From the Ways and Means Committee:
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Ways and Means Oversight Subcommittee Chairman John Lewis (D-GA) inquired today about efforts by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to assist taxpayers during the upcoming tax filing season. Among other things, Chairman Lewis' letter to IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman expressed concern that the current economic crisis may complicate the filing process and lead many taxpayers to request expedited refunds. Chairman Lewis inquired what statutory changes, if any, may be necessary to simplify the process for taxpayers. Lewis also thanked IRS employees for all of their hard work and requested an outline of the IRS' goals and strategic plan for the coming years.
Today's letter follows yesterday's communication from Chairman Lewis, Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charles B. Rangel (D-NY) and other members of the Committee urging President-elect Obama to end the IRS' use of private debt collectors to recoup outstanding Federal tax debt, which would allow taxpayers to work directly with trained IRS professionals during these difficult economic times. Chairman Lewis' subcommittee has jurisdiction over IRS operations.
Text of the letter sent to Commissioner Shulman is attached and pasted below:
December 17, 2008
The Honorable Douglas H. Shulman
Internal Revenue Service
1111 Constitution Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20224
Dear Commissioner Shulman,
As the 110th Congress draws to a close, I wanted to take this opportunity to thank the employees of the Internal Revenue Service (“IRS”) for the tremendous effort they have made over this Congress to administer the Federal tax laws. The Subcommittee on Oversight shares a mutual goal with the IRS of improving tax compliance and taxpayer service. In furtherance of this goal, I would like to follow up on a few matters of concern to the Subcommittee. I would appreciate a timely response to the following questions.
1. I am concerned that taxpayers experiencing economic difficulties may be unable to timely pay their tax liabilities. Further, taxpayers may need to file returns and request expedited refunds. What statutory changes, if any, are needed to better assist these taxpayers?
2. What are the plans for the next five years with respect to the realignment and closure of IRS service centers and the workers at those service centers? Please give the approximate date of closure of any identified service centers.
3. How, if at all, has the economic downturn affected collections, including liens, levies, and seized assets? What has the IRS done to ensure prompt release of liens when the debt is satisfied?
4. What are the most recent gross and net tax gap numbers for: individual income tax (by income level and by type of income); corporate income tax (by large and small corporations); estate tax; excise tax; international income tax; and illegal income tax (the underground economy)? Please identify the year of the estimate and when it will be updated.
5. What is the most recent estimate of the number of active paid preparers? Please identify the year of the estimate and when it will be updated.
6. What voluntary compliance initiatives currently are underway and what information or data was the basis for implementation of each initiative?
7. What administrative and compliance issues have developed with respect to the excise taxes deposited into the Highway Trust Fund?
8. What issues and goals are under consideration in the IRS' strategic plan for 2010-2015?
Thank you, in advance, for your prompt attention to this matter. I look forward to your response.