The IRS’s Response to COVID-19 and the People First Initiative
In response to the corona virus the IRS took immediate steps to provide taxpayers relief from tax compliance requirements and enforcement. By now everyone should be familiar with the tax filing and payment extensions. For more information see https://magdaabdogomezlaw.com/update-tax-filing-deadlines/
Additional relief was provided in what the IRS called the “People First Initiative” which runs through July 15. The IRS has modified its enforcement procedures as follows:
- Taxpayers who are under a payment agreement with the IRS may suspend monthly payments due between April 1 and July 15, 2020. The IRS will not default any agreement during this period. Interest and penalties, however, will continue to accrue as required by law.
- Taxpayers can apply for installment agreements; however, they will not receive notification from the IRS as to whether the agreement is accepted. The IRS is closed and not sending out correspondence.
- Taxpayers who were in the process of working out a settlement with the IRS will have until July 15 to provide any information requested by the IRS. Additionally, the IRS will not close any pending settlement offer prior to July 15, 2020 without the taxpayer’s consent.
- Taxpayers whose settlement offer had been accepted by the IRS may suspend any payments required to be made until July 15, 2020. Interest will continue to accrue on the payments.
- The IRS will not default a settlement for a taxpayer’s failure to file a 2018 return. However, the 2018 and 2019 returns must be filed on or before July 15, 2020.
- New automatic liens and levies are suspended until July 15, 2020.
- Liens, levies and seizures of personal residences initiated by a revenue officer are suspended. However, revenue officers will continue to pursue high income non-filers where warranted.
- Certifications to the Department of State for suspension of a passport for seriously delinquent taxpayers are suspended during this period.
- New delinquent accounts will not be forwarded by the IRS to private collection agencies during this period.
- Generally, no new field, office or correspondence examinations will be commenced. However, new examinations may be commenced if necessary, to preserve a statute of limitations. If an extension cannot be obtained, the IRS will issue statutory notices of deficiency or take any other action necessary to protect the statute of limitations.
- The IRS will continue to work refund claims if possible.
- The IRS will not deny the earned income tax credit for the taxpayer’s failure to provide requested information to verify their eligibility for the credit until July 15.
- The IRS will avoid all in-person contacts to the maximum extent possible. However, matters which are assigned to field agents, revenue officers or appeals officers will continue to be worked by them remotely. Taxpayers are asked to respond to the agent’s correspondence.
- If a corporate or business taxpayer desires to begin an examination while witnesses and records are available, the IRS may initiate the examination if staff is available.
Subsequent to the issuance of this initiative and because of COVID-19 the IRS has, in essence, closed down. Refer to their website for information and when possible file and pay electronically. At this time the IRS:
- Is unable to process paper tax returns.
- Is unable to respond to paper correspondence. Mail is being received and stored as mail processing has been reduced due to COVID-19 social distancing requirements.
- Is unable to staff live service phone lines. Automated phone lines are available and some tax compliance lines are also available. However, customer service representatives for taxpayers and tax professionals are not staffed.
- Has closed all Taxpayer Assistance Centers.
- Has closed volunteer tax return preparation sites.
- Is processing electronic tax returns.
- Is issuing direct deposit refunds.
- Is accepting electronic payments.
- Is unable to take orders for forms or publications as the National Distribution Center is closed. Most forms can be obtained at the IRS website.
- Has closed the practitioner priority service.
- Is unable to process mail in requests for transcripts as the office is closed.
- Is unable to process US Residency Certifications as the office is closed.
- Is unable to authenticate the identity of taxpayers who have been notified that a suspicious return has been filed. Identify will have to be authenticated using the IRS online service.
- Continues to work to resolve Tax Court docketed cases. The time to file petitions in Tax Court has been extended until July 15, 2020 and Tax Court calendars have been cancelled through July 3, 2020.
- Continues to receive phone calls through the Taxpayer Advocate Service.
- Continues to process tax exemption applications unless the request was submitted after March 26, 2020 via a paper return.
- Has temporarily suspended the income verification service.
- Has temporarily suspended the ability to receive third party authorization (powers of attorney).