The fight for scanning technology intensifies

Despite drowning in a figurative flood, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is heeding calls to build a metaphorical ark—and taxpayers are paying a literal price.

National Taxpayer Advocate Erin M. Collins, who said in a memo on Tuesday that she was officially appealing the IRS’s decision to decline the timely implementation of simple scanning technology that would have allowed the agency to “read the machine.” “Handwritten paper tax return.

By the most recent estimates, the IRS had a backlog of more than 17 million paper returns as of July—processing centers were left with mountains of monstrous paper that look almost comical from afar—and the number of each of those returns. To be reviewed is a human. The result is that many taxpayers who are owed refunds have to wait for months and there is no clear communication as to when they can expect their money.

as fast company Reported in March, Collins issued a directive to the IRS asking it to implement scanning technology that would automate the process, ideally by the start of the 2023 tax season, but if not, the 2024 tax season. Latest until the start of the season. According to Collins, such technology, known as optical character recognition, or OCR, has been around for decades and is already widely in use at state-level tax agencies.

However, the IRS Told In a response last month that it was essentially canceling the directive, it noted that, while it is testing several pilot programs, it did not yet have a system in place to simply roll it out. Deputy Commissioner Jeffrey J. Tribiano and Douglas W. “We will not exercise any one option until we are confident in the delivery of that option,” O’Donnell wrote.

In other words, the agency agrees that there is an urgent need to scan paper returns, but taxpayers should not hold their breath that it will be by 2023 or 2024.

Collins says it’s not good enough. “I fully agree that the IRS should choose an efficient and reliable delivery system, but the IRS response may not reflect the IRS’s ongoing efforts, the timeline for implementing a delivery system to process paper returns, or how many by 2022.” Did not provide details as per expected percentage return. Scanning,” she wrote in it. appeal letter, Adding taxpayers deserve “a 21st-century tax administration that uses technology to meet the needs of the taxpayer public, particularly by providing timely tax refunds.”

He further said that he expected to get a response to his appeal by September 30. In it, she wants the IRS to either explain how it plans to implement the scanning technology, whether it has come up with a viable alternative, or whether it will simply decline to act.

What will happen next is not clear. according to a follow-up blog post On Collins’ part, his decision to appeal against the decision by two IRS deputy commissioners is an “unusual move.” The Taxpayer Advocacy Service is generally able to make recommendations to the IRS, but it has limited authority to mandate changes.

One thing seems clear, though: The agency’s paperwork isn’t going away, and at its current pace, the process may not even finish tackling its current backlog before it starts again next year. “While we all hope the IRS can work through the backlog this year, I often say that hope is not a business plan,” Collins wrote.

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