IRS announces more operational changes related to coronavirus

By Sally P. Schreiber, J.D.

The IRS on Wednesday provided further informal guidance on how its operations would change during the coronavirus public health emergency (IR-2020-59). (See prior coverage of IRS steps to protect taxpayers and its employees here.) The steps outlined, which the IRS is calling the People First Initiative, include the following measures, among others:

Installment agreements: The IRS is suspending payments due on existing installment agreements from April 1 to July 15, but interest continues to accrue on the balance. New installment agreements for people who cannot pay their balance due continue to be available on the IRS’s website.

Offers in compromise (OICs): The IRS is extending a number of deadlines related to OICs. Taxpayers have until July 15 to provide additional information the IRS has requested to support a pending OIC. In addition, the IRS will not close any pending OIC request before July 15, 2020, without the taxpayer’s consent. As for OIC payments, taxpayers can suspend all payments on accepted OICs until July 15, 2020, although by law interest will continue to accrue on any unpaid balances. The IRS also will not default an OIC for taxpayers who are delinquent in filing their tax return for tax year 2018. However, taxpayers should file any delinquent 2018 return (and their 2019 return) on or before July 15, 2020.

Field collection activities: The IRS will suspend any liens and levies (including personal residence seizures) initiated by field revenue officers during this period. Field revenue officers will continue to pursue high-income nonfilers and may perform other similar activities. Automatic system liens and levies will be suspended, however.

Passport certifications to the State Department: The IRS will suspend new passport notifications for “seriously delinquent” taxpayers during this period.

Private debt collection: The IRS will not forward new delinquent accounts to private debt collectors during this period.

Field, office, and correspondence audits: New field, office, and correspondence audits will generally not be started during this period except to preserve cases where the statute of limitation is about to expire. In-person meetings are being suspended, but remote examinations may continue.

Earned income tax credit (EITC): Wage verification reviews and other requests for information from taxpayers who are claiming the EITC will be postponed until July 15.

Appeals: The IRS Appeals Office is continuing to work its cases but without in-person meetings, using teleconferencing where necessary.

Telephone support: The IRS continues to answer the Practitioner Priority Service phone line, but due to reduced staffing levels, practitioners could face long wait times.

For more news and reporting on the coronavirus and how CPAs can handle challenges related to the outbreak, visit the JofA’s coronavirus resources page.

Sally P. Schreiber, J.D., (Sally.Schreiber@aicpa-cima.com) is a Tax Adviser senior editor.

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