by Steve Green
As a Certified Public Accountant since 1987, I — along with others in my field — have been inundated by incorrect Internal Revenue Service notices, ignored letters sent certified, and ignored fax information. The IRS has also accelerated the collections process during a period of instability due to new hires. Sometimes notices from the IRS are signed by a particular agent and sometimes not. If we respond to an IRS letter that does not name an agent we have to write that response blindly.
Recently I was shocked to learn from an IRS agent that any material faxed to them but not designated to an agent is simply shred. I have to wonder if they shred our letters, too.
I have become alarmed about these recent experiences with the IRS.
In fairness, I have seen times when they were inefficient or made errors but generally service was adequate. I have been advised that there are new hires in substantial numbers, but it appears that they have a lack of training and are under a great deal of stress.
I recently spent a good deal of time attempting to make logic of an IRS communication that made no sense whatsoever. These are the errors:
1. It referred to the wrong income tax form.
2. It was nonspecific in nature and referred to a half dozen possible penalties that may have been assessed and none of these applied. In fact, had their letter been reviewed internally (which would be called “quality control”), it would have been obvious that there was no tax due on which to base a late payment penalty.
3. It referred to a previous notice which simply said that they received our correspondence and it would take time, perhaps 45 days, to respond. The new notice referred back to that notice and asked us to ignore it, as it had been sent in error. All right, I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt, it was incorrect only in the sense that it took much longer than 45 days to receive this second nonsensical letter.
4. And worst of all, it appeared that the contents of the original response I sent were perhaps not even read. We only received confirmation that they had received my letter, there was no evidence whatsoever that they read the content or comprehended it. So they continued to bill the original amount and added some interest to increase the frustration.
Lastly, I have sent many responses, for many taxpayers due to the Internal Revenue Service errors and/or incompetence. In one case, a quarter inch package was sent certified mail return receipt requested, and in fact we received confirmation of receipt; I had also faxed it and received confirmation of the fax. This was after responding to their first notice and they only corrected one-half of their errors.
The case was being handled by an individually named agent and all of my responses were directed to that agent.
If we give them the benefit of the doubt, they only managed to lose two identical packages sent to an individual. If we’re cynical about it, perhaps they ended up in circular files due to the over-stressed and poorly trained employees. I am deeply hoping it is only the former but even in that case, the Internal Revenue Service errors are so egregious as to be terribly frightening.
All of these problems have caused me a great deal of inefficiency. As many of these are small businesses and many taxpayers are having serious financial difficulties, I am forced to discount the charges so they can afford it. They are spending money that is going down the drain and both their production and mine are forced down the bureaucratic sewer.
Guess what? In a depressed economy when production goes down, wealth goes down, tax revenues go down, and people end up in even more dire financial difficulties.
There are many things that are happening to our beloved United States that are disheartening and quite disturbing.
Steve Green, CPA graduated with a Bachelors Degree in Accounting from San Diego State University in 1984, served as a bookkeeper for a prominent former data processing Company based in San Diego, was licensed to practice as a Certified Public Accountant in California in 1987 and has been in public accounting since 1985.
The views expressed are solely those of Steven L. Green, CPA as an individual. They are not necessarily the views of any firms, clients, businesses, professional organizations or individuals with which he may be associated.