The American Institute of CPAs kicked off its Spring Meeting of Council in Washington, D.C., on Sunday with a packed agenda of meetings with lawmakers to press for priorities, including improvements in taxpayer service by the Internal Revenue Service.
The AICPA Council members passed a resolution calling on policy makers to “create an objective, bipartisan forum to engage stakeholders to expeditiously make recommendations that enable the Internal Revenue Service to achieve its stated mission and to transform it into a modern-functioning, evolutionary and respected federal agency for the 21st Century.”
Among the improvements the AICPA would like to see are balanced service and enforcement, sound tax administration, stakeholder engagement, technological advancement, empowered oversight by a congressionally empowered independent and transparent IRS Oversight Board, and protection of taxpayer rights.
“Is this resolution going to solve everything? No, probably not,” acknowledged AICPA Tax Executive Committee chair Troy Lewis. “But what it does is make very clear to policy makers that the symptoms that we are suffering are not acceptable, and that if not corrected and not addressed in the short term, are going to have a long-lasting impact that will take generations to correct.”
AICPA vice president of taxation Ed Karl discussed the results of a poll conducted by the AICPA that found 64 percent of CPAs were not able to get through on the IRS’s Practitioner Priority Line, and a high proportion of them repeatedly received “courtesy disconnects” while on hold with the IRS during this year’s tax season.
The AICPA also wants more lawmakers to sign on to a letter already signed by several members of Congress to Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew calling on him to improve taxpayer service. The letter points to a report on the 2015 tax-filing season from the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, which found that only 38.5 percent of callers to the IRS received assistance this year, compared to 74.7 percent last year.
“Additionally, the IRS hung up on 6.8 million callers (what the IRS calls a “courtesy disconnect”), which is an increase of more than seven times over the previous year,” the letter pointed out.
The letter asks Lew to review the failures of the IRS to allocate sufficient resources to taxpayer services and provide a written letter to Congress on the multiple factors contributing to the unacceptable level of taxpayer service and options for improving IRS service to taxpayers for next filing season.
Karl and AICPA senior vice president of governmental and public affairs Mark Peterson said the AICPA also hopes Congress will lower the level of venom toward the IRS.
The IRS has suffered a series of budget cuts in recent years that have sharply reduced taxpayer service, but the AICPA is skeptical that Congress plans to raise the level of funding in the near future.
Other legislative priorities include making a number of tax relief provisions permanent for disaster victims so Congress doesn’t have to approve them on a case by case basis whenever there is a natural disaster. Among the disaster tax relief provisions that the AICPA wants to make permanent are waiving individual casualty loss limitations, extending the net operating loss carryback to five years, allowing a housing exemption for displaced individuals, allowing discharge of indebtedness and increasing the medical expense deduction.
Members of the AICPA will be visiting their representatives on Capitol Hill to push for a variety of other priorities. These include passage of the Mobile Workforce State Income Tax Simplification Act, which would exempt a nonresident employee who works in a state for 30 days or less from being subject to the nonresident state’s personal income tax (see Mobile Workforce Act Would Provide 30-Day Safe Harbor).
In addition, the AICPA is backing patent reform legislation that discourages so-called “patent trolls” from demanding licensing fees for dubious intellectual property claims. CPA firms and state CPA societies have reported receiving letters from patent holders threatening legal action if they don’t pay the fees.
The AICPA also wants Council members to ask their lawmakers to resolve the perennial uncertainty over tax extenders and get them passed earlier in the year.
The AICPA is also asking for relief from the IRS on the repair regulations. While the IRS has already modified some of the tangible property repair regulations based on feedback from the AICPA, the Institute is asking for some additional changes in the de minimis rules.
In addition, the AICPA is concerned about the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s recent probes of the mandatory retirement age policies at some large CPA firms for possible violation of age discrimination regulations.
Also during the opening day, the AICPA presented public service awards to the CPA firm DiSanto, Priest & Co., of Warwick, R.I., which received the 2014 Public Service Award for Firms for its commitment to the community, and to Terry Murphy, CPA, of Ann Arbor, Mich., who received the 2014 Public Service Award for Individuals.
Private Company Standards
Billy Atkinson, chairman of the Private Company Council, talked about the progress that the PCC has made in modifying accounting standards for private companies, working in tandem with the Financial Accounting Standards Board and the Financial Accounting Foundation. He explained his decision not to seek a second term as chairman after his three-year term expires this year. “Accounting standard setting is not on my bucket list,” he said.
However, Atkinson also emphasized the need for maintaining the PCC’s authority and warned that if the PCC waned, serious questions would arise about accounting standard setting.