ZERO TAX TALK
By Jeff Schnepper, Author of
Its been said that the only difference between death and taxes is that death doesnt become more complicated and convoluted every time Congress meets. Heres whats going to dominate this years tax season:
1) Identity theft has become a major problem for the Internal Revenue Service. As electronic filing has become the way to go (about 90% of returns filed are done electronically), your Social Security number and tax information have become available to more non-government employees. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) end of the year statistics show tax identity theft as their top 2014 complaint.
In February 2015, Intuit Inc. temporarily suspended their filing of state tax returns after discovering that its TurboTax software and services may have been used to file fraudulent returns. Massachusetts and Vermont suspended issuing tax refunds in the wake of concerns about the magnitude of fraudulent returns electronically filed.
According to the Wall Street Journal, the The only way to avoid sharing your tax information is the one the IRS discourages filing on paper. Youve been warned.
2) Dont expect much help from the IRS this year. The IRSs budget has been reduced by about $1.2 billion, or 10%, since 2010. Staffing levels have been cut by 11% and the agency expects the individual audit rate for 2015 to be about 20% lower than the 2014 target levels. This is the lowest level of funding since 2008 and the lowest since 1998 when inflation is considered.
Forget service. I put in a phone request for basic 1040 Instructions almost 6 weeks ago and am still waiting for delivery. When I went to my local IRS office, I found it closed and boarded up with no forwarding address and all calls answered with busy signals. Last week, I responded to an IRS letter for a client and had to wait on hold for 2 hours before anybody picked up.
You really cant blame the IRS for this one. Congress cut their funding, increased their responsibilities (see the Affordable Care Act), and their staff is being decimated by retirement coupled with budget induced hiring freezes. Its a perfect storm for multiple waves of tax troubles. If youre looking for help, this is going to be a long tax season.
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