IRS Head Seeks Tax Pros' Help In Virus Payment Distribution

By Joshua Rosenberg
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Law360 (April 6, 2020, 7:34 PM EDT) -- IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig has asked bar associations and other groups to help inform those who don't usually file tax returns about their eligibility for payments from the government to provide relief from the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Attorneys who normally represent some of the country's wealthiest individuals were asked by Rettig on Friday to take up the cause of notifying nonfilers about their eligibility for receiving the payments recently authorized by Congress. The payments are $1,200 for individuals or $2,400 for couples, increasing by $500 for each qualifying child.

The Internal Revenue Service has been tasked with distributing the payments, but there have been concerns that the agency might not be able to reach some people who are eligible to receive them because they don't usually file tax returns.

"We need to reach beyond our normal contacts to reach many lower income, nonfilers, ethnic and homeless communities who might otherwise not step up to provide information that would enable the IRS to generate the payments on their behalf," Rettig said in a letter to the American College of Tax Counsel. "We need to mobilize these communities in a significant manner, with the full support of the IRS throughout."

He sent similar letters to bar associations across the country.

The payments were authorized by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, or CARES Act. They are reduced for those with incomes above $75,000, or $150,000 for couples, and eliminated for those with incomes of more than $99,000 or $198,000 for couples.

After the IRS initially encouraged nonfilers to submit simple tax returns to receive their rebates, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said last week that Social Security recipients who don't file tax returns would be able to receive coronavirus relief payments without having to file additional tax information.

However, some lawmakers have said that doesn't go far enough. House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal, D-Mass., said Friday that the IRS should also automatically process payments to veterans and Supplemental Security Income recipients, many of whom lack the resources necessary to file tax returns.

Rettig said in his letter that professionals should think creatively about how to spread the news about payment eligibility beyond the more traditional channels of communication.

According to the letter, Frank Agostino of Agostino & Associates PC, a member of the ACTC, is coordinating with other firms, the Taxpayer Advocate Service, low-income taxpayer clinics, the Internal Revenue Service Advisory Council, the Taxpayer Advocate Panel and other organizations to get the word to members of target demographics.

Agostino told Law360 that tax professionals are taking an "all-hands-on-deck" approach to communicating with nonfilers about their eligibility.

"We've all become IRS communication liaisons," he said.

--Editing by Neil Cohen.

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