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IRS news/announcements

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Yesterday, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) launched its second tool, Get My Payment, to assist taxpayers with their stimulus checks. According to the IRS, as of mid-day yesterday, more than 6.2 million taxpayers successfully received their payment status, and almost 1.1 million taxpayers have successfully provided banking information.

But many taxpayers reported difficulty accessing the site, especially early in the day. The IRS issued a statement that “Media reports saying the tool ‘crashed’ are inaccurate.” However, in addition to problems accessing the tools, taxpayers, and tax professionals alike (including me) reported that they were not able to use other parts of the website, including e-Services. 

Now, the IRS says that the Get My Payment site “is operating smoothly and effectively.” And, the IRS is actively monitoring site volume. According to the agency, if the site volume gets too high, users are sent to an online “waiting room” for a brief wait until space becomes available, much like private-sector online sites.

I have not (as of this morning) heard reports of being sent to the “waiting room” yesterday, but I did see and hear about users who received this “Payment Status Not Available” message:

The IRS says that users you may receive this message for one of the following reasons:

  • If you are not eligible for a payment
  • If you are required to file a tax return and have not filed in tax year 2018 or 2019.
  • If you recently filed your return or provided information through Non-Filers: Enter Your Payment Info on IRS.gov. Your payment status will be updated when processing is completed.
  • If you are an SSA or RRB Form 1099 recipient, SSI or VA benefit recipient – the IRS is working with your agency to issue your payment; your information is not available in this app yet.

So, that’s the official word. Anecdotally, taxpayers and tax professionals reported to me throughout the day that the status message changed. Some taxpayers said that they were able to access their information after trying a few times (which supports the theory that the site was overwhelmed). 

However, the IRS says that checking in with the tools multiple times won’t give you a different result. According to the IRS, data on the tools is updated once per day overnight, so there’s no need to check back more than once per day.

There are now two tools, the non-filer tool and the Get My Payment tool, available on the IRS website.

As a reminder, only U.S. citizens, permanent residents, and resident aliens may be eligible for a check (non-resident aliens are not eligible), and you must have a valid Social Security number (not an ITIN). Additionally, you will not receive a check if you are a dependent – even if you file a separate tax return.

And one more thing: the stimulus check is NOT taxable and will not affect your 2020 refund. 

Things are happening at a rapid-fire pace these days. As tax updates become available, we’ll keep you updated. Keep checking back for details.

(Update: On April 17, 2020, the IRS confirmed that vets would also receive their checks automatically.)

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has confirmed that recipients of Supplemental Security Income (SSI) will automatically receive automatic Economic Impact Payments (that’s the official name, although most taxpayers refer to them as stimulus checks).

The move required coordination among the Social Security Administration (SSA), Department of the Treasury, IRS, and the Bureau of Fiscal Services (BFI).

“Since SSI recipients typically aren’t required to file tax returns, the IRS had to work extensively with these other government agencies to determine a way to quickly and accurately deliver Economic Impact Payments to this group,” said IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig. “Additional programming work remains, but this step simplifies the process for SSI recipients to quickly and easily receive these $1,200 payments automatically. We appreciate the assistance of SSA and the Bureau of Fiscal Services in this effort.”

Here are a few more details: 

What do SSI recipients have to do? SSI recipients will receive checks without needing to take further action. 

When can SSI recipients expect a check? Payments should go out no later than early May.

Who is sending the checks to SSI recipients? IRS, not SSA.

How will I receive my payment? You should receive payments by direct deposit, Direct Express debit card, or by paper check, just as you usually receive your SSI benefits. Yep, I did say Direct Express (I’ve been asked about those a lot).

What about senior citizens who rely on Social Security retirement? Social Security recipients who are not typically required to file a tax return will have their checks deposited directly to their bank account.

What about SSDI benefits? According to the IRS, Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) recipients also don’t need to take additional action: your check will be direct-deposited (or you’ll get a paper check) just as you’d typically get your benefits.

What about Veterans Affairs benefits? No. No change. That’s right, nothing from Congress to help out vets – but I’ll keep you posted.

What about Social Security, Railroad retirees, and SSDI beneficiaries who have qualifying children? You can take an additional step to receive $500 per qualifying child. If you receive Social Security retirement or disability benefits (SSDI), Railroad Retirement benefits, or SSI and have a qualifying child, you can quickly register. If you enter your information now, you can receive the additional $500 per dependent child payment. If you don’t provide your information soon, you will have to wait until later to receive the $500 per qualifying child.

What if my children have Direct Express cards? According to the IRS, additional information will be available soon regarding the steps to take on the IRS web site when claiming children under 17 with Direct Express.

Is this payment taxable? It is NOT taxable and will not affect your 2020 refund. 

I’m still worried: will it affect my benefits? No, it will not affect your benefits.

Things are happening at a rapid-fire pace these days. As tax updates become available, we’ll keep you updated. Keep checking back for details.

(Updated with new information: April 15, 2020, in the afternoon).

The Treasury Department and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) have released a new web tool that will allow taxpayers to update their direct deposit information to receive their stimulus checks (Economic Impact Payments) more quickly. This tool, which is now available, is available to those taxpayers who have filed 2018 and/or 2019 tax returns and is separate from the tool used by non-filers.

The new tool, Get My Payment will:

  • Provide you with the status of your payment, including the date your payment is scheduled to be deposited into your bank account or mailed;
  • Advise you of your payment type; and
  • Allow eligible taxpayers a chance to provide bank account information to receive payments more quickly rather than waiting for a paper check. This feature will be unavailable if your payment has already been scheduled for delivery.

Entering bank or financial account information will allow the IRS to deposit your payment directly into your account. Otherwise, your payment will be mailed to you as a paper check.

To use the tool, click over to the link at the IRS website.

Have your 2019 tax return (if filed) and your 2018 tax return handy.

You’ll be asked to enter a few bits of key information, including your Social Security Number, date of birth, and address.

The instructions do not specifically advise, but this information needs to match what the IRS has on file (with your last filed return).

According to the IRS, your payment using the information you provided with your 2019 tax return.You will not be able to change it. For folks who filed a 2018 return, if you need to change your account information or mailing address, you should file your 2019 taxes electronically as soon as possible.

Also, the IRS is not currently able to process individual paper tax returns due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Please be aware of this since, if you file an amended tax return, you can only file with paper.

Checksare already hitting bank accounts. For security reasons, the IRS plans to mail a letter about the economic impact payment to your last known address within 15 days after the payment is paid. The letter will provide information on how the payment was made and how to report any failure to receive the payment.

Eligible taxpayers who filed tax returns for 2019 or 2018 – and have direct deposit – will receive the payments automatically. As I’ve previously reported, automatic payments will also go out shortly to those receiving Social Security retirement or disability benefits and Railroad Retirement benefits.

Keep in mind that the payment is NOT taxable and will not affect your 2020 refund. If you have other questions, please check out these articles.

Things are happening at a rapid-fire pace these days. As tax updates become available, we’ll keep you updated. Keep checking back for details.

Finally. Taxpayers who don’t usually file a tax return have been waiting to see how the Treasury Department and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) would allow them to get their stimulus checks (Economic Impact Payments). Today, the IRS announced a new web tool to make that happen.

If you’ve been hearing rumors about TurboTax or other companies implementing portals, that’s because the non-filer tool was developed in partnership between the IRS and the Free File Alliance. According to the IRS, it provides a free and easy option designed for people who don’t have a return filing obligation, including those who don’t usually make enough money to file a tax return. 

Even though the tool was developed in partnership with the Free File Alliance, it is available only on IRS.gov. Users should look for Non-filers: Enter Payment Info Here to take them directly to the tool. On the page, you’ll see the blue box at the bottom to click (also en español):

When you click, you’ll go here:

Be sure that you’re at IRS.gov when you start. When you get to the FreeFile registration page for non-filers, you should be at this secure URL:

According to the IRS, “Non-Filers: Enter Payment Info” is secure, and the information entered will be safe. The tool is based on Free File Fillable Forms, part of the Free File Alliance’s offerings of free products on IRS.gov.

“People who don’t have a return filing obligation can use this tool to give us basic information so they can receive their Economic Impact Payments as soon as possible,” said IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig. “The IRS and Free File Alliance have been working around the clock to deliver this new tool to help people.”

The process is simple and only takes a few minutes to complete. The registration tool will ask you to provide basic information, including your Social Security number, name, address, and dependents. The IRS will use this information to confirm eligibility and calculate and send your stimulus check (Economic Impact Payment).

And I’ve been asked a lot, but the IRS has confirmed that using the tool to get your payment will not result in any taxes being owed. Also, keep in mind that the payment is NOT taxable and will not affect your 2020 refund.

Entering bank or financial account information will allow the IRS to deposit your payment directly into your account. Otherwise, your payment will be mailed to you as a paper check (that will slow the receipt of your check).

Should you use the tool?

Yes, if:

  • You haven’t filed a 2018 or 2019 return because you are under the normal income limits for filing a tax return. This may include single filers who made under $12,200 and married couples making less than $24,400 in 2019. 
  • You receive veterans’ disability compensation, pension, or survivor benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs, and you did not file a tax return for the 2018 or 2019 tax years. The IRS has not extended automatic direct deposit to those folks but says they are working on it. In the meantime, the IRS says you can use the tool now or wait until the IRS reviews automatic payment options to simplify delivery for these folks. 
  • You are a Social Security, SSDI, and Railroad Retirement beneficiary with qualifying dependents. As noted earlier, you will automatically receive your $1,200 Economic Impact Payment, but if you have qualifying children under age 17, you can use the tool to claim the $500 payment per child. 

No, if:

  • You make too much money to receive a payment.
  • You are a Social Security, SSDI, and Railroad Retirement beneficiary without any qualifying dependents (you’ll automatically get a check).
  • Your direct deposit information is already on file with the IRS.
  • You are a student or other dependent. If someone else claimed you on their tax return, you will not be eligible for the Economic Impact Payment or using the Non-Filer tool.

Wondering when you’ll get your check? Checks will be distributed automatically to most people starting next week (the week of April 12, 2020). Eligible taxpayers who filed tax returns for 2019 or 2018 will receive the payments automatically. As I’ve previously reported, automatic payments will also go out shortly to those receiving Social Security retirement or disability benefits and Railroad Retirement benefits.

The IRS is also building a second new tool expected to be available by April 17. The new tool, Get My Payment, will provide payment updates, including the date your payment is scheduled to be deposited into your bank account or mailed. 

Get My Payment will also allow you to provide your bank account information so that you can receive your payment more quickly rather than waiting for a paper check. Unfortunately, this feature will be unavailable if the Economic Impact Payment has already been scheduled for delivery.

Things are happening at a rapid-fire pace these days. Keep checking back for details.

Last month, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) announced that the tax filing season had been pushed to July 15, 2020. A few days later, the IRS issued guidance, making official the announcement tweeted by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin (and subsequently retweeted by the IRS) that the due date for filing tax returns and making tax payments has been extended from April 15 to July 15.

The IRS subsequently made clear that IRS deadlines, which were pushed out, included certain estimated tax payments and contributions to IRAs. You can find a list of those extensions – and details – here.

Today, the IRS further extended deadlines, including two that were vexing taxpayers: first-quarter estimates and those 2016 refund deadlines:

  • The IRS has made clear that relief now applies to estimated tax payments due June 15, 2020. Previously, the relief only applied to April 15, 2020, estimated payments – which had the absurd result of having second quarterlies (due June 15, 2020) due before first quarterlies (moved to July 15, 2020). Now, it’s clear that any individual or corporation that has a quarterly estimated tax payment due on or before July 15, 2020, can wait until July 15 to make that payment without penalty.  
  • The IRS had also previously stated that taxpayers seeking refunds for the 2016 tax year needed to comply with the April 15 deadline. That has now been pushed to July 15, 2020. The law provides a three-year window of opportunity to claim a refund. You must properly address, mail, and ensure your tax return is postmarked by July 15, 2020, to request a refund for the 2016 tax year.

Also, if you need even more time to file your 2019 tax return – beyond the July 15 deadline – you can request an extension (here’s how). Extensions filed using form 4868 will allow taxpayers to file on or before October 15, 2020, without penalty. That’s six months after the “normal” April 15 due date and not six months after the already-extended date. Remember that an extension to file is not an extension to pay. You should estimate your tax liability and pay any taxes owed by the July 15, 2020 (not April 15, 2020), deadline to avoid additional interest and penalties.

Finally, the IRS has also made clear that the extensions apply to Americans who live and work abroad, who now have until July 15 to file their 2019 federal income tax return and pay any tax due.

You can read the entire Notice 2020-23 here (downloads as a PDF).

And as more tax updates become available, I’ll keep you updated. Keep checking back for details.

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is expanding its social media presence. And while that’s to be expected in a fast-moving, tech-based world, it’s the platform that’s turning heads: TikTok.

TikTok is a Chinese video-sharing social networking service. Dominated mainly by teens and young adults, the fast-growing platform is primarily known for its short (about 15 seconds) dance and lip-sync videos. It’s not exactly what you’d expect from a federal tax agency, but maybe that’s the point.

IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig acknowledged that it was surprising but was quick to point out that times are changing. “I mean, if Secretary Mnuchin can extend federal filing tax deadlines on Twitter, why can’t we issue Regs on TikTok?” He ended his statement with a little robot dance.

So how difficult will it be? The IRS doesn’t keep musical or FX staff on payroll. But that’s part of the appeal of TikTok: the app allows you to choose sounds, song snippets, special effects, and filters. And you don’t need a full video studio to make it happen since you can use your phone. And, it doesn’t take much time or effort to make videos. That’s a massive plus for the resource-challenged agency.

In preparation for the tax agency’s TikTok debut, many IRS employees have been watching TikTok trending videos in their spare time.

 “I think we got this,” one employee remarked. “It’s just a matter of setting tax guidance to music and throwing in a couple of dance moves like The Worm.”

Another employee enthusiastically recited the opening to section 162 while flossing. “See? Not too hard. And folks will remember it!”

Rettig agreed and demonstrated his plan to remind taxpayers about the new IRS People First Initiative with a little Fortnite hype move at the end.

One common thread on TikTok seems to be celebrity promotions. There’s no IRS budget for that – yet. But Rettig envisions a future where Matthew McConaughey and Beyoncé tout tax compliance. 

“We’ve already come up with some good ideas, like having McConaughey in a Cadillac saying, “Sometimes you got to go back… to actually move forward, and I don’t mean going back to reminisce, or chase ghosts, I mean going back to see where you came from, where you’ve been, how you got here and see where you’re going. You know, clear like in the Tax Code.” 

Or Beyonce turning up with a version of “Lemonade” turned into “Tax Due Date,” where she looks at the camera and whispers, “What are you hiding?” That one was IRS-Criminal Investigation Chief Don Fort’s idea, according to Rettig. 

For now, the IRS is just trying to get the word out, initially experimenting with hashtag #TikTax (some in the agency are still pushing for #TaxTok, but that might be confusing for folks in Boston). A few lip sync videos are up, including a riff on Dua Lipa’s “Don’t Start Now” which has been changed to “Don’t Call Now” and one the IRS is particularly proud of, a version of Tones and I’s “Dance Monkey” that has been repackaged as “Tax Monkey.” The video was remarkably easy to duplicate (the original is here):

And yes, to clarify. That was the original, not the IRS version. The IRS version, packed with some of the most experienced employees, is scheduled to launch on April 1, 2020, April Fool’s Day.

In case it wasn’t quite obvious, this is my April Fool’s Day post: There is no current plan for IRS to launch on TikTok… but the year is still young!

I have fun with my April Fool’s Day posts every year. You can read some of the prior posts by clicking below:

There’s so much happening now. Here’s where you can find information on how COVID-19 is affecting tax returns and, of course, those stimulus checks.

Got questions about stimulus checks? I’ve got answers. There are separate pieces for high school seniors and college students, as well as seniors (seniors piece is updated here).

IRS has pushed filing deadlines to July 15. Not all state and local tax authorities are following the feds. If you’re looking for updates on local and state tax authority closings and extensions, you’ll find those here.

If you’re looking for a summary of the CARES Act, you can find it here.

All local Social Security offices will be closed to the public for in-person service starting Tuesday, March 17, 2020. According to the Social Security Administration, “This decision protects the population we serve—older Americans and people with underlying medical conditions—and our employees during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.” You can find out more here.

IRS is closing down some operations. The upside is that they’re offering some relief, too. You can find those details here.

Finally, if you’d like to help out, there are many organizations offering services during the crisis.

PLEASE DON’T LEAVE QUESTIONS IN THE COMMENTS! I may not see them. Best to ask here.

Some Internal Revenue Service (IRS) call centers and services are temporarily shutting down in response to COVID-19.

COVID-19 is the official name for the infectious disease caused by the most recently discovered coronavirus. According to Johns Hopkins, as of March 27, 2020, there are 593,291 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in 176 territories and countries. The United States has 101,657 confirmed cases with reported cases in every state.

As a result, the President of the United States issued an emergency declaration under the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act. And, Governors in several states have issued stay-at-home orders and ordered non-essential businesses to close. That includes many federal employees. For example, Social Security offices are closed to the public for in-person service.

The IRS is following suit. A notice on the IRS website declares, “In response to the national emergency and to protect our employees, America’s taxpayers, communities and our partners, the IRS has temporarily closed all Taxpayer Assistance Centers and discontinued face-to-face service throughout the country until further notice. The IRS is continuing to process tax returns, issue refunds, and help taxpayers to the greatest extent possible.”

The IRS subsequently advised in a tweet on March 25, 2020:

Earlier this week, tax professionals confirmed that the IRS is not answering phones at the Offer In Compromise Unit and the Practitioner Priority Service. A message on the OIC Unit advises that “Live telephone assistance is not available at this time.”

Now, the IRS has confirmed that “Due to staff limitations, the Practitioner Priority Service (PPS) line, the e-Services Help Desk line and the e-Services, FIRE and AIR system help desks are closed until further notice.” As a result, IRS suggests that you “Please make IRS.gov your first option for answers to questions.”

Additionally, the IRS is temporarily suspending acceptance of new Income Verification Express Services (IVES) requests and you can expect delays with existing IVES processing. There are also delays in Centralized Authorization File (CAF) number authorizations (notice how I didn’t make a snarky comment there suggesting the latter isn’t out of the ordinary).

There’s more. All AARP Foundation Tax-Aide services and most IRS Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program sites have closed. Additionally, all Taxpayer Assistance Centers (TACs) are closed until further notice.

For taxpayers with open Taxpayer Advocate Service (TAS) cases, the IRS is advising taxpayers and practitioners to call their local TAS office directly. The TAS tweeted:

And those stimulus payment questions? You’ll have to wait on IRS to answer those, too. A notice to practitioners advises that “Additionally, the IRS is unable to answer any questions as yet on stimulus payments. Normal operations will resume as soon as possible. Please check IRS.gov for updates.”

Some of the closures may be frustrating for taxpayers, but there is a silver lining: collection and enforcement actions are limited. Relief ranges from suspending installment agreements payments (you have to make the arrangements) to postponing compliance actions like levies. Audits are also on hold.

And there’s some good news: The IRS will continue to work refund claims where possible, without in-person contact, and issue tax refunds. You can check the IRS  “Get Refund Status” tool for refund updates.

Eventually, things will get back to normal. In the meantime, be prepared for extended wait times for calls and correspondence. Be proactive and patient. 

If you have an update or tip, here’s how to reach me (including secure methods for employees who wish to remain anonymous).

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has announced a series of steps to assist taxpayers impacted by COVID-19. Relief ranges from easing payment guidelines to postponing compliance actions.

COVID-19 is the official name for the infectious disease caused by the most recently discovered coronavirus. According to John Hopkins, as of March 25, 2020, there are 451,355 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in 172 territories and countries. The United States has 55,568 confirmed cases with reported cases in every state.

As a result, on March 13, 2020, the President of the United States issued an emergency declaration under the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act. Additionally, several Governors have issued stay-at-home orders.

The result is that many taxpayers cannot get out to file or do other tax-related business. In response, the IRS announced that the tax filing season been pushed to July 15, 2020.

The IRS also started scaling back operations at its call centers, causing frustration for tax professionals and taxpayers alike. Now, the IRS is taking further action.

“The IRS is taking extraordinary steps to help the people of our country,” said IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig. “In addition to extending tax deadlines and working on new legislation, the IRS is pursuing unprecedented actions to ease the burden on people facing tax issues. During this difficult time, we want people working together, focused on their well-being, helping each other and others less fortunate.”

Specifically, the IRS is introducing its IRS People First Initiative. “The new IRS People First Initiative provides immediate relief to help people facing uncertainty over taxes,” Rettig says. 

“We are temporarily adjusting our processes to help people and businesses during these uncertain times. We are facing this together, and we want to be part of the solution to improve the lives of all people in our country.”

So what’s in the initiative? Highlights include:

Existing Installment Agreements. For taxpayers under an existing Installment Agreement, payments due between April 1 and July 15, 2020, are suspended. The IRS will not default any Installment Agreements during this period. By law, interest will continue to accrue on any unpaid balances. 

Offers in Compromise (OIC). Taxpayers with pending OIC applications will have until July 15 to provide requested additional information as support; the IRS will not close any pending OIC request before July 15, 2020, without the taxpayer’s consent. Taxpayers with accepted offers can suspend payments on until July 15, 2020, although by law, interest will continue to accrue on any unpaid balances. Further, the IRS will not default an OIC for those taxpayers who are delinquent in filing their tax return for the tax year 2018; taxpayers should file any delinquent 2018 return (and their 2019 return) on or before July 15, 2020.

Field Collection Activities. Liens and levies, including any seizures of a personal residence, initiated by field revenue officers will be suspended through July 15, 2020. However, field revenue officers will continue to pursue high-income non-filers and perform other similar activities where warranted.

Automated Liens and Levies. New automatic, systemic liens and levies will be suspended through July 15, 2020.

Passport Certifications to the State Department. IRS will suspend new passport certifications to the Department of State for taxpayers who are “seriously delinquent” through July 15, 2020.

Private Debt Collection. New delinquent accounts will not be forwarded by the IRS to private collection agencies to work through July 15, 2020.

Field, Office, and Correspondence Audits. The IRS will generally not start new field, office, and correspondence examinations until July 15, 2020 (but see the note below related to statutes of limitations).

  • In-Person Meetings. In-person meetings for existing field, office, and correspondence examinations will be suspended. IRS examiners will continue examinations remotely where possible. Taxpayers are encouraged to respond to requests for information on all examination activity during this period if possible.
  • Unique Situations. The IRS understands that there may be instances where the taxpayers desire to begin an examination. When it’s in the best interest of both parties and appropriate personnel are available, the IRS may initiate activities to move forward with an examination.

Refund Claims. The IRS will continue to work refund claims where possible, without in-person contact. 

General Requests for Information. The IRS encourages taxpayers to respond to any other IRS correspondence requesting additional information during this time, if possible. 

Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) & Wage Verification Reviews. Taxpayers have until July 15, 2020, to respond to the IRS to verify that they qualify for the EITC or to verify their income. Through July 15, 2020, the IRS will not deny these credits for a failure to provide the requested information.  

Independent Office of Appeals. Appeals will continue to work cases. Conferences may be held over the telephone or by videoconference. Taxpayers are encouraged to promptly respond to any outstanding requests for information for all cases in the Independent Office of Appeals.

Statute of Limitations. The IRS will continue to protect all applicable statutes of limitations. In instances where statute expirations might be jeopardized, taxpayers are encouraged to cooperate in extending such statutes. Otherwise, the IRS will issue Notices of Deficiency and take steps to protect the interests of the government in preserving such statutes. Where a statutory period is not set to expire during 2020, the IRS is unlikely to pursue significant collections and related actions until at least July 15, 2020.

Practitioner Priority Service (PPS). The IRS warns that there may be more significant wait times for the PPS. However, practitioners, including myself, are reporting that they are unable to reach representatives. Currently, when you call, a message advises, “Live telephone assistance is not available at this time.”

Expect that some of this could change. Rettig advises, “The IRS will continue to review and, where appropriate, modify or expand the People First Initiative as we continue reviewing our programs and receive feedback from others.”

“We are committed to helping people get through this period,” he said, “and our employees will remain focused on these and other helpful efforts in the days and weeks ahead. I ask for your personal support, your understanding – and your patience – as we navigate our way forward together. Stay safe and take care of your families, friends and others.”

(Updated: March 25, 2020)

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) isn’t shutting down completely – but it’s getting close. Some IRS call centers and return processing centers are closing in response to COVID-19.

On March 13, 2020, the President of the United States issued an emergency declaration under the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act. Additionally, several Governors have issued stay-at-home orders. For example, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf released an executive order declaring that all “non-life-sustaining” businesses must close their physical locations in Pennsylvania due to the COVID-19 crisis. Consequently, many tax, accounting, and law offices are closing (including mine) to work remotely. And the National Treasury Employees Union (NTEU), the nation’s largest independent union of federal employees – including IRS employees – has confirmed that IRS offices in Pennsylvania are closing.

California Governor Gavin Newsom has also issued stay-at-home orders. The result is that some IRS offices in California are closing. Individual workers have confirmed these closures.

The IRS has not yet returned my request for comment on closing additional call centers and offices. However, a notice on the IRS website declares, “In response to the national emergency and to protect our employees, America’s taxpayers, communities and our partners, the IRS has temporarily closed all Taxpayer Assistance Centers and discontinued face-to-face service throughout the country until further notice. The IRS is continuing to process tax returns, issue refunds and help taxpayers to the greatest extent possible.”

Anecdotally, tax professionals have confirmed that the IRS is not answering phones at the Offer In Compromise Unit and the Practitioner Priority Service. A message on the OIC Unit advises that “Live telephone assistance is not available at this time.”

The IRS Taxpayer Advocate Service advised, “The Taxpayer Advocate Service (TAS) wants you to know that the safety and concern for our taxpayers and employees continues to be our highest priority. Currently, TAS remains open to receive phone calls at the local phone numbers listed here but due to the coronavirus TAS is suspending walk-in services until further notice. If you have an open TAS case and need assistance, please reach out to your assigned Case Advocate by phone.”

As of March 24, the IRS is advising taxpayers and practitioners to call their local TAS office directly. Specifically, IRS.gov webpage describing the current status of operations contains the following blurb:

Taxpayer Advocate Service. Currently, TAS remains open to receive phone calls at the local phone numbers but has suspended walk-in services in their offices and their toll-free centralized number is unavailable until further notice. Please visit taxpayeradvocate.irs.gov to locate your local office phone number.

The IRS subsequently advised in a tweet on March 25, 2020:

NTEU National President Tony Reardon confirmed the closures in a statement, saying, “IRS is working to implement workplace changes to address the COVID-19 pandemic, but with the outbreak rapidly evolving, they are not enough. The positive developments include: closing call sites and moving those employees to telework; closing Taxpayer Assistance Centers and moving that work to the telephones; ending walk-ins at Taxpayer Advocate Offices; extending weather and safety leave to employees considered high risk under CDC guidelines; expanding telework; closing offices in “hot spot” areas locations; and halting all face-to-face field work for revenue agents and revenue officers.”

However, Reardon remains concerned that these efforts may not be enough, saying, “NTEU remains troubled about large numbers of employees still reporting to work contrary to the recommended gathering sizes; the inability to enact safe social distancing in these environments; and the lack of essentials necessary to sanitize hands and work surfaces.”

In response, Reardon says, “We continue to call for the closure of all federal buildings where 50 or more federal employees work, including IRS facilities.”

And that’s not all. Remember the extension to July 15, 2020? The NTEU believes that there should be more time, declaring, “The three-month extension of the tax-filing deadline should be extended to October 15, 2020. This would further assist taxpayers allowing them additional time in light of this pandemic and help alleviate the intense anxiety that IRS employees are experiencing over continuing to report to work in crowded offices. A broader shutdown of the IRS would give the agency time to clean all facilities and prepare to bring back those employees essential to issuing refunds to taxpayers and stimulus checks, as needed.”

What does all of this mean? Clearly, be prepared for extended wait times for calls and correspondence. I would recommend you be P&P: proactive and patient. (And at this rate, P may also stand for Patron…)

If you have an update or tip, here’s how to reach me (including secure methods for employees who wish to remain anonymous).