Part of the mission of our Intuit® ProConnect™ Tax Council (PTC) is to shape the industry for the greater good of tax and accounting professionals, and their clients. That’s never been more apparent than in December, when we made a journey with the Council to Washington, D.C., to meet with policymakers. We met with several members of Congress, several Congressional staff, and key Senate Finance and House Ways and Means Committee staff to discuss tax reform. Our timing couldn’t have been better because as the administration changes, and Congress and the Senate convene in the new year, comprehensive tax reform appears to be a promising goal.
Here are the issues the PTC shared in their own words:
Issue: Compliance Simplification
What it Means: Compliance comes in many forms for consumers and small businesses. Tax is certainly at the forefront, but small businesses also face regulations surrounding benefits, permits, safety and environment. The simpler things are for taxpayers and our customers, the better it is for everyone. It equals less time, less fear and more dollars.
Why it Matters:
- Words matter. “Corporate tax reform does not resonate with small businesses,” said PTC member Mark Stewart. Instead, inclusive language, such as “business tax reform,” and better yet, “small business tax reform,” speaks to small business. “It’s not that small businesses are looking for a pass from paying taxes,” added PTC member Warren Hudek. “They just have many unique challenges that must not be overlooked.”
- Stop the complexity. Tax code complexity causes confusion, wasted time, and fear for small businesses and professionals alike. It’s so complex that even IRS auditors have different interpretations! Complexity exists at the federal and state levels, so the federal level should be mindful of this and set the example for simplification. “Small business complexity leads to more audits,” said PTC member Michelle Hammond. “The more simple the code is, the better we can serve our clients.”
- Busting myths. There is a myth that the industry and professionals seek complexity in order to grow revenue. Nothing could be further from the truth; they just want to represent their clients in the best way possible. No one gives a practitioner credit for doing a great job on a complex calculation. The simpler the code, the more time practitioners can spend consulting and adding value for their clients. That’s what their clients value.
Issue: Effective Tax Administration Through Better Tax Practitioner Tools
What it Means: Help practitioners service their taxpayer clients with better online tools (IRS e-Services) to save their clients, and the IRS, time and money. Today, clients receive multiple IRS notices and spend large amounts of time on the phone with the IRS, but the practitioner does not have access to their clients’ issues and can’t help them. With better tools and access, practitioners could reduce a 30-minute call with the IRS to 30 seconds because tax pros know their clients better.
Why it Matters
- Improve Practitioner e-Service Tools. Solve for the practitioner first. The practitioner can then reduce taxpayer calls directly to the IRS. Good examples include practical e-Service tools for client account management that are focused on routine requirements, such as the practitioner portals that exist in New York and Pennsylvania, for example.
- Solve Today Before Dreaming of Tomorrow. We appreciate the expansive online services focus of the IRS “future state” vision, but solving the very real problems of today will help taxpayers, practitioners and the IRS save time and money by getting to resolution faster.
- Help Taxpayers and the IRS. These tools can help practitioners better serve their clients and help them avoid penalties. As issues are resolved more quickly, the IRS will collect revenue faster and with fewer resources.
- Support Practitioner Priority Service. Increased support for these services will help taxpayers and practitioners save time and eliminate the long hold times and eventual “courtesy” disconnect.
Issue: Accelerate Security Summit Progress Within the Professional Segment
What It Means: Significant progress has been made through the IRS Security Summit, reducing reported incidents of identity theft by 50 percent. The professional tax segment has now been included in the IRS Security Summit process. It’s critical that we make progress here because 60 percent of all filings are generated in the professional segment.
Why it Matters
- Information Sharing. Fast information sharing has been effective in financial services, and is also effective for tax identity fraud.
- EFIN Automation. Tax professionals are generally small businesses themselves, and they need help with the proper protection methods. Tax professionals support EFIN validation, but we need to make progress in automating this process.
- Remediation Process. The current remediation process for fraud victims is lengthy. There must be quicker resolution for taxpayers impacted by identity theft and fraud.
- Quality of Notifications. Practitioners have educated their clients on potential fraud and, in particular, how to detect a fraudulent IRS notice. However, an example was shared of a notice that had misspellings, transposed numbers and poor grammar. The taxpayer assumed this level of quality indicated spoofing and did not act on the notice. Unfortunately, it was authentic.
During our trip, we moved fast and covered a lot of ground. I know I found the experience valuable, and heard many positive comments from the PTC, as well as the policymakers we met. As Chris Armstrong, deputy chief oversight counsel to Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-UT), said, “You are the line of voice from small business. Your visit and discussion has been very helpful to the Committee.”
In fact, the IRS Oversight Subcommittee of the House Ways and Means Committee requested we get back together next quarter and discuss priorities. That means our opportunities to effect change on behalf of our customers and their clients will continue.