The chair of the Congressional panel charged with keeping an eye on the IRS has added to the tax agency's already long filing season to-do list.
Rep. Charles Boustany, Jr. (R-La.) is concerned that the Internal Revenue Service's website hasn't been updated to reflect the Jan. 18 federal court ruling that, for now, has invalidated the paid tax preparer registration and competency testing program.
In fact, says the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee's Subcommittee on Oversight, the IRS is sending tax professionals and taxpayers mixed messages.
Boustany elaborates in a letter he sent Thursday, Jan. 31, to IRS Acting Commissioner Steven Miller:
The IRS website, www.irs.gov, provides a link on its homepage titled "Statement on Court Ruling Related to Return Preparers." However, unless a taxpayer is already aware of the court decision, there is no other notice on the website to indicate that the return preparer program has been changed in any way. To the contrary, the tax return preparer FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions), also available on your agency's website, read as if the invalidated preparer requirements remain in force, including the need for preparers to obtain and use a preparer identification number. This anomaly -- between the injunction and the apparent direction to continue with the program -- would seem likely to cause serous confusion among affected preparers. For these reasons, it is necessary that both taxpayers and return preparers be given clear and immediate guidance so as to avoid disruption to the 2013 filing season.
To be fair to Miller and his staff, the IRS does have a pretty full plate. The agency is still updating tax forms and instructions and reprogramming its computer system to meet the 2012 tax law changes that were included in the fiscal cliff bill enacted on Jan. 2.
Because of that process, the 2013 filing season didn't open until Jan. 30, more than a week later than usual.
And some taxpayers might not be able to file until March. That's how long the IRS estimates it will take to update 30 lesser-used forms and make sure the tax agency's computers can handle them.
Still, Boustany wants the agency's website to consistently reflect the court ruling striking down the RTRP program.
And the Representative also wants some additional answers from Miller et al, including:
- Has the IRS conducted any outreach since the U.S. District Court ruling to taxpayers and others affected by the return preparer requirements?
- Can all paid tax preparers, registered and unregistered, properly sign and file 2012 tax returns?
- If so, must a paid return preparer include a preparer's tax identification number (PTIN)?
- Are paid preparers who met the competency and filing requirements before the court ruling allowed to use the Registered Tax Return Preparer credential?
I'm sure the IRS will get to these inquiries and the other tasks in Boustany's letter as soon as they can.
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