For the last two years, the IRS has been developing a “Future State” plan that envisions how the agency will operate in five years and beyond. In the National Taxpayer Advocate’s 2015 Annual Report to Congress, the NTA praised aspects of the plan but expressed concern that (i) the IRS’s intent in developing online accounts is largely to save money in light of recent budget cuts by reducing telephone and face-to-face assistance and (ii) many taxpayers will not conduct business with the IRS through online accounts because they lack internet access or skills, cannot complete the authentication process required to set up an account, do not trust the security of the IRS system, or would prefer to speak with an IRS employee. As a result, she expressed concern that critical taxpayer needs may go unmet under the Future State plan.
To provide a vehicle for direct public comment, the NTA held Public Forums around the country, eight thus far with more scheduled for this Fall. Some were held in conjunction with Members of Congress who serve on committees actively engaged in IRS oversight. At each of the Public Forums, she heard from a panel of representatives of the communities she visited. Most panels included a representative from a Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) site and a Low Income Taxpayer Clinic (LITC); an attorney, Certified Public Accountant, or Enrolled Agent active in representing individuals and small businesses; and witnesses who focused on challenges faced by particular taxpayer groups, including English as a Second Language (ESL) and immigrant taxpayers, elderly taxpayers, farmers, U.S. taxpayers living abroad, disabled taxpayers, victims of identity theft, and small businesses victimized by payroll service provider fraud.