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Tax Bulletin: May 2020, Volume 36, No. 5

Current Items:

  1. Help the Elderly
  2. U.S. Tax Court Virus Issues
  3. Scams for EIP Payments


Help the Elderly

The Internal Revenue Service is accepting applications for the Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) and Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) grant programs, which will allow some organizations to apply for annual funding for up to three years.

Applications will be accepted through June 1, 2020, on grants.gov. The application packages and guidelines are available on the IRS website. For the 2020 filing season, the IRS awarded 27 TCE grantees $11 million and 238 VITA grantees $18 million. Last year, the two grant programs filed nearly 3 million returns at almost 9,000 sites nationwide.

The TCE program was established in 1978 to provide tax counseling and return preparation to persons age 60 or older and to give training and technical assistance to the volunteers who provide free federal income tax assistance within elderly communities across the nation. For more information on the TCE program visit the TCE webpage on IRS.gov.

The VITA Grant program was established in 2007 to supplement the VITA program, which was created in 1969. VITA provides underserved communities with free tax filing assistance. The grant program enables VITA partners to extend services to underserved populations in the hardest-to-reach urban and non-urban areas, to increase the capacity of targeted taxpayers to file returns electronically, to enhance training of volunteers and to maintain the high accuracy rate of returns prepared at VITA sites. For more information on the VITA Grant program, visit the VITA Grant webpage on IRS.gov.

U.S. Tax Court Virus Issues

The Internal Revenue Service Office of Chief Counsel  announced the Settlement Days program will continue remotely enabling unrepresented taxpayers to work towards resolving their pending United States Tax Court case despite “stay-at-home” orders in many jurisdictions.  The first two events are for docketed cases with place of trial in Detroit or Atlanta.  Future events may be scheduled in other cities throughout the United States.

Virtual Settlement Days is a coordinated effort to resolve Tax Court cases by giving taxpayers not represented by counsel the opportunity to receive free tax advice and possible representation from Low Income Taxpayer Clinics (LITCs) or other pro bono organizations. Taxpayers can discuss their Tax Court case and federal tax issues with members of the IRS Office of Chief Counsel, Appeals and Collections.

The program is geared to help unrepresented taxpayers receive free assistance in discussing a potential fair settlement of their tax disputes in an informal setting without the need for further litigation or a trial in Tax Court. The vast majority of taxpayers participating in previous Settlement Days programs have resolved their cases; most of those who ended up with a liability have been able to enter into an installment payment arrangement.

The Tax Court canceled scheduled trial sessions in a series of Orders issued on March 11, 13 and 23, 2020.  The Tax Court Orders state that it is expected that parties will continue to work together to exchange information and address pending issues. The Settlement Days events accomplish the Tax Court’s goals by allowing the parties to work towards settling case on a remote basis. 

Chief Counsel has scheduled Virtual Settlement Days events for May 2020 for cases docketed on the Detroit and Atlanta Tax Court trial sessions. Chief Counsel has invited more than 100 unrepresented taxpayers to meet with Chief Counsel attorneys or paralegals via WebEx for the two events. The taxpayers will be able to speak with LITC representatives prior to the WebEx meetings. If the taxpayer desires, the LITC representatives will later join the WebEx meetings.

The Detroit Office of Chief Counsel will host its event on Saturday, May 9, in conjunction with the University of Michigan Law School LITC for the Detroit trial session cases. The IRS has invited over 100 Tax Court petitioners.  The cases being selected are from recently canceled Tax Court calendars, as well as other docketed cases not yet set for trial. The event may be extended, if needed, to meet taxpayer’s needs. 

The Atlanta Office of Chief Counsel will host the second event on Thursday, May 21, in conjunction with the North Georgia Low Income Taxpayer Clinic for the cancelled Atlanta trial session cases and other docketed cases. The event may extend over several days to accommodate the schedules of the participants. The IRS will focus on inviting unrepresented taxpayers whose cases sessions have been delayed due to Tax Court cancellations.

While docket taxpayers with cases currently under consideration by the IRS Independent Office of Appeals have not been sent invitations to the Detroit and Atlanta events, the IRS encourages those petitioners to contact the Appeals Officer assigned to their case to discuss resolution. Appeals continues to work cases, including use of virtual conferences. For unrepresented taxpayers who are working with an Appeals Officer and receive an invitation to the event, the IRS will work with them at the event to resolve all their issues.

In addition, IRS Chief Counsel recently prepared a Virtual Settlement Days Best Practice Guide for external use that will be released in advance of the Virtual Settlement Days events. Chief Counsel anticipates that Virtual Settlement Days will be a mainstay of its Settlement Day efforts even after this crisis is over. Chief Counsel released an initial Settlement Days Best Practices Guide in January 2020, which outlined a remote model for the program.

Scams for EIP Payments

The IRS urges taxpayers to be on the lookout for scams related to the Economic Impact Payments. To use the new app or get information, taxpayers should visit IRS.gov. People should watch out for scams using email, phone calls or texts related to the payments. Be careful and cautious: The IRS will not send unsolicited electronic communications asking people to open attachments, visit a website or share personal or financial information. The Treasury Department and the Internal Revenue Service released state-by-state figures for Economic Impact Payments, with 88 million individuals receiving payments worth nearly $158 billion in the program’s first three weeks.

New Jersey 2,245,299 payments $             3,861,741,262

 

Many thanks to the IRS for providing this information as I sit “Home Alone” …almost.