Joseph L. Santoro, a member of the National Society of Accountants (NSA), testified before the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Oversight Board last week regarding the customer service needs of taxpayers. Santoro spoke at a public meeting held annually by the Board for the purpose of meeting with taxpayer representatives and listening to their assessment of the administration and management of the IRS.
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“Too often, it seems the IRS agent appears intimidating or even as a direct threat to the taxpayer when in fact the IRS function is to aid the taxpayer in meeting a citizen’s obligation to provide a proportionate share of the revenues needed to support a voter mandated governmental system,” Santoro’s said during his presentation to the Board. “Only when the IRS agent is non-adversarial, when the demonstrated attitude is one of assistance rather than coercion, can the taxpayer/customer be well served.”
These comments were not intended by the NSA to convey the impression that all IRS agents are ill-tempered and/or lack sufficient training. Indeed, NSA members report the large majority of IRS agents are exactly of the caliber one would expect and hope the IRS would employ. There exists, however, a sufficiently large majority of IRS agents whose reaction to taxpayer and tax preparer issues have been less than admirable. Unfortunately, the actions of this group tend to permeate and affect “customer” attitudes toward the IRS.
Santoro’s presentation also raised questions regarding the usefulness of certain information included in the instruction manual for Form 1040, saying “page 79 of the Form 1040 instruction manual references estimated time and costs of the tax preparation process. Without commenting about the manual’s accuracy, one has to wonder what useful purpose is served when the filer is told about “average” tax preparation times and costs, especially given regional economics and tax preparer skills. If that taxpayer spends less time or more time on forms completion than the purported average, if the taxpayer spends less money or more money on the tax preparation process than the purported average, what purpose is served or what goal is accomplished, other than to, once again, provide a source of unnecessary intimidation?”
The NSA and it’s affiliates represent 30,000 members who provide auditing, accounting, tax preparation, financial and estate planning, and management services to approximately 19 million individual and business clients. The majority of members are sole practitioners or partners in small to mid-sized accounting firms.