High-Tech Updates for the 2015 Tax Filing Season
The Internal Revenue Service is facing two forces that are leading it to build up its online and tech service. First, the IRS is having trouble filling the demand for people who need help with their taxes. There are simply too many for the IRS to process at its walk-in offices. Next, it is becoming easier to design powerful and easy-to-use online and digital tax preparation service. Here’s a list of six new ways the IRS is going to use technology to help people with their taxes.
1. Preparing Tax Returns
While the IRS used to maintain staff to help people with their tax returns at their offices all over the country, now they direct walk-ins to other organizations. The online alternative is the IRS Free File system, although not all taxpayers will qualify for this program. The IRS can also direct taxpayers to volunteer organizations who can help people fill out their tax forms for free. Those organizations may or may not impose restrictions on who can use their services.
2. Online Transcripts
From now on, the IRS will refer requests for tax transcripts to its online transcript tool, which works instantly. It is possible to quickly view or print out tax transcripts using this new tool, which everyone can access from the official website of the IRS. Tax transcripts are an important thing for many taxpayers, but acquiring them without this tool could be a time-consuming process. Acquiring online transcripts is a great boon to taxpayers.
3. Referring Questions
It is becoming increasingly possible to use automated tools to answer tax questions. From now on, the IRS will refer taxpayers with complicated questions to online resources that contain the answers, like the records of its publications, rather than attempt to research and answer each question. This will save the IRS the time and money of having staff research tax questions and make use of the resources that already exist.
4. Refund Tracking
Many people ask the IRS when they will get their refund back. The IRS processes the vast majority of all refunds within about 21 days. Now, whenever someone asks about a refund, they have filed online, and it has been 21 days or less since they filed, the IRS will automatically direct them to the “Where’s My Refund?” tracker tool. This tool has an online version, a mobile version, and a phone version. Only after 21 days for an e-file or six weeks for a mail-in filing will the IRS specifically answer questions about refund timing.
5. Practitioner Priority Service
The Practitioner Priority Service, or PPS, is a special service for tax practitioners, like accountants, to get in touch with the IRS for special help with taxpayer services. The practitioners can get the information they need to help their clients. Starting in 2014, the IRS began limiting use of the PPS to only practitioners who are helping clients resolve problems with their tax accounts. Before, practitioners looking for other information like transcripts and even private individuals could ask the PPS for help. By limiting the PPS to active help with practitioners aiding clients with account problems, the IRS can prioritize its resources and use them where they are needed most.
6. Employer Identification Assistant
For many employers and new business owners, obtaining an Employer Identification Number, or EIN, is a critical part of their tax account. The IRS created an EIN Online Assistant to help people with this process, which has been quite successful. From now on, the IRS will refer all requests for EINs to the Online Assistant. This should not disrupt people’s experience with the system, because most requests are done through the Online Assistant now anyway. Using fewer people on the phones means that the IRS can allocate its resources to other priorities. The Online Assistant is robust enough to handle just about all EIN requests.
The IRS is making use of more technology both out of necessity and opportunity. The necessity is that budget cuts and higher demand mean that the IRS needs to optimize its resources. The opportunity is that these technical services are easier to implement than ever, and they are getting better at being able to handle taxpayers’ needs without the input of a human. The bottom line is that the IRS is using technology more and more to help serve the American people.
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