BY NAOMI JAGODA
A bipartisan group of senators is urging the IRS to provide relief for taxpayers who had difficulties filing and paying on time because of the coronavirus pandemic.
“The pandemic has created unique challenges for the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), tax practitioners, and taxpayers alike,” the lawmakers wrote in a letter this week to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig. “It is clear that Americans need a concerted effort by the IRS to work in good faith with them to address the challenges facing taxpayers during this pandemic.”
Fourteen senators signed the letter, including Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.), John Kennedy (R-La.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.).
The IRS took a number of steps earlier this year to help taxpayers during the pandemic, including extending the tax filing and payment deadlines from April 15 to July 15. As is typically the case, taxpayers were able to request filing extensions to Oct. 15. But some still had challenges filing and paying taxes on time as a result of the pandemic.
The senators said that the IRS should do more to ease burdens.
They recommended that the IRS create a special first time tax abatement program for those who had difficultly filing their returns because of the pandemic, provide written guidance that directs IRS customer service representatives to liberally grant coronavirus-related abatement requests, provide coronavirus-related examples to customer service representatives of situations that qualify for reasonable cause tax abatements, and create a dedicated telephone line for taxpayers and their representatives to use to request coronavirus-related penalty relief.
Additionally, the senators urged the IRS to consider stopping sending correspondence about tax compliance until the agency resolves its mail backlog, in an effort to “limit taxpayer confusion and reduce unnecessary correspondence with the IRS.”
“Many taxpayers are facing economic hardships, and business closures due to COVID-19,” the senators wrote. “Taxpayers expect fair treatment from their government, and the current unwillingness to provide an expedited process for taxpayers and their advisors to request pandemic-specific relief places an undue burden on them.”
The senators’ letter is similar to requests that groups representing tax preparers have made to the IRS.