to share any information that I find or see in that file with the taxpayer him or herself. I find that deeply offensive. I am subject to the same laws as any other IRS employee about disclosure of tax information. I am also by law entitled to any tax return or any tax return information that I need to conduct my tax administration duties. My tax administration duties are in the code and number one is help taxpayers resolve their problems with the IRS, and I need to be able to see the administrative files in order to determine how they go about doing that. My position is that the IRS in those instances has violated the law by not providing me access to those files, and I do not say that lightly.
Well, if the IRS will violate the law in regards to 501(c)(4) organizations, they can violate the law with regards to the Taxpayer Advocate Service. Until Congress or the courts stop it, that’s the environment that we work in.