Just in time for the final deadline of tax season, the IRS has unveiled the latest incarnation of its website, IRS.gov, with features the agency said had been designed to better reflect how people typically use the site, and deliver services at a faster pace.
The changes are part of a planned $320 million the IRS intends to spend on its website over the next decade. According to a U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) report released last December entitled, “2011 Tax Filing: Processing Gains, but Taxpayer Assistance Could Be Enhanced by More Self-Service Tools,” use of IRS.gov has grown significantly over the past few years: The site recorded 250 million visits in 2011, vs. 168 million visits in 2007. Yet, the number of searches tripled in that time, from 106 million to 312 million, in part because taxpayers had such difficulty locating information, the report said. Having an easily searchable website is important for the IRS because it reduces the number of phone calls the agency receives, the report added.
As part of the new rollout, the site features a rearranged menu that provides easier access to what analyses have determined are the most used features—information about filing, payments, refunds, credits and various forms. It will also offer a variety of online tools to help people interact with the IRS. The lineup of those tools, according to an IRS press release, will regularly change in order to coincide with filing and registration due dates, as well as new programs and system enhancements.
In addition, the revamped site includes social media functionality, which will allow the IRS to share the latest information on tax changes, initiatives, products and services, and will feature YouTube videos, Twitter updates and podcasts. It also has non-English support on each of its pages for speakers of Spanish, Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese and Russian.
The GAO report criticized the IRS’s online strategy for not allowing taxpayers to access account information, but that component remains unchanged with the
The Internal Revenue Service today announced a plan to help U.S. citizens residing overseas, including dual citizens, catch up with tax filing obligations and provide assistance for people with foreign retirement plan issues.”Today we are announcing a series of common-sense steps to help U.S. citizens abroad get current with their tax obligations and resolve pension issues,” said IRS Commissioner Doug Shulman.
Shulman announced the IRS will provide a new option to help some U.S. citizens and others residing abroad who haven’t been filing tax returns and provide them a chance to catch up with their tax filing obligations if they owe little or no back taxes. The new procedure will go into effect on Sept. 1, 2012.
The IRS is aware that some U.S. taxpayers living abroad have failed to timely file U.S. federal income tax returns or Reports of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts (FBARs). Some of these taxpayers have recently become aware of their filing requirements and want to comply with the law.
To help these taxpayers, the IRS offered the new procedures that will allow taxpayers who are low compliance risks to get current with their tax requirements without facing penalties or additional enforcement action. These people generally will have simple tax returns and owe $1,500 or less in tax for any of the covered years.
The IRS also announced that the new procedures will allow resolution of certain issues related to certain foreign retirement plans (such as Canadian Registered Retirement Savings Plans). In some circumstances, tax treaties allow for income deferral under U.S. tax law, but only if an election is made on a timely basis. The streamlined procedures will be made available to resolve low compliance risk situations even though this election was not made on a timely basis.
Taxpayers using the new procedures announced today will be required to file delinquent tax returns along with appropriate related information returns for the past three years, and to file delinquent FBARs for the past six years. Submissions from taxpayers that present higher compliance risk will be subject to a more thorough review and potentially subject to an audit, which could cover more than three tax years.
The IRS also announced its offshore voluntary disclosure programs have exceeded the $5 billion mark, released new details regarding the voluntary disclosure program announced in January and closed a loophole used by some U.S. citizens. See IR-2012-64 for more.