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IRS expands digital options, adding email notifications and virtual tax dispute capabilities

The Internal Revenue Service has expanded its digital options, offering email notification for some e-paying taxpayers and web video conferencing for appealing tax disputes.

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You have IRS email: Yes, this time that email really could be from the IRS. But only in certain circumstances.

The IRS announced its new email notification for folks who pay via Direct Pay and Electronic Federal Tax Payment System (EFTPS) in, what else, an email.

The July 21 electronic message to tax professionals let them know that their clients who use those two payment options can sign up to get notifications about those payments in their personal email boxes.

Individual EFTPS users can opt in to receive email notifications when they enroll or update their enrollments. Business clients making payments through a payroll service provider can also opt in to receive email notifications. If they opt in, they’ll receive email notifications for all payments made through EFTPS, including those made by their payroll service provider.

Direct Pay users can choose to receive email notifications each time they use that method to make a payment. When you do select that option, the IRS email notification you get will contain the confirmation number you receive at the end of a payment transaction.

Note, too, that in both Direct Pay and EFTPS instances, you will only receive a notification email from the IRS if you've requested the service. The IRS won't be emailing you about any other tax matter.

Beware new scam potential: The IRS is well aware that criminal phishers scammers will likely try to copy this new, official tax email option.

That's why, says the IRS, when you get an email notification from the real tax agency about a payment, it will not contain any web links. If, however, you get an electronic payment message purportedly from the IRS, but which instructs you to click a URL in that message, don't! That's a phishing scam.

Ignore it. Then send a copy of it to the IRS at phishing@irs.gov, as well as to the IRS' Security Summit partners at StateAlert@taxadmin.org so that state tax agencies can stay on top of email scam developments.

Web option for disputing taxes: By now, everyone is aware of video conferencing. The IRS wants to take advantage of that familiarity to make the process a little more convenient for taxpayers who are contesting a tax determination.

Corporate video conference via Viju

The IRS says that its Office of Appeals each year listens to appeals from more than 100,000 taxpayers trying to settle their tax disputes without heading to court. Such meetings already are conducted in person, by phone or virtually through video conference technology.

The video conference option, however, now is available at only a few IRS offices and not just over the web.

The IRS is looking to change that.

On Aug. 1, the agency's Office of Appeals will be testing a web-based videoconferencing option for taxpayers and their representatives. With the online option, taxpayers and their tax pros will be able to hold virtual face-to-meetings with IRS appeals officers, rather than heading to IRS offices.

Tax protest travel reduced: The IRS expects (hopes) the virtual conference option will appeal (no pun intended, really!) to taxpayers who don't live near an IRS office.

The web-based appeals meeting pilot program will use a secure screen-sharing system to connect taxpayers with IRS appeals employees face-to-face from wherever the taxpayers have internet access.

As with, for example, FaceTime on smartphones and Skype via computer, the IRS notes that technology allows it to provide better access, flexibility and convenience to taxpayers. Even more encouraging, the agency says the web-based system offers more features than the existing IRS video-conferencing technology.

"Taxpayers who choose the web-based option will be able to get face-to-face service remotely," said IRS Chief of Appeals Donna Hansberry in a statement announcing the pilot program. "We hope this is one more option to enable IRS employees to provide timely, efficient and effective service to taxpayers."

Digital progress vs. fears: Do you like the IRS' progress toward what it has dubbed a more digital Future State?

Do you already file and pay taxes online? Have you set up and/or checked your online IRS account?

Or are you, like the National Taxpayer Advocate, a bit leery of the security and privacy concerns a more digital IRS could bring. 

You also might find these items of interest:

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