IRS alters certain operations in effort to protect employees, taxpayers during outbreak

By Alistair M. Nevius

The IRS has announced that, to protect employees and taxpayers during the current coronavirus pandemic, it is scaling back some of its operations to focus on what it describes as “mission-critical activities.” Many IRS offices have closed in areas hardest hit by the COVID-19 outbreak or have reduced their operations, and many IRS employees are working from home. From in-person contacts, to telephone and mail responses, to compliance activities, the scaled-back services and reduction of in-office staff are affecting the IRS’s ability to assist taxpayers and practitioners.

The IRS provided the following update on its current operations:

In person: All face-to-face contacts with taxpayers have been temporarily suspended, and all IRS Taxpayer Assistance Centers have been closed. All face-to-face appointments have been canceled.

Telephone: The IRS warns that between local office closings, limited on-site staff, and high demand, telephone wait times will be lengthy.

Practitioner Priority Service: The IRS says wait times for the Practitioner Priority Service will also be lengthy, depending on staffing levels.

Mail: The IRS says it is still able to receive mail but will only be responding to a very limited degree. It also warns that, after normal operations resume, it will take time for the IRS to work through the mail backlog.

Other operations: The coronavirus outbreak is also affecting other IRS operations, with the IRS saying it is “continuing to assess” the impact on various compliance activities. The Office of Chief Counsel is continuing to work on cases in litigation, although the Tax Court has canceled its sessions through July 3. The Independent Appeals Office also continues to work cases. The Taxpayer Advocate Service continues to receive telephone calls but has suspended walk-in services.

In changing its operations, the IRS says it is following guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the federal Office of Personnel Management, and state and local officials.

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.

Alistair M. Nevius, J.D., (Alistair.Nevius@aicpa-cima.com) is The Tax Adviser’s editor in chief.

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