Volume 15 Issue 5 -- September/October 2003
Why would anyone write a
letter to the Internal Revenue Service when they know it probably will be
shredded by the IRS, perhaps without ever being read?
As strange as it seems, an unread or shredded letter can serve an
Forget about the paperless society.
It probably will never be perfected, but it certainly will not work when
dealing with the IRS. Here=s
Consider a typical example
based on a real case. Client Ima Blanko failed to pay her tax liability when she
filed her tax returns, owing approximately $90,000 in tax.
Ima attempted to negotiate an installment payment agreement but did what
many taxpayers do B namely, she failed to get the
name and identification number, did not send correspondence by certified mail,
and did not keep copies of letters and checks she sent to the IRS.
When you call the IRS these
days, you may be routed from one city to another and you CANNOT
return a call or speak to the same person twice.
Another misfortune about not
being able to deal with an IRS employee who has a telephone number is that you
have to wait forever on hold
and listen to 47 repeats of Eine Kleine Nacht Musik and
other Mozart pieces. Even if you
like Mozart, it is still impossible to enjoy the music, or even to ignore it,
because the music is constantly interrupted with IRS messages allegedly of great
import, like Don=t hang up.
In Imas case, we dealt
with a Ms. B. Barfalulu (hereafter B. Barf) at the St. Louis
Automated Collection Service (ACS) office. Unbeknownst
to us, B. Barf talked a good game, but made no entries into
the IRS computer system. After a
month and a half of our attempting to negotiate an installment payment
agreement, the matter was referred to the Taxpayer Advocate=s Office, since we were getting
nowhere with ACS. Sometimes the IRS
Office can be extremely helpful to a practitioner.
In Ima=s case, neither the Taxpayer
Office nor any other IRS office had any record of the efforts to obtain an
installment payment agreement for Ima. This meant that B. Barf had been working on the matter for
approximately a month and a half and had not documented one darn thing, or that
the IRS system failed (as it often does), or both.
Since IRS-ACS works exclusively by what=s
on the screen, the lack of information in the computer system meant essentially that none
of the previous contacts with B. Barf were recorded.
What is one to do when dealing
with a B. Barf situation? About the
only thing that can be done, which, fortunately, was done here mailing
certified letters covering the points agreed to with B. Barf.
It is essential that the letters to the IRS be sent by certified mail,
return receipt requested. (You
cannot send a letter by Federal Express to IRS Service Centers.)
The only record of the numerous discussions with B. Barf was the
certified letters, copies of which were later sent to the Taxpayer Advocate=s Office.
Often, when speaking with ACS
representatives, when the subject comes up of confirming a discussion in
writing, the IRS Rep (like B. Barf) will say something like, You
call me back and you can=t write to me.
In fact, we include this in our letters We know the letter will
be shredded, but the only evidence that may exist of the points discussed are in
this letter. Stated differently, when
dealing with an IRS Collection office, it is necessary for the Practitioner to
create and preserve the paper trail. An
integral part of that trail
is the certified mailing of documents.
Is there an alternative?
Probably not, at present.
A word of advice B it is not a good idea to write a
letter to the IRS without a power of attorney and ask that a response be sent to
the taxpayer. You may never learn if
the client receives the response. Even
if the client receives a response, the client may lose the response or fail to
get it to you in a timely fashion. For
these reasons, it is always advisable for the representative to get an IRS power
of attorney (APOA@),
Form 2848, and then send the POA with the letter or correspondence.
Do not expect or depend on
vaunted computer system to work. Often
it does not, and unless you keep a paper trail, record of your discussions may
not exist. Hence, whatever was
agreed to may go completely undocumented, if you happen to get an IRS employee
like B. Barf.
In conclusion, oddly, letters
to the black hole of nowhere make sense.
By Tax and Business Professionals, Inc.
9837 Business Way
Manassas, VA 20110
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