PSTAP Leadership Holds Conference Call with IRS Stakeholder Liaison on Behalf of Membership

Richard Furlong began the meeting with the “bad news” most of which has been discussed on the PSTAP Listserv:

The 5 IRS Service Centers have been shut-down and workers are struggling to work from home.  Technology is not as quick when working remotely  as in the offices.  There are no employees working at IRS campuses.  As of today, all of their toll operations have been shut down to comply with governors’ orders and protect the employees as two employees have succumbed to the virus.    The short-term solution was to evacuate all IRS offices, but of course this presents challenges.

These are unprecedented times and the mail is piling up at these centers.  If you are sending in a paper tax return, amended return, response with a POA, at this point you should continue to do that, but know that nothing is going to be done with it until IRS employees are back to work.  It is estimated that about half of the 82,000 IRS employees are not currently working and these are primarily the IRS Service Center employees.

No mail is currently being opened or processed today – it is simply piling up.  This includes penalty relief or penalty review due to compliance with governors’ orders.  Mail SHOULD NOT be returned to you however.  If you receive returned mail from an IRS Service Center, please contact Sherry DeAgostino, Executive Director, via email at:  sherry @pstap.org.  (This was posted on the discussion group in the past, and if anyone has actually had mail returned to sender please contact Sherry).

 The taxpayer advocate office is still active, but they are overwhelmed so even if it is a qualified taxpayer situation, responses will be extremely delayed.   They are hoping to re-open some telephone lines such as practitioner priority line or automated under reporter line soon, but there is no target date as of now and I have no idea when that will be.  Only the Automated Collection System (ACS) line is open, but likely there will be a long wait.  When this changes and becomes public, this information will be shared.  All that they can do at this point is to ask practitioners and taxpayers to be patient.

The first batch of Economic Impact Payments have been sent.  “The EIP was signed on March 27th and the technology was built in 3 weeks to deliver the payments which was a tremendous accomplishment by the IRS.”  The payments are being released in a rolling basis – only direct deposits at this time.  80 million households will start to see the payments this week equating to about  $150 billion.  This is less than half of the payments that are expected to go to about 150 million taxpayers overall.   A portal is expected to soon be available at www.irs.gov to check that status of these payments.  (Portal was opened April 15, 2020)

There are still various issues of eligibility questions and scenarios, i.e. divorced persons and dependent children who turned 17 in 2020, that have not yet been addressed.  Additional information will be provided as it becomes available.

ATTENTION PRACTITIONERS:  If there has even been a time to subscribe to IRS newswires and e-alerts NOW IS THE TIME!  It is recommended that ALL PSTAP members do this as well as check the IRS webpage re: COVID-19 on a regular basis.

QUESTIONS & ANSWERS:

  1.  Members are concerned about returns, correspondence and other mail being returned or held by the post office due to the closure of various IRS offices.  What guidance can be provided to practitioners regarding where mail should NOT be sent vs. where mail can be sent that it will be processed?

RESPONSE:  No mail is currently being opened or processed today; it is simply piling up.  This includes penalty relief or penalty review due to compliance with governors’ orders.  Mail SHOULD NOT be returned to sender however.  If you receive returned mail from an IRS Service Center, please contact Sherry DeAgostino, Executive Director, via email at:  sherry @pstap.org.  Taxpayers should send responses and returns (if not efiled) by the designated due dates, but just understand that as of today they won’t be opened or processed.

  1. Due to shutdowns, and the overall inability to communicate, will the IRS provide relief for late responses, particularly to notices that may be sent through the mail?  Obviously, most tax preparers are not meeting regularly with clients right now.

RESPONSE:  Currently taxpayers should adhere to all response and filing deadlines, with the understanding that mail will not be opened or processed until employees resume work at the campuses.  All we can do at this point is ask that you be patient.  Additional information on other forms of correspondence are addressed below.

       3.  Are there any plans to reopen the Practitioner Priority Service prior to the July 15th filing deadline?  There are some issues and more complicated returns that can’t be resolved through the IRS website and without the ability to talk to a live person many returns may not be able to be filed by the deadline.

RESPONSE:  They hope that this will be the case.  The Commissioner is aware of the importance of PPS.  I hope to have additional information to share in the near future.

       4.  My client died in 2019.  She got the $1200 stimulus money direct deposited to her bank account.  What do we do about this?

RESPONSE:  The $1200 EIP is correct.  This is a legal/estate question regarding the decedent’s bank account. 

       5.  This question is also regarding a deceased taxpayer who received a stimulus check.  My client filed a joint return in 2019 and husband passed away in 2019. The date of death and deceased was marked on the return for the husband. Spouse received a stimulus direct deposit of $2,400. She is wondering what to do about this.

RESPONSE:  The $2400 is the EIP amount that is due in this case.

      6.  I have had an issue with more than one client e-filing and I am concerned because I have heard that paper filed returns are not being processed.  Please advise on how to proceed.  Please confirm whether or not paper returns are or are not being processed and if they are being processed how much additional time does it take to process?

RESPONSE:  The following response will address both (a) and (b) below.  If you cannot efile and you know you won’t be able to efile the return before July 15th, it should be mailed, but it will not be processed until people are back in the centers.  If the same name was used on prior year returns (in other words, there was no change in names), “I would need to see the reject code.”

a.      I have e-filed the previous ten years tax returns for this family with no issue.  The family includes 2 adults with one dependent.  The return rejected this year due to an issue with the dependent’s last name, which has not changed from previous years.   We contacted Social Security and confirmed that there was no change on their side regarding the dependent info.

b.     Another return rejected for a similar issue and it has now rejected for the second time.  There is a significant refund for the parents which they could use right now, but I am concerned that if I file a paper return it will not be processed.

        7.      What can be done at this time to avoid IRS levies?

RESPONSE:  If you get IRS correspondence dated after April 1st, that is compliance correspondence i.e. intent to levy or intent to file a tax lien, send a redacted copy to sherry@pstap.org who will send to Richard Furlong.  Compliance activities are to be suspended from April 1st until at least July 15th.  For debt collectors, you can respectfully request that the case be returned to the IRS.

       8.     When will we have an IRS telephone number to call regarding refund status (excessive process time).  I have a couple of clients who have been waiting for over a month for refunds.  One was filed on 2-12-2020 and the other on 3-3-2020; the “Where’s My Refund” site provides no answers and it does not even show the flow bar.

RESPONSE:  These are unprecedented times.  We are asking tax practitioners to be patient at this time as there is no way to provide an answer at this point as there is nobody working in the service centers.

  1. Many taxpayers are SS recipients, and filed a tax return in 2018, but did not indicate a bank account, either because they owed a balance, had a break even or had an overpayment that was either applied to 2019 or was refunded by check.
  1. Will they be receiving their $1200/per person direct deposited to the same bank account as the SSA is using to direct deposit their SS benefits?

RESPONSE:  If there was no filing requirement, the amount will be direct deposited using the same bank account information as the social security payments and nothing more needs to be done on the part of the taxpayer.

  1. If not, will they be able to use the portal to enter their bank account information?

RESPONSE:  If the social security recipient has other income and files a return with a direct deposit refund, these are the only individuals at this point who will get direct deposit.  If the individual has a balance due or a credit, they will need to take additional action to use a new portal being created on IRS website for those who have not previously provided direct deposit information to the IRS to avoid getting a paper check in the later weeks to come.  When the tool opens up you will be alerted immediately.  (The portal was opened April 15, 2020)

       10.  I am wondering if there has been any further consideration of issuing a stimulus check to dependents who are college students, but age 17 or older as of 2018?

RESPONSE:  Not at this time, this would require a congressional change as these individuals were excluded in the EIP that was passed.   

      11.   I have a client who is on an installment agreement for an OIC.  He mailed a check in the middle of March for a March 28, 2020 installment.  Unfortunately he did not have sufficient funds in the account.  Subsequently he has put the funds in the account and made his next installment due the end of April.  How do we notify the IRS regarding this issue and not have the OIC voided?

RESPONSE:  There is currently no way to resolve this as there is nobody to call.  Once again we ask for your patience until telephone operations resume. 

      12.  I would like to know if the IRS has an expected date as to when the CAF units will be operational so that Forms 2848 can be faxed?

RESPONSE:  There is no information available regarding an expected date of operation.  Do not fax 2848 or 8821 to Memphis or Ogden campuses until an update is given as nothing is currently being processed from those locations.

      13.  Related to the above question, practitioners are receiving CAF failure checks for POAs that had been faxed to the CAF unit weeks before the IRS shutdown of the CAF unit. What is the cause of this and when does the IRS expect that these transcripts will be available?

RESPONSE:  I can’t speak on processing delays prior the campus closures.  Unfortunately this question cannot be answered at this time. 

      14.   Client’s 16 year old daughter received a stimulus payment via her bank account today.  She was claimed as a dependent on parents’ return in 2019.  She filed a tax return for the first time in 2019 but it was noted that she was a dependent.  The parents did not receive their stimulus check yet, and I am hoping that this does not affect them receiving their stimulus money.  How can I check on this and/or what should they do?

RESPONSE:  It sounds like the check to the dependent may have been issued in error.  The other checks may still be in the system. The taxpayers will be able to check the status on the portal when it opens.   An errors may not be able to be corrected however, until IRS workers resume and telephone lines are opened. (Portal opened April 15, 2020)

      15.   Taxpayer previously had aged taxes owed assigned to a debt collector, how should this be handled?

RESPONSE:  If this is prior to April 1st, it is likely it may be decided by the collection policy.  However, I will provide additional information on this as to whether these collection procedures are to be postponed.

Rich Furlong indicated that another call can be scheduled within the next couple of weeks to address other issues that are evolving from this environment.  He appreciates the partnership and look forward to working with us and will pass along new and updated information as it is received.