The plan spells out 2 overarching goals for the next 5 years:
Goal 1: Improve service to make voluntary compliance easier.
Goal 2: Enforce the law to ensure everyone meets their obligations to pay taxes.
A few specified objectives for meeting these goals are to:
- Consider the taxpayer's perspective
- Improve issue resolution
- Make it easier to navigate the IRS
- Provide targeted, timely guidance and outreach
- Strengthen partnerships with tax practitioners
- Proactively enforce the law
- Respect taxpayer rights and minimize taxpayer burden
- Expand enforcement approaches and tools
- Target emerging high-risk areas
Obviously, I don't know for sure. My psychic powers are nonexistent. And I've never worked at the IRS, I've only dealt with the IRS.
Based on what I know (which, admittedly, may not be a lot), these are my suggestions to my fellow taxpayers:
- Try to get it right the first time. The best way to avoid trouble with the IRS is to file accurate, on-time returns.
- Don't expect leniency. One of the many rules I live by is to hope for the best, but plan for the worst. For several years, we've been told we'll be seeing a "kinder, gentler" IRS. However, many (perhaps even most) tax practitioners and taxpayers have not found this to be the case. In January this year, the National Taxpayer Advocate reported to Congress that the IRS is too harsh. The hard-line enforcement was identified as the second biggest problem facing taxpayers (with tax complexity being the first). This leads to my next suggestion for those facing tax trouble...
- Consider your options. In general, you can't completely avoid paying a tax debt, but you can work to minimize interest and penalties, and can work out agreements to pay over time. Tax attorney Peter Pappas provides a great summary of the forms of tax relief. We've all seen the commercials where people claim: "I owed $60,000, but this company made it so I didn't pay anything!" In reference to these types of claims, I recently heard an IRS representative respond simply that you'll only have that kind of debt forgiveness if you really have absolutely no assets available to pay. Now, I have no expertise in bankruptcy law, so I can't comment on when taxes can be discharged in bankruptcy. I can refer you to another post by Peter Pappas.
- Be proactive. If you have not paid your taxes, your situation will not improve if you just wait. Those problems do not just go away. The IRS can take a long, long time to move forward with an issue (so painfully long) -- but if you owe money, they will get to it sooner or later. And they will add penalties and interest. You'll be much better off if you hire a tax professional to take proactive steps to resolve the problem.
We'll see how the next 5 years go. For now, I'll just keep working to help my clients navigate the existing system, painful as it is.