The Senate has approved a bipartisan IRS reform bill, which now heads to President Trump’s desk. Trump is expected to sign the bill into law.
The reworked Taxpayer First Act ( HR 3151) cleared the Senate on the evening of June 13. The revamped measure had been approved unanimously in the House on June 10.
“After years of good-faith, bipartisan work, our IRS reforms are finally going to become law,” House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal, D-Mass., and ranking member Kevin Brady, R-Tex., said in a joint statement. “In this historic legislation, we focused on putting taxpayers first.”
Likewise, Senate Finance Committee (SFC) Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, praised the passage of the bipartisan, bicameral IRS reform bill. “It’s a big first step toward strengthening taxpayer protections and turning the IRS into the customer service organization it ought to be,” Grassley said in a statement. “I look forward to President Trump signing it into law so the IRS can begin implementing long overdue reforms that will put taxpayers first,” he added.
The reworked IRS reform bill, originally introduced in the last Congress, was revised earlier in June after the House passed a prior version in April. However, the original House-approved Taxpayer First bill (HR 1957) was deemed doomed in the Senate by May because of recent controversy surrounding the IRS’s Free File program. Thus, the provision codifying the Free File program was stripped from the original bill; the measure was reintroduced as HR 3151. It then quickly cleared each chamber.
Generally, the Taxpayer First Act aims to reform the IRS for the first time in 20 years to better meet the needs of taxpayers. It requires the IRS to develop a comprehensive customer service strategy, as well as a plan to redesign its structure, modernize its technology, and enhance its cyber security. In addition, the new law will:
- Waive the application fee for an offer in compromise (OIC) by a low-income taxpayer;
- Clarify information available about low-income taxpayer clinics (LITCs);
- Codify the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) Program;
- Require notice regarding the closure of taxpayer assistance centers (TACs);
- Improve the IRS whistleblower program; and
- Modify the private debt collection program.
The legislation includes a number of provisions to help protect taxpayers from tax ID theft and improve taxpayer interaction with the IRS should they become a victim. For example, the IRS must provide a single point of contact for victims of identity theft, notification of suspected identity theft, and guidelines for stolen identity refund fraud cases.
The IRS is required to expand its current program that allows victims of tax ID theft to obtain a personalized PIN. Any individual must be allowed to request an identity protection personal identification number (IP PIN) to confirm a taxpayer’s identity on tax returns.
The IRS reform bill directly impacts taxpayers and other persons by reducing the threshold for filing electronically from 250 or more returns during the year. The threshold is 100 or more returns for 2021, and 10 or more return after 2021. The IRS can waive the e-file requirement for tax return preparers in areas with limited internet access.COMMENT
The e-filing threshold for a partnership with 100 or fewer partners remains unchanged before 2022. The threshold is 150 returns for 2019, 100 returns for 2020, and 50 returns for 2021.
E-filing requirements are also extended to all tax-exempt organizations that file returns or statements, regardless of amount of assets, gross receipts, or number of returns to be filed. In addition, the IRS is directed to develop an internet portal to allow taxpayers to file series Form 1099, similar to the portal used to file series Form W-2 with the Social Security Administration.
Other Electronic Services
To help increase the use of electronic services, the IRS must publish within six months uniform standards for accepting electronic signatures on requests for disclosure of taxpayer information (Forms 2848, 4506-T, and 8821). It must also limit the redisclosure of return information by a designee to only those expressly consented to by the taxpayer.
The new law increases the penalty for improper disclosure or use of information by return preparers. It also puts new limits on access to returns and return information by non-IRS employees.
Overall, the IRS must develop procedures to authenticate users of its suite of electronic services, to prevent tax refund fraud. Included in these services, the IRS must develop an automated version of its Income Verification Express Service (IVES) for third-parties.
Planning Note: The legislation also allows the IRS to accept credit and debit card payments for the payment of taxes directly, as opposed to through a third party. In addition, the IRS must establish procedures for taxpayers to report misdirected deposits of refunds.
Additional changes made by the Taxpayer First Act include:
- Clarifying procedures for equitable relief from joint liability;
- Establish new safeguards on the seizure of funds believed to be structured to avoid the $10,000 financial reporting requirement; and
- Modify procedures for the issuance of summons and notice of third party contacts by the IRS.
To help pay for these changes, the minimum penalty for failure to file returns is increased after 2019 to the lesser of $330 (indexed for inflation) or 100 percent of the amount required to be shown on the return.