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IRS seeking new ETAAC members to help it achieve its electronic goals

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The Internal Revenue Service is slowly but slowly becoming more electronic. The pace should pick up once the agency starts spending some of the new money it got this year to upgrade its operating systems.

It's also looking for volunteers to offer suggestions on how the IRS can be a better e-agency. Specifically, the IRS is looking for applicants for the Electronic Tax Administration Advisory Committee (ETAAC).

Ongoing electronic efforts: The ETAAC was established by Congress as part of 1998's IRS Restructuring and Reform Act. Its primary goal is to help the IRS meet that law's targets for electronic filing of tax and information returns. Yes, the e-efforts have been going on for nearly a quarter century.

But ETAAC members delve into more than e-filing. The panel researches, analyzes, considers and makes recommendations on a wide range of electronic tax administration issues, including identity theft and refund fraud, as well as provides input into the development of the strategic plan for electronic tax administration. Its evaluations and recommendations are part of the ETAAC annual report to Congress.

E-progress so far: This year's ETAAC report, issued in June, praised the progress the IRS has made with its Modernized e-file (MeF) system, a collaborative effort among state revenue agencies, the IRS, and commercial software providers.

"Though MeF may be technically categorized as a legacy system because of its age, its flexible design has allowed it to be modified to keep up with the needs of the IRS and its stakeholders," according to the report.

The report also was impressed with the IRS' recently launched first iteration of the Tax Professional Online Account, as well as its continued enhancements of the Taxpayer Online Account for individuals.

These online accounts are built on platforms that allow the IRS to add functionality and information as the financial and technical resources are available, said ETAAC, and "represent the future of communication between the taxpayer (or their trusted representative) and the IRS."

Telephone connections terrible: Then there's the IRS' telephone services. Sigh. It is the perennial bottleneck when it comes to getting agency help, for both taxpayers and tax professionals.

The now old-school phone calls are still a go-to way for many who do not have computer access or are not comfortable with such systems. And the agency's telephone responses continue to lag.

Part of the problem is increased call volume, which was significantly higher during the pandemic years. "In 2021, the agency received more than 145 million calls from January 1 through May 17, or more than four times its normal call volume," according to the ETAAC 2022 report. "On March 15, 2021, the IRS received 8.6 million calls on just that one day, which is an average of about 1,500 calls per second."

The IRS has not been able to hire enough staff to meet these extraordinary, or even regular, telephone calls. So it turned to filling the gap by rolling out pilots of multiple technology tools that, when fully implemented, the ETAAC says will provide significant benefit to taxpayers. These include chatbots, taxpayer call back, and secure document upload capabilities.

We shall see.

Apply now to join ETAAC: If you want to see what advances are made and suggest others that need to be addressed, then the IRS wants you on ETAAC. It is accepting applicants through Jan. 31, 2023, for members who will serve three-year terms beginning in September 2023.

ETAAC members come from various segments of the tax professional community including tax practitioners and preparers, tax software developers, large and small businesses, employers and payroll service providers, consumer advocates, the financial industry (payers, payment options and best practices), system integrators (technology providers), academia (marketing, sales, or technical perspectives), trusts and estates, tax exempt organizations, state and local governments, and, yes, individual taxpayers.

If you have experience in any of these areas, consider applying to be part of ETAAC.

Nominations of qualified individuals may be made by letter and received from organizations or the individuals themselves. Applicants should complete the ETAAC application, officially IRS Form 13768. That's an excerpt of it below.

IRS Form 13768 ETAAC application 2022-23
See more tax forms and more about them at Talking Tax Forms.

Applicants also should include a short statement of interest and a resume. In the statement, the IRS would like to see applicants describe and document their qualifications, past and current affiliations, and dealings with cybersecurity and electronic tax administration.

In addition, applicants must complete and submit a tax check waiver form, and undergo an IRS practitioner background check and an FBI background check. Information on the tax check waiver and FBI background check will be provided upon receipt of application.

You can get more information about the committee and application process at the IRS.gov webpage Electronic Tax Administration Advisory Committee (ETAAC).

If you have further questions about the committee and/or application process, email them to publicliaison@irs.gov.

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