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E-Services Help Desks Among Latest IRS Facilities Halted by Virus

Posted on Mar. 30, 2020

The IRS made official what some tax professionals have been reporting for days — the agency’s practitioner priority lines are closed for business.

The IRS announced March 27 that it is shuttering several critical e-services help desks and administrative functions, citing “staffing limitations” without mentioning the cause of those limits, which is almost certainly social distancing and workplace reorganizations mandated by the coronavirus pandemic.

Robert Kerr of the National Association of Enrolled Agents previously said his constituents’ reports indicated the IRS’s service phone lines “are for all intents and purposes closed for business.”

The operational shutdowns follow by one day the IRS’s statement that it is suspending many examination and collection activities through at least July 15 because of the pandemic.

Coronavirus fears also reportedly shut down the IRS’s processing center in Kansas City, Missouri, for two weeks starting March 26, according to a report by The Kansas City Star.

The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration noted in a March 11 audit that the Kansas City processing center was slated to begin receiving paper returns from the Fresno, California, processing center during the 2020 filing season.

The Kansas City facility employs about 5,000 full-time, part-time, and seasonal workers during filing season, the Star reported.

The IRS didn’t respond to a request for comment on the Kansas City closure.

Other Closures

Also closed March 27 until further notice are IRS e-services help desk lines, as well as help desks for the Filing Information Returns Electronically (FIRE) and Affordable Care Act Information Returns (AIR) systems, the tax agency said.

FIRE is used to electronically report information on Forms 1099 and other payment reports. AIR is used to electronically file ACA information returns.

New income verification express services requests (IVES) are also temporarily suspended. The IVES requests are used by mortgage companies and other lenders to qualify borrowers for loans. The IRS said it is experiencing delays in processing existing IVES requests, as well as centralized authorization file numbers, which the agency assigns to taxpayer representatives with powers of attorney.

Client-authorized tax professionals with e-services accounts can still access prior-year tax transcripts through the agency’s transcript delivery system, the IRS noted.

However, the IRS statement added, “We are unable to answer any questions as yet on stimulus payments.”

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