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Veronica Tubman: Well, I see its the top of the hour. For those of you just joining, welcome to today's webinar, Updates from the National Taxpayer Advocate, Erin Collins. We're glad you're joining us today. My name is Veronica Tubman and I'm a Senior Stakeholder Liaison with the Internal Revenue Service and I will be your moderator for today's webinar, which is slated for 100 minutes. Before we begin, if there is anyone in the audience that is with the media, please send an email to the address on the slide. Be sure to include your contact information and the news publication you're with. Our media relations, and Stakeholder Liaison staff will assist you and they will answer any questions that you may have. As a reminder, just as another reminder, this webinar will be recorded and posted to the IRS Video Portal in a few weeks. This portal is located at Please note continuing education credits or certificates of completion, they're not offered if you are viewing this in another version of our webinars after the live broadcast. So try to keep that in mind just for your information. We hope you won't experience any technical issues of any comment. But if you do these slides, and they will be up on the screen we will show helpful tips and reminders. We've posted a technical help document you can download from the materials section that will be shown on the left side of your screen. It provides the minimum system requirement for viewing this webinar, along with some best practices and quick solution. Due to compatibility issue, we encourage you to use a browser other than Internet Explorer, you may experience frozen screen and other technology issues if you are using Internet Explorer. So just keep that in mind. If you're using anything other than Internet Explorer, and you're still having problems, try one of the following. Load the screen where you're viewing the webinar and simply relaunch it. Maybe that will do it for you, two click on the setting on your browser's viewing screen and select HLS. You should have received today's PowerPoint in a reminder email. But if not, no worries, you can download it by clicking on the materials, brought down arrow on the left side of your screen and that will be shown to you momentarily. Closed Captioning is available for today's presentation. If you're having troubles hearing the audio through your computer speakers as well, please click the closed captioning drop down arrow located on the left side of your screen. This feature will be available throughout the webinar, the closed captioner will use HLS. Those using closed captioning should also use HLS to maximize synchronization with the video stream. That's a big help, so we want to keep that in mind as well. Also, if you have a topic specific question, please submit it by clicking on the Ask Question button. And that's from the drop down arrow to reveal the textbox. But what we need you to do is just type your question in the textbox and then click send then very important and this is really, really important, we want you to be aware. Please do not enter any sensitive or taxpayer specific information. We want to make sure that we protect everybody's privacy. Also during the presentation, we'll take a few breaks to share knowledge base questions with you. At those times a polling type feature will pop up on your screen with a question, with a few multiple choice answers, so that will help. Select the response you believe is correct by clicking on the radio button that is next to your selection and then click Submit. Some people may not get the polling question. You know, this may be because you have your pop-up blocker on. So please take a moment to disable your pop-up blocker right now so you can answer the question as we move along. Again, welcome. We're glad you joined us for today's webinar. Before we move along with our session, let me make sure you're in the right place. Today's webinar is Updates from the National Taxpayer Advocate Erin Collins. The webinar is scheduled for approximately 100 minutes, just to make sure it will be 100 minutes. Let me introduce today's speaker. Erin Collins is the voice of the taxpayer within the IRS and before Congress. She joined the Taxpayer Advocate Service and we have an acronym for that TAS in March 2020. The advocate for taxpayers, protect their rights and work towards improving the quality of taxpayer service and tax administration and has more than 35 years of service in tax law, spanning 15 years in the IRS Office of Chief Counsel and 20 years at the accounting firm of KPMG LLP where she retired in 2019 as a Tax Managing Director in charge of its tax controversy practice and that was for the Western region. At KPMG, Erin represented thousands of individuals, partnership, small companies and corporate taxpayers on technical and procedural tax matters. She represented clients federal examinations and IRS Appeals on domestic and international tax issues. She also has represented several clients before the U.S. Tax Court. Erin was the co-author of the Practicing Law Institute's IRS Practice & Procedure Deskbook and has spoken frequently on IRS practice, procedure, controversy and litigation matters before many professional organizations.

Before joining TAS, she represented several clients pro bono to help them resolve tax issues with the IRS. You know she was also a volunteer and board member of a nonprofit organization Step Up, whose mission was to help girls in under resourced communities, to fulfill their potential by empowering them to become confident, college bound, career focused and make sure that they stay career focused and ready to join the next generation of professional women. I'm going to turn it over to Erin to begin the presentation. Erin? Erin Collins: Hey, thanks Veronica. So greetings from Washington DC. So today I'm planning on covering several items. And at the end, we'll go ahead and take some of your questions. So let's start with a high level overview of my office which is the Taxpayer Advocate Service. We're also going to cover our Annual Report to Congress, which we just released last Wednesday, January 12. So if you haven't read it, rush out and get it done. And then we're going to address some of the challenges taxpayers and practitioners have faced with the '21 Filing Season and look towards the 2022 Filing Season. So why don't we go ahead and start with an overview of TAS. So what is TAS or who is TAS. My position, which is the National Taxpayer Advocate and the group that I lead, which is Taxpayer Advocate Service were created by Congress over about 20 years ago to assist taxpayers. So Section 7803 of the code sets forth our mission and our responsibility. So over the years we've been referred to as the voice of taxpayer, the internal watchdog or the safety net for taxpayers. In essence, Congress created us to help taxpayers struggling with IRS issues. And although we're IRS employees we are an independent organization housed within the IRS to advocate for taxpayers. So as this slide indicates, we have four key mission statements provided by the code. We assist taxpayers with their individual problems with the IRS. We work with taxpayers in which issues what we call systemic issues impact multiple taxpayers across the board. We also have the ability to make administrative recommendations to mitigate problems directly with the IRS and we also have the honor of identifying potential legislative changes and make those proposals as part of our annual report to Congress. Veronica Tubman: Erin, how many employees are in TAS, and where are your offices located? Erin Collins: We have about 1,700 employees, we have an office in every one of the 50 states. So we have about 78 offices plus our headquarters here in DC. So let's talk a little bit about what TAS does. I think when most professionals, associates think about TAS, they think about our one on one assistance that we provide for individual taxpayers or what we call our case advocacy. Other individuals are familiar with or have read our Annual Report to Congress that we provide and that falls in our bucket we refer to as systemic advocacy. But not a lot of people also realize that we also administer and support 134 LITCs or Low Income Tax Clinics across the country and we also support the Federal Taxpayer Advocacy Panel. So throughout the year, what we do or what TAS focuses on is taxpayer service, taxpayer rights, and the impact of tax administration on taxpayers. In most cases, we're involved behind the scenes, from the outside looking in, I don't know people per se know what we do. But we work with our counterparts in the IRS, we try and identify problems, we discuss challenges and throughout the year we make recommendations. My ultimate goal is to find solutions, I just like to fix problems. So when I think of what TAS does is we identify and try and fix the issue. So not only do we want to be the voice of taxpayers, but I also want us to be the fixer. Veronica Tubman: Sounds good, Erin. Can you give us an example of something you've identified? Erin Collins: Sure. One of the examples, one example would be and I think a lot of folks may be aware of this. Last year around late March, taxpayers and practitioners started reaching out to our office regarding notices that were stemming from their tax return. A lot of people refer to it as a math error notice. So at that point, late spring, there were about 5 million notices that were sent out to taxpayers. And it's basically covered the reconciliation of the first two stimulus payments with the recovery rebate credit. The problem was of these 5 million notices, it did not include the standard language, including the taxpayer rights. The notices failed to inform taxpayers of their right to request the IRS, in essence, set aside the adjustments and provide the taxpayer the ability to establish what they were entitled to. So the amount of the stimulus on their return. So after we raised the issue internally, the IRS corrected the notices going forward. So that was a good start and they included the right portion.

But then they also agreed to re-issue those five million notices, providing the taxpayer that 60-day window and explaining to them that they have the ability to contest the IRS adjustments. So that missing language was key, because most taxpayers don't understand that their rights, that they could contact the IRS and contest the adjustments before the IRS assess or collect it. All right, I'm looking at the slide deck, I think Veronica, that brings us to the first polling question. So take it away. Veronica Tubman: Thanks a lot, Erin. Yes, it's time for our first polling question. So make sure you have your thinking caps on, which of these describes a Taxpayer Advocate Service is A, is an independent organization within the IRS or B, identifies potential administrators as legislative changes to mitigate problems or is it C, administer support and partners with Low Income Tax Clinics and we call those LITC and the Taxpayer Advocacy Panel or TAP or is it D, provides free service to eligible taxpayers, including individuals and nonprofit organizations or is it E, all of the above? So let's take a moment and click the radio button that best describes the question or the answer to the question. I'll give you a few more seconds to make your selection. Okay, we're going to stop the polling now. And let's share the correct answer on the next slide. So let's and the correct response is E, all of the above. So let's see how you did with this question. Let's take a look and see how things went. 96%, I see that it was 96% of you responded correctly. That is an exceptional response rate. So Erin, it looks like you're going to discuss the Taxpayer Bill of Rights next. Erin Collins: Thanks, yes codifying the Taxpayer Bill of Rights was something my predecessor Nina Olson and TAS worked on for some time.

And it's reflected on the screen that the 10 what we refer to as a TBOR, the Bill of Rights. And we continue to work with the IRS to ensure that not only taxpayers understand these rights, but just as important IRS employees understand them, and more importantly, what IRS employees need to do to protect those rights when working with the taxpayer. And when you think about it, that applies to all IRS employees, not only the employees that directly interact with taxpayers, such as what people typically think of as our customer service representative, revenue agents, or revenue officers. But it includes employees for example, writing guidance, or even putting content on our website. These 10 fundamental rights, it is important to both IRS and its employees to what we do each and every day. Veronica Tubman: Erin, so what exactly does case advocacy mean, can you help us out with that? Erin Collins: I will try. I suspect a percentage of folks who joined us today have probably worked with one of our case advocates in one of the local office. And as our name implies, we advocate, we champion issues on behalf of taxpayers. So we work with taxpayers one on one and we work with our IRS colleagues in an effort to fix an issue. As I said earlier, we have 78 offices across the United States. We also have an office in District of Colombia and we also have one in Puerto Rico. And when you think about our local offices, each office consists of we have case advocates, we have our technical resources. And of course, we have our local taxpayer advocate that runs the office. So their mission is to work directly with taxpayers. And we represent individual, small businesses, employers, corporations, partnership with state, in essence, we represent all taxpayers. Veronica Tubman: Erin, do you only work with taxpayers or can you assist their representatives to fix the problem? Erin Collins: Yes, it's interesting since I joined two years ago, I've heard that question a lot from the outside. I think there's some misconception out there that we only represent taxpayers. The key is does the taxpayer meet our criteria, and which we're going to discuss on the next slide. But if the taxpayer meets our criteria, we can assist the representative working with that particular taxpayer. And what we found is sometimes working with representatives can speed up the process. So when they provide our case advocates with the facts and the law, in essence, it saves our case advocates the time from developing the issue from the beginning. So for all the representatives out there listening in on the call, my recommendation work with the local taxpayer advocate, help them by providing as much of a complete picture as you can. That's going to help us and that's going to help us help you, help your clients more quickly. And so it eliminates some of the back and forth that occurs sometimes when taxpayers were working one-on-one with an individual taxpayer. Veronica Tubman: Okay, So Erin, I heard you say before, that TAS advocates it is not implement. Can you explain to me and to our audience what that is? Erin Collins: Sure. So I think taxpayers and practitioners, they normally don't focus on how we accomplish, sort of our mission or how we get something done.

Most, they're just happy when we get it fixed. But for the majority of our cases, when we work with the taxpayer, the representative to determine the problem, we gather the facts, review the law, the procedure. And then we have to work with the IRS to get the problem resolved. We don't have this delegated authority to implement the change. And I think people really haven't focused on that is that we truly need our counterparts within the IRS to complete or resolve the issue. So think about all the challenges that the pandemic has brought to both taxpayers, representative and even IRS employees, we're all struggling trying to get through or every day. And so when you think about TAS and our mission, and as you just indicated, advocate versus implement. In order for us simply it was a taxpayer, we need our IRS folks to make that change. So, in essence, we were created to be independent. And so again, our role is that of to advocate. So therefore, we don't have that delegated authority to make the correction. So this past year or two years has been extremely difficult for taxpayers, practitioners, and our employees as well. Because we need to reach across the aisle and have the IRS assist us. And with the challenges of shutting down some of the offices, or actually all of the offices when we first started the pandemic, having people work remotely, it's caused challenges with our TAS folks of getting access to the IRS and getting things done quickly. So as a result, our case advocates have been working a very high inventory.

Historically, I think our folks are carrying 80 to 120 open cases at one time. But these past two years, some of our case advocates have carried over 250 open cases. And that's just not sustainable. And unfortunately, we are not providing timely responses or service for our own taxpayers. Veronica Tubman: So how does that change, Erin? Erin Collins: That's the question I ask myself every day. We've been trying to work on solutions. Some of our options are not good.

Either we limit the cases that we take in, which is not a good solution for taxpayers. We increase the number of our case advocates in the local offices, which would be my number one choice. But currently, we need to have a consistent budget for year-to-year to do those additional hiring, which is a challenge. But some of the things we are doing is we're changing our training structure to get some of our new advocates on the line quicker or moving work around the organization. So it's kind of a all hands on deck to get these individual cases worked. Veronica Tubman: Okay, so Erin, so I guess that leads us to TAS's criteria to accept a case. What is it? Erin Collins: Yes, so as the slide indicates, we have a couple of criteria. And again, one of the reasons we refer to ourselves sort of as the safety net is, typically we come in after taxpayers are unable to resolve the issue with the IRS. So we're typically and shouldn't be the first step in the process. Rather, we're here to support the taxpayer, when things go wrong. So in other words, if a taxpayer is not able to resolve an issue with the IRS, then they can look at TAS. So when you look at the slide here, in essence, we kind of have two buckets. When taxpayers can't, experience economic harm, or when procedures are not working. So let's go to the next slide and talk about the two buckets economic burden and systemic burden. So if you look at the slide was this pretty much to summarizes our case acceptance criteria. And again, think about the past two years. All of us across the country have been dealing with pandemic. Individuals were out of work. We've all taxpayers practitioners, IRS employees have experienced the filing season delays, the challenges, collection notices were automatically issued before underlying, the underlying issue was addressed by the IRS. So in essence, 10s of millions of taxpayers probably fall in those two criteria buckets. And again, historically, we handle or handled about 160,000 cases per year. This past year, we had over 260,000 cases. So that's a 58% increase in the cases we accepted. And on top of that, the number of our case advocates over the years has declined. So unfortunately, we don't have the resources, we don't have enough employees to try and fix millions of taxpayers problems and current issues. And again, if you look at the criteria, the second bullet under systemic burden is significant delays of more than 30 days. And just think about what taxpayers and practitioners have dealt with over the past couple years. At the end of 2020, there were about 11 million returns that were not processed, and were carried over at the beginning of the 2021 filing season. And in fact, they were not resolved. So I believe until June of 2021. At the end of the filing season, last year, which was May 17 there were 35 million returns, still requiring manual processing. And then fast forward to the end of December, there were over 6 million, 1040s still waiting to be processed. There were over 2 million amended returns waiting to be processed, there are over 2 million, 941s to be processed and 400,000, 941x's to be processed. And throw on top of that another 3 million business returns waiting to be processed. So the IRS is in a hole right at the beginning of the filing season. So it's been a really tough time for taxpayers, as well as IRS employees. So when you think about the IRS, with all of its employees, have not been able to timely process these returns, my organization, TAS just does not have the capability of handling millions of taxpayer processing issues. So it puts me as the NTA in a difficult position.

Where do we spend our resources to do the most good. So we also have two other case criteria, the best interest of taxpayers and public policy, which gives the NTA the ability, it doesn't fit in the four in the two buckets on the previous slide. We can go ahead and add other issues to the criteria. And last year, we threw in the economic impact payments or the stimulus payments, and we threw I think we put it in under the best interest of the taxpayer. So occasionally, we'll apply that exception across the board for taxpayers. And I see we have the next polling question.

Veronica Tubman: Yes, Erin we do. It's time for our second polling question. Okay. Which of these statements is true regarding taxpayer eligibility for TAS help? is it A, an IRS procedure is working well, and the taxpayer would like to expand it or B, an IRS procedure isn't working, as it should, C, the IRS problem was resolved in less than 60 days and they are satisfied or D, the IRS tax problem was resolved after contacting an IRS manager and they are satisfied. So take a moment and click the radio button that best answers the question. I'll give you just a few more seconds to make your selection. Erin Collins: I know the answer. Veronica Tubman: Okay, well, that's all. We're going to stop the polling now. Thanks, Erin. Don't give it away. And let's share the correct answer on the next slide. But let's take a look. And the correct response is B, an IRS procedure isn't working as it should. So let's see how well you did with this question. Let's take a look. I see that 92% of you responded correctly. So that was a good job. Erin, it looks like you're going to continue with your discussion on case advocacy. Erin Collins: Thanks. So one other group that we have within TAS that I think some people are not familiar with is we call it CCI, Centralized Case Intake. And these are a group of our employees that handle, in essence, our toll free line. Their goal is to try and resolve the caller's problem upfront without having to open a case and send it to the local office. Unfortunately, they're not able to do that across the board. And if they cannot resolve the issue, they then gather the information, and then they send it to the local office where the taxpayer is located. Last year, we had over 64,000 taxpayers that CCI worked with. But again, we are challenged there as well. We have too many incoming calls for our folks to answer. So you know, it, I hate apologizing because it is what it is. But I know it's very tough for taxpayers, I know that we have not been as responsive, both on the phone, and giving updates to taxpayers as they would like and what we have historically done. So this is hard on our employees as well. So we do recognize our challenges and delays and do appreciate working with taxpayers, trying to get it done. So we included this slide just to provide some examples of what our case advocates have worked on in the past year or so. And as you can see, sort of the subject matter runs from processing errors which seems to be the number one thing currently to more complex issues such as penalty abatement, or correcting identity theft problem. So under normal time, some of our cases were easier or quick to fix. But today, even those that are not as complex, are taking substantially longer to close, because again, we're trying to get the IRS folks to work these cases for us, but they also have all hands on deck and are trying to get through the filing season. So our folks are working hard to move these cases towards resolution.

But I really do appreciate the patience and understanding when you guys are working with our case advocates. They're trying their best. Okay, so let's change gears. And let's talk about our systemic advocacy group. So unlike our case advocates, who work one-on-one with taxpayers. Our systemic advocacy folks work on issues that impact multiple taxpayers. So although our team is located across the country and various offices, it's more of a headquarters function, versus our case advocates that have the direct contact with taxpayers or representative. So our systemic folks, they work with the IRS throughout the year, we try and be proactive on the front end. So we provide our thoughts and advice. Before for example, the IRS issues guidance, or before a notice goes out the door, or before the IRS is redrafting a form letter, we try and put in our two cents. IRS may not always agree with our recommendation. But we continue to provide our views all year long in the hopes of continuing to improve taxpayer service and protecting taxpayer rights. And our systemic advocacy folks, they also work with outside representative, taxpayers, and even our case advocates and trying to spot trends. So where there may be a say an administrative error, what fix needs to be made systemically? So let me give you a couple examples. So last year, there were several overlapping natural disasters, in which if you recall, the IRS provided taxpayers relief for the filing date, which was very much appreciated. But we started to see a trend with late filing penalties for those disaster areas. And our systemic advocacy folks were able to recognize that there was a glitch in IT programming. So our folks identified it, worked with IRS and they were able to reprogram the system, stop the penalties from being asserted and work to resolve those that were previously assessed penalties. So that that was a good task by our folks. Another example, which you may think is minor, but impacted a lot of folks is after Congress changed the partnership administrative procedures. The IRS Form 2848, which is the power of attorney form. It didn't include the designation of a partnership representative, which was a new term that was created by Congress in the centralized partnership audit regime. So we were able to raise the issue and the IRS updated the 2848, which again was a help for a lot of taxpayers. And then there another example, I think a number of folks are familiar with, is we worked on an issue that impacted taxpayers who timely filed their petition in the United States Tax Court. So as you may be aware, once a petition is timely filed with the court, the IRS is prohibited from assessing and initiating collection actions for a proposed tax due. With the IRS backlog and challenges, the Tax Court was inundated with petitions. And as a result, they fell behind in serving the IRS notice.

So in other words, what happened was, without the IRS receiving the notice that the petition was filed, IRS computers just started sending out collection notices. So we raised the issue, we worked with IRS folks, we worked with the Tax Court, members of the ABA were involved as well as some of our LITC clinicians. And as a result of discussions, what the Tax Court did was they created sort of an interim procedure. And they provided the IRS notice, so that they could program a system to prevent these premature assessments and stop the issuance of the collection notices. So that was very impactful for a lot of people who are all of a sudden dealing with collection issues unnecessarily. So this slide here talks a little bit about where we get our information, we being the systemic advocacy group. We get it from our case advocates, no surprise, we also get a lot of recommendations and reach out from IRS employees for assistance. And then one of the things that I asked you all, because I would throw you in the public bullet, is really think about, what you could do to help us as well. And I think when you look at what the systemic advocacy group, the phrase, it takes a village. It's very appropriate here. So Veronica, I see our third polling question, and I'm going to tell the audience, this is a tough one. Veronica Tubman: Okay. Yes, it's time Erin, for our third polling question. So everybody, let's put our listening cast on and think. Which of these issues were worked by TAS? Was it A, refund issues. B, injured spouse claim. C, tax treaties. D, original and amended tax processing E, all of the above, or F, none of the above. So let's take a minute and click the radio button that best answers the question. I'll give you a few more seconds to make your selection. Okay. We're going to stop the polling now.

And let's share the correct answer on the next slide. So let's take a look. And the correct answer is E. All of the above. So let's see how well you all did with this question. I see that 82% of you responded correctly. Well, Erin. Erin Collins: I'm going to put a caveat on correctly, because again, this is sort of a trick unintentional trick question. Veronica Tubman: Okay. Erin Collins: With all the challenges the IRS is facing, TAS unfortunately, we've limited which original returns we accept. And we also put a pause on amended return. So two months ago, all of the above would have been the correct answer. Today, we're still trying to figure out what do we do and working with the IRS and some of those original and amended return, so stay tuned. But again, as I said this, when it was originally written out the question, it was correct, but today, not so much. Veronica Tubman: Okay, Erin, thanks so much for the clarity, we really appreciate that. And let's move on, we're going to continue with systemic advocacy, systemic work and issues.

Erin, you're up. Erin Collins: Okay, thank you. So again, the slide just talks about some of the categories that our systemic advocacy folks work with or on I should say and probably the one that's maybe near and dear to my heart, because we just finished is the Annual Report to Congress.

That is a big project that our folks work on throughout the year. So let's talk about some of the examples of what our systemic folks work on. So, these past two years, we spent, not a big surprise, a fair amount of time on issues associated with the pandemic. So ranging from stimulus payments, all the way to processing issues. I think everyone is tired of hearing that term. But it has been a big challenge for taxpayers, practitioners, IRS, and our TAS folks. So the next slide we're going to go to is my what I call my 32nd Commercial for our SAM system, which is a Systemic Advocacy Management system. So I have asked of all you who are calling in for this WebEx is I need your help. I would like to request all of you that when you learn or see a problem, that doesn't seem right and you believe it impacts multiple taxpayers. My request, consider going to our website and the link is on the slide there and let us know what you're seeing. We don't want it is the caveat, we don't want individual issues, we want to have a systemic issue. Like for example, the one I mentioned earlier, that a number of your clients in the disaster area are all getting erroneously hit with a failure to file return. That's a perfect one that could be elevated through our SAM system. So I again, I do challenge you, you are very important sometimes to get our job done. So we look to you to hear what's going on, you're sort of the ears and the eyes of what we need to know. I can't believe Veronica, we're now on another polling question. So let's go to the next one. You got a lot of polling questions here by the way. Veronica Tubman: Yes, we do because we're just making sure that everybody's getting this really good information.

Okay, everybody. So yes, it's time like Erin says for our fourth polling question. Which one of these can involve a systemic issue worked by TAS, is it A, processing errors, B installment agreement, C, identity theft, D, collection, E, none of the above or F, all of the above. So let's think about what Erin just talked to us about and take a moment and click the radio buttons that best answers the question. So I'll give you a few more seconds to make your selection. Okay, we're going to stop the polling and let's share the correct answer on the next slide. So let's take a look and the correct response is F, all of the above. So let's see how well you all did with this question. I see that we have 82% of you responded correctly. So maybe we need a little clarification. Erin, can you provide a little more detail? Erin Collins: Yes, why did only 82% get this right. So again, it's all of the above. So it's kind of obvious. So our systemic folks really work any issue that is raised, but again, it's systemic, not individual taxpayer. So we don't want you coming in and saying, hey, I represent this client, Bob, and he's had this problem.

What we really are looking for are areas that you think it impacts many Bobs across the country so that, again, we could try and find out what the challenge is. So anyway, hopefully, the next polling question we can do better than 82%. Veronica Tubman: Okay, Erin, we appreciate you. It looks like you're going to discuss TAS reports next. Erin Collins: Yes, so at the beginning of the presentation I mentioned TAS' mission is set forth in the Internal Revenue Code Sections 7803(c) and as the NTA, I have the honor of filing two reports to Congress. So the first one is what we refer to as the objectives report, that is due at the end of June, and it sets forth TAS' goals for the upcoming fiscal year. So in essence, it provides an overview of where TAS is going based on our current year and our expectations for the upcoming year. Whereas our Annual Report to Congress, that's due at the end of the year, and I think more people are familiar with the Annual Report to Congress. So we provide Congress and the public and the IRS, our analysis of what the code requires, the 10 most serious problems facing taxpayers, taxpayer service, taxpayer rights, and we have the ability to provide recommendations in an effort to reduce the burden or correct the problem. So let's kind of break down the 2021 Annual Report to Congress. I think when those are folks that are familiar with the report, I think everyone looks to the 10 most serious problems. But I'm not sure everyone also realizes some of the other pieces that we include in the report. For example, the statute requires us to talk about the 10 most litigated issues. And so this year, when we were trying to make that determination, we took what I call a hybrid approach.

So similar to previous years, we review issued opinions in both, or I should say all three, the Tax Court, the U.S. District Court and the Court of Appeals during the fiscal year. But what we did this year is we also looked at the what I call the front end of litigation, and that's the time folks file their petition. So rather than just look at the back end of those cases that actually went forward to a trial and opinion was issued, we also looked at the front end, what were the issues that taxpayers filed a petition for in the tax court during the fiscal year. So it was interesting, it generated a lot of consistent answers, and also some differences. So when you look at the data, and you go back a number of years, the winners, I guess, if you can call it that the most litigated issues are typically gross income, which is your Section 61, trade or business expenses, which is your Section 162. CDP cases, you usually hit the top 10 and then delinquency penalties are usually on the list year-after-year. But when we look at the petitions, we got some different answers. So coming in at number six was the issue of which is kind of surprising, W-2s and 1099 withholding. So IRS and taxpayers have differences with respect to the 1099 and W-2s. And then also for the first time, the standard deduction, made it to the top 10 and we also on the top 10 was the American Opportunity Credit, which came in number nine on the list. And then also on the report, what we looked at is what we kind of call the family status issues. So that includes things like filing status. So for example, single, married, head of household. And then we also discussed the earned income tax credit, the child tax credit, and then also a lot of dependent issues. So we broke down the data with respect to what goes into the family status bucket. So it's common if you're kind of a litigation or tax nerd. It's an interesting read to look at some of the statistics in there. So again, if you're looking for something to do some night, you might consider flipping through the report on the most litigated issues. And then about five years ago, TAS created a separate volume for the annual report that has our legislative recommendations. I think the folks on the Hill were saying it'd be easy if it was all in one place. So we created what we call the Purple book. And this year we made 68 legislative recommendations to Congress with the effort of improving taxpayer rights or tax administration. And then also this year in the report, we have what's called TAS' advocacy successes. And since the report always focuses on the negative, that's what the statute requires us to do, I thought it would be nice to give a small glimpse of the work our employees do throughout the year, which have a positive result. So we were using it to have a small glimpse into an ability to sort of acknowledge and celebrate the positive results to see some of the changes that were made throughout the year. So we have a small smattering of some of our successes in there. And then this year, we have a new section that we call At a glance. It takes the 10 most serious problems. And then what we did was we tied it to a recent taxpayer survey done by the IRS as to what taxpayers want and why it's important. So in essence, we try to take the entire 200 page report and simplify it in four or five pages. And it was sort of we call it an invitation to start a dialogue on how we can improve tax administration for all taxpayers. Veronica Tubman: So I had a question, I apologize. It's really interesting, but can you explain how you select the problem to be the most serious problem included in your report? Erin Collins: Yes, as I said, I joined two years ago, and I asked that question as well, how am I supposed to do this? So I think about it, if you all were sitting in my chair, if you guys got to play NTA for the day or one of the team members that were involved in these conversations, how do you select the most serious problems? I mean, think about it. What do you do, so I think since the pandemic, it's kind of an obvious what the problems are, the challenges the pandemic brought is they're huge. They're huge problems. So, but what we typically do is look at a number of types of criteria, we look at issues that impact taxpayer rights, we look at how many taxpayers are impacted by a particular problem? Is there a financial impact to the taxpayer?

How does it impact taxpayer service? Are there barriers to compliance? And then on top of that, we look at our inventory as well as the SAM submission. So in essence, we look at kind of all of the above plus emerging issues. So what I did I learned starting this position is and my guys, I'm sure they like me to start even earlier. But the process usually starts late spring, early summer.

And it is a team effort, not only within TAS but also with our IRS colleagues, because we depend on them to help us gather and verify the facts, before we put pen to paper, and then even after we finish our draft and write up, we go back to the IRS and verify those facts again, because the last thing we want to be doing is making a recommendation to Congress, or the IRS that doesn't have the correct facts. So when you look at the top 10 issues in 2021, I see them and we have four of them on this particular slide. I see them as being intertwined. And when you think about it, they sort of feed off of each other. And I believe if we were to fix one or two of these problems, it would also improve the others. So let me give an example. If you look at the first most serious problem, and I don't think anyone would probably disagree, that the processing and refunds this year were extremely painful. There were more problems, then the IRS has dealt with historically, we had high level of challenges. So when you think about it, you have the more delays in processing the work, not a surprise taxpayers reached for the phone. And so when you look at the phones, this past year, the IRS had three times more calls and three times doesn't sound a whole like a really big number. But historically, they have about 100 million calls a year. This past year, they had 282 million incoming calls. So think about that, 282 million for 15,000 customer service representative. So you guys do the math. It is not humanly possible to answer the amount of calls that came in this past year. So the challenges, the more you have problems with the processing, the more people pick up the phone. And during the busy times, the percentage of taxpayers that were able to speak with a customer service representative, it was in the single digits. And that's just unacceptable. And for the year, the average of I think, when you put all of their phone lines together was 11%. So 89% of the people calling, didn't get through to speak to a customer service representative. So I think no one disagrees that that number is not acceptable. So another thing when you look at sort of having these issues intertwined is in my opinion, the IRS provided more information on the filing season, and we've recommended for the upcoming filing season, they do what we refer to as a dashboard. So they can give the public information of where they are in the process. If they did that, or they provided more details and more information on the taxpayers online account, maybe taxpayers could self serve, maybe the phone numbers wouldn't or the phone lines wouldn't be overrun. So I think the lack of the IRS not being proactive and transparent with respect to providing details on the filing season and not being able to access certain information on their online account again drove the taxpayers to the phones. And then also, one of the other issues that created problems are, I think this was covered on the next slide. But the folks want to file electronically but were not able to. So several IRS forms that are required to be attached to a tax return, they're not able to be done electronically, which then requires the taxpayer to file a paper return, that's not good. The past two years, paper has not been the IRS's friend. So because taxpayers couldn't file electronically, it required manual processing, which increased the processing and delay time which drove people to the phone. So on this slide, we talked about the filing season delay online account and digital communication. So again, we broke down in the report some of the challenges that taxpayers were facing on the filing season delays, and unfortunately, there were many to discuss. And that was a real challenge. Online account, that's one of my, I don't know if it's a pet peeve or an opportunity for the IRS because I do think that if we were able to provide taxpayers and practitioners specifically more information that they could access on behalf of their taxpayers or clients, they would be overjoyed, just a self help, rather than having to call the IRS. So I do think having a more robust online account would be very important to helping fix these problems on a go-forward basis. The other thing that I get a lot of comments from practitioners and folks on the outside is why can't I just email the IRS? Why can't I just digitally communicate with the IRS. So that is something that again, we very much want the IRS to provide that ability to taxpayers. And one of the things I always look towards is the more people we can drive to the Internet or online accounts, frees up employees or customer service representatives to help the taxpayers that truly need it to help taxpayers who don't have the ability to self help, don't have access to the Internet, or are not sophisticated in tax. I mean, tax is very complicated. So some folks just need to talk to a human. So I think the more digital communication we can do, the more we can free up those customer service representatives to help those individuals that need it. And then the next slide has the last three most serious problems, the e-filing barriers, correspondence audits, and collections. And those also are very challenging for taxpayer. So again on the E-filing barriers, there's a list and we included in the report of forms that if they're attached to your return, you have to file by paper. And again, that's not a good answer. And so the IRS really needs to get back into the 20th century and get those forms to be able to be attached. One of the challenges I hear a lot are PDF attachments, there appears to be some software, you can attach it, others you can't. But I would like to have that across the board that any taxpayer could attach a PDF document to the return and still be able to be get it through. So you know, that's it. That's a key issue, correspondence audit. That's extremely frustrating. And anyone who does correspondence audits, please go read that section of the report. Some of the statistics are very disturbing. We tried to focus on those individuals who had AGI of 50,000 or below. This is really tough for me as an IRS employee and as a former practitioner, to see the high default rates between those who don't respond, or those who just sort of disengage, it's close to 50%. So what are we as the IRS doing wrong? Or what do we need to do to educate taxpayers because what's happening is that they don't respond. Not a big surprise. The IRS is disallowing X, whatever it is, issuing a 30-day letter, and then issuing a statutory notice of deficiency. So if we can get taxpayers to come in earlier, and we can educate taxpayers of what they should be doing. I think that would be a huge benefit. And again, I think that's something that I look to all of you to help us do on behalf of taxpayers. And then again, we cover collections, and we have different things that we discussed that impact low income taxpayers. So again, that's our top 10. Unfortunately, good or bad, a lot of them impacts the processing and filing. Which I would guess if I would ask, most of you, you would be shocked if those weren't on the top 10 of our list. I'm looking at the slides and golly gee. Veronica we have another polling question.

Veronica Tubman: Yes, we do, Erin. Thanks again. And thanks for the good information you can give it to. I'm learning a lot as well. Okay. Yes, we have our fifth polling question. Which internal revenue code IRC section requires a national TAS advocate to submit two annual reports to Congress? So let's take a look. Is it A, IRC 6302(h)(1)(A), or is it B, IRC 7803(c)(2)(B), or is it C, IRC 7206(1). And lastly, which is D, is at IRC 6664(d)(4)(B)(ii).

Take a moment and click the radio button that best describes the answer that answers the question. And I'll give you just a few more seconds to make your selection. Erin Collins: Where's the music Veronica? And come on? We should have music going into doing this?

Veronica Tubman: There we go. Erin Collins: Okay, got it. Veronica Tubman: Way to go. We're going to stop the polling question now. And let's share the correct answer on the next slide. So let's take a look. See how everybody's doing here. And the correct response is B, IRC 7803(c)(2)(B).

So let's see how well everybody did on this particular question. Well, I see that 90% of you responded correctly. So Erin, you were right. Our response rate is getting better.

We appreciate that. Erin Collins: Well, some people are tax nerds. And I happen to know that 66, 64 is a reasonable cause and 7602. You don't want to go there. That's fraud and false return and 6300 sections are collection. So by process of elimination, they could get to the answer, even if they didn't listen. Veronica Tubman: There we go. Erin Collins: Yes, that's a good thing, isn't it? Veronica Tubman: Okay. Well, let's see Erin. It looks like you're going to continue with your discussion on systemic advocacy. So we're waiting. Let's go. Erin Collins: Yes, actually, I think I'm talking about filing season, but I'm not sure what slide you're looking at.

Veronica Tubman: Yes, you are. I do apologize for that, Erin. Erin Collins: Don't worry about it. So anyway, this slide is to me extremely depressing. It shows the numbers. And again, good news, bad news, these numbers change weekly. And they've gone up, they've gone down. So this was mid November. And again, currently, there a little bit different. But the point of this is, at year end, before the start of the filing season, which is next Monday. IRS is a hole IRS still has a huge percentage of inventory. I mean, when you think about what IRS does each filing season, it's actually pretty amazing. They have give or take 200 million returns that they process and go through the system. And probably 80 plus, don't even know there's a problem, if they filed electronically. But those who have the problem, it's incredibly painful. So typically, from one year to the next, the IRS carries over about a million returns that still need to have some sort of processing or resolution done. Somebody can quickly do the math, that's a lot bigger than a million. And that is a real problem. So I have concerns with the amount of these unprocessed returns. And then also, if you look at the bottom piece, that's correspondence. So for example, you have a penalty abatement request, or IRS has made a math error adjustment, and you've responded, that's in that bucket here. So that's carrying over into this filing season. So not only have taxpayers not received their refunds or have correspondence addressed, they may now be getting collection notices, where they don't think they owe the tax or the challenges, they may have a problem filing electronically next year, because the IRS didn't process the 2020 return. So just a quick tip that the IRS does have online that they did last year, if you're unable to process or get your electronic return filed. And you know that the IRS did not process last year, they don't have your AGI and if you recall, when you're doing, entering in the information to electronically file, you need that AGI number to match IRS system. So if you don't have that, you enter zero, and then the IRS will process your electronic file return. So everyone keep that in the back of your head because that is a fix that is what the IRS tried to do with their systems to allow those who are in limbo to be able to file their returns electronically. So I guess, if I were to give advice, what I would tell folks, I guess not if I do when I do give people advice. I would say please make every effort possible to file electronically. Provide your bank routing number or your information and request the direct deposit. And the most important thing currently, please triple check your numbers. Any inconsistency with your W-2, your 1099 may trigger manual processing. Any inconsistencies with the third stimulus checks that you report on your 2021 as part of the recovery rebate credit, that's going to require manual processing. Any inconsistencies with the monthly child tax credit payments guess what that's going to require manual processing.

So last year, the manual process was a key factor in the delay of 10s of millions of returns. 35 million at the end of the filing season were still waiting to be processed. And I think Veronica, you had mentioned at the I guess the beginning of this before we started you had made reference to the two IRS letters that are coming out and I hate I'm not a numbers person but Letter 6419 which is it should show the total of the monthly child tax credits. And then also the letter 6475, which will include the total that you receive for EIP. The third EIP, and when I think a lot, and make sure that when you're, if you're preparing someone's return or you're preparing your own, most people receive one payment. However, if the IRS used your 2019 income to determine the amount of the stimulus payments. After your 2020 return, if there was, it should have been larger, the IRS would have issued a subsequent one. So some tax payers may actually have received two payments for that third stimulus. So again, it's important to verify that information. And then one other thing that I think people are not focusing on, if you have a joint return, each spouse is going to get their own letter. So they each need to include the amount. So I think some taxpayers are confused or not reading the letter all the way down. Husband gets one for $1,200. Wife gets one for $1,200. And they think we should put $1,200 on the return. But in fact, you need to add the two to do math really quick. $2,400 should be the number that you include over to your return. So taxpayers I think may get confused with that, if they're not focusing on the fine print, so to speak. I'm hoping that all these folks take those letters to the returns preparers. But words to the wise what you might want to do is, if the taxpayer is there, have them check their online account. So anyone who created a I think they called it the child tax credit portal, if they have an account there, they can also access their online account. And what the IRS has done, and I think it officially goes live at the end of next week, it will have the stimulus payment included and it will have the total of the child tax credit. So you can also go there, that will have the most up-to-date information. So if you're working with taxpayers, you might want to have them go to their online account that can even do it through their phone, and make sure that the number you have is consistent with what you're putting on the actual return. So I guess my advice, file electronically, use direct deposits, and triple check for errors. So by doing that, that'll kind of speed up the processing. And not only is it going to reduce the problem for your taxpayer.

Hopefully, it reduces the problem for all taxpayers, because if we can keep that number of manual reviews to a low number, that is really going to be beneficial for all taxpayers across the country. So you know, again, if you don't have an error, and you file electronically, typically the refund is paid under 21 days. But if you have to file a paper return, what I would recommend, please make a copy, file it early. Please have proof of mailing. So either go to the post office and invest that $4 or $5 it's going to cost to send it certified or registered whatever, or use a private delivery company and keep the information. But know that if you're entitled to a refund on a paper return, you're going to have a delay. So I think the mantra that TAS as well as the IRS have been sort of espousing recently is file electronically, provide your bank routing information, and triple check numbers on the return for errors. So one of the other honors I have as the NTA and for TAS is we have the ability, or I should say it's entrusted upon us to administer the Low Income Tax Clinic Program. Through the program, we provide grants to 135 clinics across the country. And these clinics, I mean, they are a lifeline to many taxpayers, as the name implies low income you have there's a dollar limitation and we tend to try and focus on either low income or those who speak English as a second language. So again, they are so important with respect to tax administration, they help individuals with problems similar to TAS with representation before the IRS. So they actually can go in and argue merits of the examination, they can represent taxpayers in appeals, collection. And they represent taxpayers in Tax Court, and other courts as well. So they will get involved in litigation, they do an amazing job. And by the way, if any of you are looking to do some pro bono work, please consider reaching out to one of our clinics, they depend on volunteers in order to assist taxpayer. So if you look at the slide, if you go to the last piece there, that'll take you to the location of where the clinics are. So again, my recommendation is, if you all are trying to do good work, it is a great way to spend your time. So right now we have more than two thirds of the volunteers, there are attorneys, certified public accountants, enrolled agents. So again, my plug, please consider being one of those volunteers. So that takes us to TAP. And I think a lot of people are like, what is TAP? So TAP is a guess I explained it as an advisory committee. It was established under the story of treasury. We have 75 amazing volunteers. And they are truly I guess, I could say, dedicated to helping the IRS identify ways to improve customer service and satisfaction. So their mission. And again, there's their website, you can go in and provide information also, by the way, they also gather information of problems and other challenges. So feel free to share with them as well. But since their creation, TAS has provided more than 2,000 recommendations to the IRS, and the National Taxpayer Advocate. And as I said, they're a great group of people, they generally spend two to 300 hours per year, which is that is a big commitment on behalf of tax administration. So, again, really appreciate everything that they do. So I guess I'm looking at the slides, I think Veronica time for me to Stop yapping. I'm going to guess we probably have more questions in the queue than we can ever answer. But I guess we can pick it off and give it a try. Veronica Tubman: Thanks, Erin. And yes, we appreciate your yapping. There are plenty of questions. So I just like to say hello, again. It's me Veronica Tubman, and I'll be moderating the Q&A session. So before we start, I want to thank everyone for attending today's presentation. Updates from a National Taxpayer Advocate, Erin Collins. Earlier I mentioned we want to know what questions you have for our presenter. And here is your opportunity. If you haven't input your questions, there're still time, just click on the drop down arrow next to the ask question field and just type in your question and then just click then. Erin is staying on with us. And we'll be answering your question. And one thing before we start. As she said, we may not have time to answer all the questions submitted, however, let me assure you, we will answer as many questions as time allows.

So let's get started so we can get to as many questions as possible. So let's take a look. Our first question is when its addressing an issue to a local taxpayer advocate office through the mail. How long should I expect to wait for return correspondence, Erin? Erin Collins: Well, that's great. Let's start off with one of the more difficult questions. Yes, historically, it would be within the week. The challenge we're having right now due to the high inventory are folks and to be perfectly blunt, and I really hate saying this. But there are offices that I would say are 30, 45, 60 days behind getting back to taxpayers, which again, I think we all recognize is not acceptable, but they are doing their best. And again, I do appreciate everyone not taking it out on the case advocates, because it's not their fault, but really working with us because we're all trying to get the same result. How do we fix the problem for the taxpayer. It's just not going to be as fast as we would all like. And by the way before we switch to the next question, plug for TAS. Similar to the IRS, we will be hiring. So anyone who would like to share this experience with us, because I'm just so much fun to work with. So you really want to come work with TAS. We will be hiring. So keep an eye out on the USA jobs. And again, IRS is hiring as well. So there's my plug before we go the next question. Veronica Tubman: Okay, thanks, Erin. So here's our next question.

And I know a lot of people have been wondering, kind of second amendeded return be filed electronically after an initial amended return has been filed. Erin Collins: Okay, so someone sent me a really hard question. I don't know the answer to that. I do know that you can file a superseded return electronically. And I do know you can file the first Amended return electronically, but I apologize. I don't know the answer to that. Veronica Tubman: Okay, we appreciate that. Let's take a look. We got a lot of really good questions. So does TAS assist foreign individuals that have problems with the IRS? Erin Collins: Yes, as we say, we represent all taxpayers. So as long as you meet the criteria of either the economic or systemic burden, we would work with you on the issue. Veronica Tubman: Okay, sounds good. Okay, so here we have this maybe a two parter. Can the service center stop sending notices on taxpayers that have filed either an amended paper return and or reply instead of continuing to send notices for the same issue with different balances due to interest and penalties that just totally confused the taxpayer it confuses the IRS and the taxpayer. So do you have any advice for that? Erin Collins: Read our report. Yes, I share the frustration. I think that is a huge challenge with the IRS. There is a ground swell that we've been pushing this for some time that the IRS needs to figure out how to deal with this because if the taxpayer has sent in a request for IRS to do X, and they continue sending the collection notices, that's a real problem. So we've proposed to have the IRS stop sending out all automated notices, and I think they're struggling with that recommendation. And then our other recommendation would be, then that particular taxpayer should be able to call the IRS and get for example, a six-month extension, just stop those notices for the next six months, to give the IRS opportunity to fix whatever the issue is and to stop the challenges for the taxpayer of getting those notices. I mean, by the time he gets a second, third collection notices, they're not pretty. And if you get the one that says okay, your CDP rights, you have no option but to move forward. Otherwise, you're going to forfeit your rights. So it's a real problem for taxpayers. Veronica Tubman: Okay, so that's good to know, talk in some of those notices will allow more time for processing to, thanks, Erin. What about the U.S. territories, such as the U.S. Virgin Islands, who is their TAS representative for those areas, Erin? Erin Collins: I'm trying to think of it, we do have I don't know at top my head. But if you go to our website, which is, we have a section of who to contact. And I believe it's kind of like a map of the United States and then has it all broken down. And it will show the local taxpayer advocates, name, address, telephone number, and I believe it also has the Fax number. Veronica Tubman: Very good. And as we said, make sure that you save the Taxpayer Advocate site as one of your favorites, so you'll have that opportunity to have quick access. Erin Collins: Yes and that falls under what we call our area three, we have a different area. So Star Smith is the Executive in charge of Area 3. But again, if they go online, they should be able to find that information. Veronica Tubman: Very good. Okay. Thanks again, for good reference. Okay, is there any way we can email the local taxpayer advocate, can we just send an email? Erin Collins: That also is a good question. So one of the issues that I'm pushing with the IRS is to use digital communication. So there are restrictions, we do have concerns with respect to protecting taxpayer information. And so when we use email, we may have to encrypt it and other things. So if you reach out to the local office, you can discuss that with the local LTA and see if you can arrange to either use email or use a Fax number because again, our phone lines as well as our Fax and as well as email are inundated, trying to take care of taxpayers. Veronica Tubman: So Erin, our next question kind of goes on something you said a little earlier, where can I apply to be a TAS employee? What's that resource? Erin Collins: All right, I've only been in the government two years, guys, and I haven't figured out the bureaucracy, but I believe it's USA jobs is the website that lists all of the IRS job. So we would be included in that section and yes, thank you. We consider coming to work for us. We need good people. Veronica Tubman: Erin said, come on and get on board. We need you. Okay, here's our next question. Can TAS assist with tax matters outside of income tax, such as excise taxes? Erin Collins: Yes, as long as it is in the Internal Revenue Code, we can assist. Veronica Tubman: All right, so here we have another good question. I have several clients who have received the, we need another 60 day letter. Are these people eligible for TAS assistance and one has received this letter at least four times. Erin Collins: Yes, I'm very sorry to hear that because that's just not acceptable. The challenges as I'm sure you're experiencing is getting the IRS to be proactive on that trying to get that done.

So it's a challenge. I wish I could help you figure out a better way to do it, you can technically you do qualify if again, you have a systemic problem. IRS is not responding when they say they're going to respond. That might be something you can go to work the local office and talk to them about. Veronica Tubman: Okay, thanks a lot, Erin. So here, we have this is kind of a series of questions. So here we go. On Slide 15, the data, on Slide 15, the data shows 5.9 million individual tax returns, and 2.4 million business tax returns were still in line to be processed.

What causes this backup to occur, manual returns processing errors, new tax law, et cetera. Were the number of amended tax returns and 941Xs above average 402 amended Form 941 sounds kind of high, is this normal to the best of your knowledge? Erin Collins: Okay, that's like a three, four parter. So see if I can even remember. Yes, the challenge in my opinion, with respect to the problem, the last filing season was multiple reasons. The pandemic itself caused problems for IRS employees. We're trying to be very cautious in our campuses. And that's where they process the return. We've had outbreaks, we've had to shut down we've had to close sections where people were not able to work, we try social distance, which limits how many people can be in one place. If you've ever been to a campus, I mean, it's the size of a football field, and you have a lot of people packed in there. And so under the pandemic, we've been trying to space people out, limit how many people are in the building, so that affects our timeliness and efficiency. So that is one challenge. The other challenge we have is Congress, and on one hand, it was great for taxpayers.

They provided late legislation. At the end of December of last year, we had the second stimulus payments. We also had various elections that take taxpayers could elect, for example on EITC, you could look back to your 2019 return if it was less to get more of a credit. Again, that was very helpful for taxpayers. But the IRS had not entered that into their system. So that required manual reviews. We had over 11 million taxpayers put a number on their recovery rebates that was inconsistent with IRS records. That required manual review, so and then the unemployment compensation again, very favourable to taxpayers, Congress excluded the 10,200 of income but the problem was they did it early March, I think it was March 11. Half of the returns were already filed, and so that created a challenge for the IRS to make the correction and in the meantime I think a lot of taxpayers filed amended returns so that increased the amended return. So I think it is kind of you add all those of things up and it equaled very unpleasant 2021 filing season. I think a lot of the 941 were the benefits, again, that Congress provided taxpayers on the employment side, and so taxpayers were filing or filing amended returns to avail themselves of the benefit that Congress allowed. So when you add all those things up again, it was a painful year. I don't know if I hit all parts. Veronica Tubman: You hit every last one of them. And thanks again. Okay.

Erin Collins: And by the way, I got, was a call a friend, I got a friend of mine, one of my employees, basically said, hey, silly woman, if you don't know the answer to how they can get a job at TAS, help people, So come on in. Veronica Tubman: That was great. That's a good resource. Way to go, so now that you have it, we'll have more all hands on deck. So make online account available for U.S. citizens outside the U.S. would be very helpful as those taxpayers many times don't get letters and notices. Is that in the work that you know? Erin Collins: It's in my request, yes I think international taxpayers really struggled because they've closed a lot across the globe, I can't believe I'm saying this across the globe.

They've closed out a lot of their offices that they had through embassy and other things. So it's difficult to get to the IRS in a foreign country, mail is an issue, especially now in light of the pandemic. So by the time the notice gets out and gets to a taxpayer, they may already be out of time. So I am pushing hard for all including international taxpayers who have that ability to access their online accounts. I mean, sometimes I think they even need it more, because of the challenges that they're facing. And we want them to be compliant. So we should be helping them.

Veronica Tubman: Okay, got it. So kind of on the same line, many of my clients this is from a preparer are complaining of how invasive the IRS online sign-up is, and are refusing to use it. So do you have any advice for that? Erin Collins: Yes, I am one that was online challenge as well. And I had struggled. So I do understand, I didn't think it was invasive, I just had problems. They did change their systems in November, they switch to something that they refer to as SADI which I think is something like Secure Access Digital something or another. And they are using an outside vendor What I've heard good news of that is once you get an account, and I understand the struggle to get an account, but you can also use that log in and other government agencies such as Social Security. So we are trying to work with other Federal agencies to make it easy for taxpayers. But they still there are well above a 50% success rate. I think under the last system, they were well below it. Here, I think they're closer to a 70% to 80% chance of success rate. So more taxpayers you're getting through. But again back to your grade school days, 70% is like a C or C minus. So that's not exactly a good grade. Veronica Tubman: Got it. So here we have another good one. Taxpayers have been waiting, waiting for many months for refunds, will interest be paid for their delayed refund? Erin Collins: It should be, the statute requires that the IRS doesn't pay, I forget the actual number. So sorry, I don't know limit 45 days or something that they should be receiving interest. So you're going to get small amount of interest. Veronica Tubman: Little bit of interest, okay. Does the Taxpayer Advocate deals with state issues as well?

Erin Collins: Not really, the only thing that we might be able to do is if it's a Federal issue that the state is looking at, we might be able to help you relay information to the states but we only focus on IRS issues. Veronica Tubman: Got it. Okay. And does the TAS work with VITA and TCE sites? If so, could you briefly describe how? Erin Collins: Yeah, our case advocates one of their goals or missions that they have is part of outreach. So they spend or should be spending a fair amount of time in local community events upcoming for those who are interested, I believe next Thursday is the EITC Awareness Day. TAS if you go to our website, we also have our filing season dates where we provide information of kind of the do's and don'ts on some of the changes of law that you should be aware of. And we do work with VITA our clinics. So we tried very hard to get out in the community. And I always welcome, if you all have events locally, feel free to reach out to your local taxpayer advocate, because it might be something that we can assist you with.

Veronica Tubman: Sounds good. Okay. Here we have another question. If a client started with the Taxpayer Advocate and stops, and they've closed the case. Can the case be reopened when the taxpayer is ready again? Erin Collins: There's a lot of facts unknown on that. But generally, yes, I mean, if you close the case, but there's still an issue or an issue has resurfaced. That is something you might be able to go back to the office and explain what the situation is. But without knowing the underlying facts. I want to be a little vague in my answer. Veronica Tubman: Okay. All right. Thanks for that. So I need a little clarity here. I'm confused about the difference between LITC versus VITA or an AARP Tax Program. What's the difference? Erin Collins: Okay, I can start with the first two and work my way to the third. So the LITCs, what they do is represent taxpayers usually post the filing of the return. Last two years, we've made some exceptions where they assisted, basically non-filers who are not in the system so they could get their stimulus checks. But typically think of the LITC as being the person you would go to for examination or a collection issue or litigation, because that's really their primary function is that time of going through sort of the program, or the challenges that taxpayer dealing with.

Whereas VITA is more upfront. The VITA volunteers help taxpayers prepare the return and get them filed. So one advantage for folks that are able to use VITA, statistically it shows that VITA have fewer errors. So that's good, but they can also file returns electronically. So that right now is a huge plus, if you're able to go out and get VITA to assist you. They can do that. AARP I've had the honor of speaking with the AARP Group. I do know that they do a lot of tax assistance. I think some of the AARPs are actually VITA folks. So I think they kind of wear multiple hats. So anyway, so hopefully that kind of makes the distinction. But AARP and VITA are more upfront. Whereas the LITC is once a problem arises, examination, a collection, that sort of thing. That's where the LITC folks come in. Veronica Tubman: Got it. Thanks again. Okay, so where do we find the members of the Taxpayer Advocacy Panel that represents our state? Where can we find that? Erin Collins: So you guys are going to make me flip through the slide deck. On the slide deck that has the section or I'm just talking flow so I can find it. All right, so the slide that talks about the Taxpayer Advocacy Panel. On the bottom, it says for more information, and it has their website, If you go into that website, it does list by state, each of the volunteers, and it also talks a bit about what they do, some of the recommendations and other types of things. So I would recommend you go there. And, again, a plug for if you want to volunteer, it's a great place to spend time and really have an opportunity to look at some of the issues. So we have is the website. Veronica Tubman: Okay, so what advice do you have? And this is our final question from return prepare, when the taxpayer either lost their letter from the IRS or never received it with a total monthly child tax credit payments. What advice do you have? Erin Collins: Yes, I think at that point, the best answer may not be a workable answer, which is have the taxpayer go to their online account. Again, the IRS what's on that online account is going to match IRS records. And that's the best thing to do. If the taxpayer is unable or hasn't established an account. The next best thing is, secondary evidence so to speak. If they had direct deposits, have them pull out six months of deposits. You don't have, you don't see what was the deposits each of the accounts. You really again, you want to jump through whatever hoops you can to determine that number. So either go to the child tax credit portal, go to their online account, go to bank statements. There is a phone number, I apologize, I don't know what it is, it's on If you have a problem or questions specific to child tax credit, you can call that number, and they may be able to help you as well. But unfortunately, with the phone service, that would probably be my last option. Veronica Tubman: Okay. Thanks, Erin. Audience unfortunately, that's all the time we have for questions. You know, I really want to thank Erin for sharing her knowledge and sharing some experiences and her expertise, and for answering your questions. But before we close the Q&A session, Erin, what key takeaways do you want the attendees to remember from today's webinar? Erin Collins: It's probably going to surprise you, but file electronically. Have your direct deposit anyway. But one of the key takeaways and something we're I'm very proud of our guys are in our communications group. We are now bilingual, our website is both in English and Spanish. So a big shout out to our team who are able to help those who speak Spanish, get necessary tax information. So we've included that in there as well. And then also for those of you who have not spent time on our websites, we have or really try and put on a lot of information, including filing season and other tips and recommendations. We also one of the honors I have as the NTA is I have a blog, I never thought I'd have a blog in my life. But I have a blog, and we try and get out information to taxpayers, you can always subscribe to the blog. But we also have something that we refer to is our interactive roadmap. And anyone who's in the DC area, it kind of looks like the DC metro map It has different stops, if that's the right word along the way. So it shows from sort of the progression of filing a return from filing season to exam to appeal to collection to litigation.

And it's interactive. So if you click on it, it can take you to a particular notice if you have a number of the notice. And it explains what that notice is, it kind of gives a high level overview.

So I get a lot of practitioners tell me that's a little helpful, so they can explain it to their clients. So that would be a takeaway. And then again, do everything we can to have this be the most uneventful filing season possible. And I think that's on all of us. It's not just on IRS employees, it really has, puts an onus on return prepares. So please make sure we have the least amount of errors so that we don't hold up your clients tax refunds or issues. And it will also impact everyone. So again, make sure you return matches the W-2, the Social Security, the math is correct, the EITC, the child's credit. You play a very important role with respect to tax administration. And so I think it's on all of us. It is a team effort. So you know, again, I appreciate it. And I want to thank everyone who attended that sat through however many minutes it is.

Do appreciate, trying to get the information out and as they said, like we need you guys in order to have a successful filing season. So thank you for all you do for taxpayers as well as tax administration. So back to you, Veronica, I guess the commercial for upcoming webinars. Veronica Tubman: Okay, thank you much. We've appreciate those takeaways, some good items to have. And thanks again Erin. Audience, we are planning additional webinars throughout the year. To register for an upcoming webinar, please visit keyword search webinars and select the Webinars for Tax Practitioners or Webinars for Small Businesses. When appropriate we'll be offering certificates of completion for upcoming webinars. We invite you to visit our video portal at There you can do archived versions of our webinar. And certificates of completion are not offered. Remember that if you view an archived version of any of our webinars on the IRS video portal. And again, a big thank you to our speaker for a great webinar. For sharing her expertise with us, or experiences and for answering your question. If you're attending today's webinar for at least 50 minutes after the official start time, you will receive a certificate of completion that you can use with your credentialing organization for one possible CE credit. If you attended for at least 100 minutes after the official start time, you will receive a certificate of completion for two possible CE credit. So again, the time we spent chatting before the webinar started, doesn't count toward the 50 and 100 minutes. If you're eligible for continuing education from the IRS and registered with a valid PTIN, your credit will be posted in your PTIN account. If you qualify and have not received your certificate or credit by February 10, please email us at And the email address its right up there on the slide as reference as well. If you're interested in finding out who your local stakeholder liaison or who that person is, you may send us an email using the address on this slide. And we'll send you that important information to have. We would appreciate it if you would just take a few minutes to complete a short evaluation before you exit. If you'd like to have more sessions like this one well, let us know. If you have thoughts on how we can make them better. Well, please let us know that as well. If you have requests for future webinar topics, or pertinent information you'd like to see and an IRS Factsheet or maybe Tax Tips, or Frequently Asked Questions on then please include your suggestions in the comment section of the survey. Click the survey button on the right side of your screen to begin. If it doesn't come up, well check to make sure you've disabled your pop-up blocker. It has been a pleasure to be with you. And on behalf of the Internal Revenue Service and our presenter Erin Collins. We want to thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to attend today's webinar. It's really important for the IRS to stay connected with the tax professional community, individual taxpayers, industry associations along with federal, state and local government agencies. You make our job a lot easier by sharing the information that allows for proper tax reporting. Thanks again for your time and attention and for just being with us today. We wish you much success in your business or practice and you may exit the webinar at this time. Thanks again.