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MSP #6: ONLINE ACCOUNTS

IRS Online Accounts Do Not Have Sufficient Functionality and Integration With Existing Tools to Meet the Needs of Taxpayers and Practitioners.

TAS Recommendations and IRS Responses

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1.

TAS RECOMMENDATION #6-1

Prioritize Tax Pro Account updates to enable practitioners to upload documents and request transcripts on behalf of clients.

IRS RESPONSE TO RECOMMENDATION: ​A Single Sign On (SSO) link from Tax Pro Account to the Transcript Delivery System has been prioritized for FY 2023 delivery. Enabling practitioners to upload documents from within the Tax Pro Account is currently on the Tax Pro Account 5-year roadmap but is not yet funded or prioritized for development. This item is dependent on the IRS completing the Tax Pro Account MVP Release 3 which includes the delivery of the foundational capabilities such as Claim a CAF and Enable Tax Professionals to View their Clients list and info. Implementation of these foundational capabilities will enable us to expand Tax Pro Account functionality to offer authorized representatives additional features like integration with messaging and documents upload.

CORRECTIVE ACTION: ​A Single Sign On (SSO) link from Tax Pro Account to the Transcript Delivery System has been prioritized for FY 2023 delivery. Enabling practitioners to upload documents from within the Tax Pro Account is currently on the Tax Pro Account 5-year roadmap but is not yet funded or prioritized for development. This item is dependent on the IRS completing the Tax Pro Account MVP Release 3 which includes the delivery of the foundational capabilities such as Claim a CAF and Enable Tax Professionals to View their Clients list and info. Implementation of these foundational capabilities will enable us to expand Tax Pro Account functionality to offer authorized representatives additional features like integration with messaging and documents upload.

SSO link from Tax Pro Account to TDS TBD for enabling practitioners to upload documents using Tax Pro Account to be implemented in FY 2023.

TAS RESPONSE: The National Taxpayer Advocate is pleased that the IRS has made it more convenient for practitioners to access the Transcript Delivery System from within Tax Pro Account. Allowing tax professionals more capabilities within Tax Pro Account, such as uploading documents on behalf of clients, is essential to improving the adoption rate of Tax Pro Account among practitioners. The National Taxpayer Advocate encourages the IRS to prioritize the funding of Tax Pro Account Release 3 and other updates to expand the functionality of Tax Pro Account. We will consider this recommendation as partially addressed and keep it open until these expanded capabilities are implemented.

ADOPTED, PARTIALLY ADOPTED or NOT ADOPTED: Partially Adopted

OPEN or CLOSED: Open

DUE DATE FOR ACTION (if left open): 9/30/2023

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2.

TAS RECOMMENDATION #6-2

Prioritize and expedite efforts to deliver BOLA to business taxpayers by the end of FY 2023.

IRS RESPONSE TO RECOMMENDATION: ​IRS agrees to implement this recommendation in part. The IRS has prioritized business online account (BOLA) development by the end of FY23. However, this development is now entirely dependent on the organization’s ability to secure appropriate funding and IT development resources in FY22. The IRS is very dedicated to developing an online account for business taxpayers. Over the past year, the Office of Online Services (OLS) has conducted extensive customer research with over 2,000 small business owners and tax professionals via online surveys, in-person interviews and focus groups and concept design workshops. Our objective is to understand business taxpayer challenges and develop customer facing digital products/solutions that enable these taxpayers to ‘self-serve’ in managing their federal tax obligations.

Assuming funding and IT resources are available, OLS is committed to developing BOLA with an initial set of product features that will allow business taxpayers to make, schedule, cancel and view tax payments online.

CORRECTIVE ACTION: N/A

TAS RESPONSE: Congress allocated increased funding to the IRS for FYs 2022 and 2023, but the fact that the investment in BOLA is still contingent on the allocation of funding and IT resources belies that the IRS has “prioritized” BOLA development. The National Taxpayer Advocate would like IRS senior leadership to make a firm commitment to rolling out BOLA by the end of FY 2023.

ADOPTED, PARTIALLY ADOPTED or NOT ADOPTED: Partially Adopted

OPEN or CLOSED: Closed

DUE DATE FOR ACTION (if left open): N/A

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3.

TAS RECOMMENDATION #6-3

Expand IRS2Go mobile app functionality, such as displaying account payment information and IRS notices.

IRS RESPONSE TO RECOMMENDATION: ​IRS agrees with TAS recommendation but cannot implement it currently due to funding limitations. Due to funding limitations, work to expand digital services is currently focused on building transactional online experiences on the web that are mobile friendly (e.g., responsive design), which will allow us to better support all taxpayers regardless of device. Mobile-friendly web applications are optimized to be just as functional as an app and can be accessed from any mobile, tablet, or desktop device without needing app downloads, installations, or updates.

Enhancing services on the web provides more value to all taxpayers than simply placing existing features into a mobile app. When specific problems are later identified where a mobile app can provide a unique solution or benefit to taxpayers, we will review a mobile app-based approach for prioritization at that time.

CORRECTIVE ACTION: N/A

TAS RESPONSE: The National Taxpayer Advocate understands the reality that the IRS has to make choices on how to stretch its IT budget. If the IRS makes a business decision to not prioritize optimizing the IRS2Go app (which had 11.9 million active users as of April 2022), then it should at least make sure its mobile-friendly web applications are able to deliver what taxpayers need. For example, taxpayers should be able to log on to Online Account (OLA) through IRS2Go and view recently filed tax returns, view notices, upload documents, make payments, and have access to all OLA features and capabilities on mobile devices.

ADOPTED, PARTIALLY ADOPTED or NOT ADOPTED: Not Adopted

OPEN or CLOSED: Closed

DUE DATE FOR ACTION (if left open): N/A

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4.

TAS RECOMMENDATION #6-4

Add links to relevant IRS.gov content and videos where appropriate to allow taxpayers easy access to self-help information and personalized guidance based on their usage of their Online Account.

IRS RESPONSE TO RECOMMENDATION: ​In December 2021, the IRS updated the individual Online Account to include a “Help” link in the header so that users can access relevant Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) from anywhere within the application. We iteratively update those FAQs based on user feedback and add or update links to relevant IRS.gov content from within the application to enable easy access to self-help information. We’re unable to personalize IRS.gov content based on usage of Online Account since outside of the applications users of the website are not authenticated, and we don’t store their personally identifiable information. We do, however, provide links from different pages within Online Account to relevant content based on what they were viewing there.

This recommendation has already been implemented.

CORRECTIVE ACTION: N/A

TAS RESPONSE: Taxpayers have different preferences on how to navigate IRS.gov. Some prefer to go directly to the IRS.gov site, while others may prefer to log on to Online Account first and then navigate to a particular page on IRS.gov. Regardless of taxpayer preference, it is critical that the IRS post relevant FAQs and links so that taxpayers can access those without having to take any extra steps. Taxpayers are entitled to this level of convenience, and it should not be cost-prohibitive for the IRS to ensure relevant content is available to taxpayers both within and outside of Online Account.

ADOPTED, PARTIALLY ADOPTED or NOT ADOPTED: Partially Adopted

OPEN or CLOSED: Closed

DUE DATE FOR ACTION (if left open): N/A

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5.

TAS RECOMMENDATION #6-5

Prioritize the development and deployment of more personalized status updates for Where’s My Refund? and Where’s My Amended Return? online tools.

IRS RESPONSE TO RECOMMENDATION: ​Future implementation will be contingent upon the availability of funding/resources and prioritization with other programming needs.
On January 3, 2022, the IRS implemented changes to improve WMR messaging for taxpayers whose refunds are held or delayed and provide improved messaging on returns in processing for extended periods. The IRS is currently working to implement WMR Multiple Tax Year Functionality, allowing most taxpayers to access refund information for the last two tax years.

Pending approval of funding requests, the IRS plans to incorporate more detailed status messaging to meet taxpayer needs to add capabilities in WMR to include: extracting Error Resolution System (ERS) data; providing more specific messages based on the ERS status code; extracting data for certain Taxpayer Protection Program (TPP) delays; and allowing direct deposit recipients or married filing joint taxpayers to self-initiate a refund trace.
The IRS is conducting a research effort in 2022 to further review specific taxpayer needs and expectations regarding online updates of refund status. We will use the outcomes of this research to help inform updates to WMR and the Where’s My Amended Return application.

On January 3, 2022 WMR messaging was added for refund delays. Additional features will be deployed as funding permits.

CORRECTIVE ACTION: N/A

TAS RESPONSE: The National Taxpayer Advocate is encouraged that the IRS has made incremental improvements to the WMR tool, including the June 2022 change to Where’s My Refund? that expanded refund information to cover the 2021, 2020, and 2019 tax years. Recognizing that the more useful taxpayers find WMR, the fewer calls the IRS needs to answer, it is imperative that the IRS prioritize funding of the additional improvements mentioned in the IRS response.

ADOPTED, PARTIALLY ADOPTED or NOT ADOPTED: Partially Adopted

OPEN or CLOSED: Closed

DUE DATE FOR ACTION (if left open): N/A

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6.

TAS RECOMMENDATION #6-6

Expand the current displays and updates for refund status to include “additional delays in processing” (or similar language) in addition to the current “accepted,” “approved,” or “sent” statuses.

IRS RESPONSE TO RECOMMENDATION: ​IRS agrees with TAS recommendation but cannot implement it currently due to funding limitations.

The IRS agrees with the TAS recommendation to expand the current displays and updates for refund status to include “additional delays in processing” (or similar language) in addition to the current “accepted,” “approved,” or “sent” statuses. Future implementation will be contingent upon the availability of funding/resources and prioritization with other programming needs.

On January 3, 2022, the IRS implemented changes to improve Where’s My Refund? (WMR) messaging for taxpayers whose refunds are held or delayed and provide improved messaging on returns in processing for extended periods.

Pending approval of funding requests, the IRS plans to incorporate more detailed status messaging to meet taxpayer needs to add capabilities in WMR to include: extracting Error Resolution System (ERS) data; providing more specific messages based on the ERS status code; extracting data for certain Taxpayer Protection Program (TPP) delays; and allowing direct deposit recipients or married filing joint taxpayers to self-initiate a refund trace.

On January 3, 2022 WMR messaging was added for refund delays. Additional features will be deployed as funding permits.

CORRECTIVE ACTION: N/A

TAS RESPONSE: We intended this recommendation to provide more detailed messaging for the WMR tool as a stop-gap measure that could be implemented rather quickly (i.e., for the 2022 filing season) while it develops more long-term improvements. The National Taxpayer Advocate is pleased that the IRS was able to implement changes to the WMR messaging in early January 2022.

ADOPTED, PARTIALLY ADOPTED or NOT ADOPTED: Partially Adopted

OPEN or CLOSED: Closed

DUE DATE FOR ACTION (if left open): N/A

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7.

TAS RECOMMENDATION #6-7

Include Publication 1 in the Online Account application and provide links to TAS, LITCs, VITA, and TCE on the main landing page and the top banner of the IRS.gov main page.

IRS RESPONSE TO RECOMMENDATION: ​Publication 1 outlines the Taxpayer Bill of Rights, which is also outlined in a more user-friendly way on our IRS.gov site. Every page on IRS.gov links to the Taxpayer Bill of Rights and to the TAS site using links in the footer. The top banner and main landing page content on IRS.gov are determined based on analytics of what users most need and are looking for. We will continue to evaluate user needs, however at this time cannot commit to adding those links there. Links to Low Income Tax Clinics, Volunteer Income Tax Assistance and Tax Counseling for the Elderly are available on the Let Us Help You page, and we’ll look for ways to make them more accessible. We will explore ways to incorporate the Taxpayer Bill of Rights and TAS links into Online Account (OLA) using a consistent user experience. For now, taxpayers can access those from the OLA Frequently Asked Questions page.

CORRECTIVE ACTION: We will continue to evaluate user needs, however at this time cannot commit to adding those links there. Links to Low Income Tax Clinics, Volunteer Income Tax Assistance and Tax Counseling for the Elderly are available on the Let Us Help You page, and we’ll look for ways to make them more accessible. We will explore ways to incorporate the Taxpayer Bill of Rights and TAS links into Online Account (OLA) using a consistent user experience. For now, taxpayers can access those from the OLA Frequently Asked Questions page.

Update: We continuously research user behavior and make data-driven improvements to IRS.gov and OLA in compliance with the 21st Century IDEA and the Taxpayer First Act. Our priority is always to create the most optimal customer experience possible. We have conducted user research on the IRS.gov main landing page (the homepage) and OLA, and the current research doesn’t support the recommended addition of links to Taxpayer Advocate Service (TAS), the Low Income Tax Clinics (LITCs), Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) and Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE). We will not place the links at the requested locations until we see definitive, research-backed evidence that these changes support a good customer experience.

Taxpayers can access the Taxpayer Bill of Rights and TAS from every page on IRS.gov through the site footer. There are also links to the LITCs, VITA, and TCE from key pages in the customer journey such as the Contact Your Local Office page and the Let Us Help You page. Within OLA, taxpayers can access the Taxpayer Bill of Rights and TAS links from the OLA Frequently Asked Questions page. As we begin to leverage IRA funding, we will consider the necessary research within OLA and on the IRS.gov top banner (the site header and utility navigation) and will pursue changes if findings indicate that doing so will improve the taxpayer experience.

TAS RESPONSE: Taxpayers have different preferences on how to navigate IRS web content. Some prefer to go to the IRS.gov site, while others may prefer to log on to Online Account first and view IRS web content from within that application. Regardless of taxpayer preference, it is critical that the IRS post information about the Taxpayer Bill of Rights, TAS, Low Income Taxpayer Clinics (LITCs), Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) sites, and Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) sites so that all taxpayers can easily access that language without having to take any extra steps. Taxpayers are entitled to this level of convenience, and it should not be cost-prohibitive for the IRS to ensure this information is available to taxpayers both within and outside of Online Account.

ADOPTED, PARTIALLY ADOPTED or NOT ADOPTED: Not Adopted

OPEN or CLOSED: Closed

DUE DATE FOR ACTION (if left open): N/A

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