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Taxpayer Advocate Working With IRS on Coronavirus Response

March 4, 2020, 7:48 PM

The Taxpayer Advocate Service is working with IRS leaders to decide how the agency should respond to employee concerns about the coronavirus, including whether it needs to adjust travel or teleworking policies.

The spread of the virus comes in the middle of the current tax filing season. If the situation grows worse it could create challenges for the IRS, which might have to make tough decisions about who it allows to work remotely, and for tax preparers, who often like to meet with filers in person to discuss their tax positions.

The Taxpayer Advocate Service helps taxpayers resolve disputes with the IRS, including issues that arise from the filing season.

“We do have a lot of employees who, understandably, are concerned—people who have to travel for training and things like that,” Bridget Roberts, the organization’s acting leader, said in an interview Wednesday with Bloomberg Tax.

Roberts said that so far there wasn’t a huge concern that the coronavirus will affect the ongoing filing season. The contagion was one of the issues on the agenda for an executive-level call Wednesday, Roberts said.

The need to keep things running smoothly will factor into the IRS’s decisions. Certain tasks, such as processing paper returns at submission-processing centers, can’t happen if everyone is working from home, she said.

The IRS didn’t immediately return a request for comment.

‘Actively Working’

“We are actively working with the IRS on the guidance that they’re putting out to employees and monitoring the situation to decide how we’re going to handle it,” Roberts said.

Tony Reardon, the president of the National Treasury Employees Union, said Wednesday that he expects a briefing from IRS officials in the next few days about the agency’s plans for dealing with the coronavirus.

NTEU represents more than 150,000 federal employees in 33 agencies, including the IRS. The union has asked for briefings and the agency’s pandemic plans, he said.

“There needs to be a complete evaluation of who needs to be in the workplace,” Reardon said.

To contact the reporters on this story: Allyson Versprille in Washington at aversprille@bloombergtax.com; Kaustuv Basu in Washington at kbasu@bloombergtax.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Patrick Ambrosio at pambrosio@bloombergtax.com

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