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IRS plans to move services online could hurt taxpayers

According to the annual report delivered by the National Taxpayer Advocate, the Internal Revenue Service's plans to go high-tech could reduce taxpayer rights and increase filing costs in Georgia and nationwide. The federal tax agency has spent millions of dollars to improve its online services since 2014.

In its annual report to Congress, the NTA wrote that IRS plans to offer more services online will reduce in-person and telephone interactions with taxpayers. The watchdog group, which is part of the IRS but issues an independent report to Congress, said that such an arrangement could unintentionally create a "pay-to-play" system, where only taxpayers who are wealthy enough to pay for professional tax advisers will receive help with their tax filings. It also expressed concern that allowing tax preparers online access to personal tax accounts could raise security risks.

The NTA asked the IRS to "immediately publish its plan" and allow for public comments. It also pushed Congress to hold hearings sometime in 2016, which would force IRS officials to publicly outline the details of its online services plan. In an email statement issued to the media, the IRS said that its online plan has not been finalized and that the agency remains "fully committed" to providing individual taxpayer assistance.

Tax laws are complex and subject to change each tax year. Georgia taxpayers facing an IRS audit or any other complicated tax issue may benefit by consulting with a tax attorney. Legal counsel could carefully review the details of an individual's tax situation and provide guidance on the most effective ways to reduce payments and penalties.

Source: CNBC, "Report warns IRS's online plans could hurt taxpayers," Kaja Whitehouse, Jan. 6, 2016

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