IRS employees, including Revenue Officers who are IRS tax collection people, and Revenue Agents, that perform the audit function, are “working” from home. There are very few telephone calls, faxes, emails or other contacts from the IRS employees. Do not be lured by the lull! These employees start getting back to work, I anticipate a full-court press to start massive collection activities as well as audits.
If you have a pending audit this is the time to work on getting all of the documents necessary and to prepare for the audit. It may be delayed but it will be there and you are going to have to deal with it so it is much better to have the information now when your business may be slow compared to when you are scrambling to restart full activities. As an “essential” professional services, tax lawyers can remain open and my office continues to remain open and we are preparing for the onslaught that is going to occur and probably a few weeks.
Even more serious situations are those people taxpayer subject to IRS collection activities. Even though the live and in-person activity has been put on hold, the IRS computers are still spitting out notices of levy, tax liens, and other enforcement actions. Once a levy has been issued against wages or receivables, bank accounts, or other assets, it is very hard to get it stopped because the IRS has very few people that can be contacted even by telephone. If a business or individual taxpayer owes money morning Trish or is falling behind especially on payroll taxes, is very important to address the issue now.
The following is the notice received from the Thomson Reuters tax service showing the status of various IRS departments:
IRS mission-critical operations continue but no face-to-face assistance available
IRS Operations During COVID-19: Mission-critical functions continue
On its website, IRS has provided an overview of IRS operations during the COVID-19 outbreak. IRS has curtailed some operations due to the outbreak, but its mission-critical functions, including accepting tax returns and sending refunds, continue. IRS also continues to monitor issues related to the outbreak and will provide updated information as it becomes available, on its special coronavirus webpage.
IRS operations during coronavirus outbreak. IRS has scaled back its operations to focus on mission-critical activities, including accepting returns and sending refunds. The following is an overview of how IRS is operating during the COVID-19 outbreak:
- In-person assistance. All Taxpayer Assistance Centers (TACs) are closed and face-to-face service discontinued throughout the country until further notice. All taxpayer appointments at a TAC are canceled. For taxpayers with TAC appointments, IRS will make every effort to resolve the taxpayer’s assistance needs by phone.
- Automated applications. IRS encourages taxpayers who need assistance to use IRS.gov and its tools, to find out the status of a refund (Where’s My Refund?), make tax payments or to apply for an installment agreement to pay past due taxes.
- Telephone services. Currently, IRS has limited live telephone customer service assistance available, but local office closings, limited call site staff, and high demand mean that there is extremely high call volume. Wait times will be lengthy. The IRS strongly urges people to use IRS.gov for information instead of calling IRS.
- Practitioner Priority Service (PPS). IRS reminds practitioners that, depending on staffing levels going forward, there may be more significant wait times for the PPS.
- Taxpayer correspondence. IRS is still receiving mail, but will be responding to paper correspondence only to a very limited degree until further notice. Taxpayers who mail correspondence to IRS should expect to wait longer than usual for a response. Even after normal operations resume, it will take the IRS time to work through any correspondence backlog.
- Compliance activity. IRS is still assessing the impact of COVID-19 on a range of compliance activities.
- Statute of limitations issues. IRS continues to work cases where the limitations period is ending. In some cases, IRS will work with taxpayers or their representatives to obtain an extension of the statute.
- Office of Chief Counsel. The Office of Chief Counsel continues to work to resolve cases in litigation, including those scheduled in various cities through July 3, 2020, even if those sessions were recently canceled by the U.S. Tax Court.
Counsel continues to work on cases in litigation generally and to support and advise the IRS operating divisions on their enforcement and examination activities. Although Counsel is not meeting with taxpayers or their representatives in face-to-face meetings, or taking depositions, Chief Counsel attorneys are available to speak with taxpayers to discuss their cases by telephone.
- Independent Office of Appeals. Appeals employees continue to work their cases. Although Appeals is not currently holding in-person conferences with taxpayers, conferences may be held over the telephone or by video conference. To the extent they can, taxpayers are encouraged to promptly respond to any outstanding requests for information for all cases in the Independent Office of Appeals.
- Taxpayer Advocate Service (TAS). Currently, TAS remains open to receive phone calls at the local phone numbers but has suspended walk-in services in their offices. And their toll-free centralized number is unavailable until further notice. Taxpayers needing assistance should visit taxpayeradvocate.irs.gov to locate their local TAS office’s phone number.
Tax-exempt Sector Determinations, Rulings and Closing Agreements. IRS continues to process applications for recognition of tax exemption for exempt organizations, rulings and determinations for employees plans and closing agreements for municipal issuers