Unlike last year, this tax season went smoothly | CNN business

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The past two tax filing seasons have been filled with hassles, delays, last minute changes and huge backlogs with the IRS. But by comparison, this year’s tax filing season has been relatively smooth, tax preparers say.

“After several years of pandemic-related updates, IRS mid-tax season guidance, last-minute tax law changes and more, the ‘calm’ is a welcome respite for many,” the National Association of Tax Preparers said in a statement.

In fact, the most recent IRS filing season statistics show that more returns are being processed and more refunds are being issued than at the same time last year.

For example, the IRS reports that it sent out 11% more refunds in the week ended March 3 than it did in the same week a year ago.

As expected, although the IRS was processing more refunds at this point, the average refund this year is down — down 11% to $3,028 from the same period last year. That’s because the pandemic relief efforts that have boosted refunds for the past two years have expired.

However, a return to a more normal tax filing season doesn’t mean tax professionals and their clients are getting all the guidance they need.

The IRS is much more responsive to calls from preparers and claimants this year. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen told the Senate Finance Committee Thursday that the IRS has answered 80% to 90% of incoming calls each week this filing season, up from 13% last year. That’s thanks in large part to the agency being able to hire 5,000 new customer service reps, she noted.

But the quality of the answers to their questions and requests for guidance leaves a lot to be desired from some tax advisors.

“The experienced workforce has retired and the newer agents are not properly trained,” said Kentucky-based enrolled agent Martha Nest. [Enrolled agents are federally authorized to not only prepare client taxes, but represent filers before the IRS in a variety of situations.]

And, Nest added, “their computer systems are outdated and unconsolidated, so the agent can’t see the full picture of a taxpayer when you call them.”

Connecticut-based enrolled agent Morris Armstrong said he believes the extra money the IRS has used to improve its call response time is well spent, although there is still a need for more training for new hires. “With newer people you may often get advice that you know is wrong, and sometimes you can be the educator. But sometimes you just have to say thank you, hang up and call back in hopes of finding an experienced agent,” Armstrong said.

He also noted that the IRS response time to email correspondence on behalf of his clients was faster.

And when it comes to online services, Colorado-based enrolled agent John Dundon II has noticed some improvements as well. “The ‘Get Transcript’ functionality has been significantly improved in terms of ease of use and the time it takes to set up an account,” said Dundon.

Source : www.cnn.com

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