Could Virtual IRS Audits Someday Be a Reality?
Finding out you’re being audited by the IRS can be pretty scary, especially when you have to meet with an auditor in person. But what if you could deal with the whole mess via video-conferencing from the comfort of your own home?
Late last year, the IRS launched a pilot program in which taxpayers use two-way video conferencing to get help with tax issues, and the agency says it may someday use the same technology for audits as well.
Deemed the Taxpayer Advocate Service, the independent watchdog arm of the IRS is currently being tested in 12 markets. It allows people to log in to a secure internet connection and speak face-to-face (or video-cam to video-cam, as it were) with an IRS agent who can answer questions and provide assistance with tax forms.
If the program is successful, video conferencing may eventually replace the “correspondence audit” system currently in place. The old method of summoning people to in-person audits proved too costly, so right now the IRS sends letters if it has questions about someone’s tax returns. But those letters can be overlooked or misunderstood, resulting in penalties and defaults.
So when will technology replace all that for audits?
“The initial focus of virtual delivery is on taxpayer service. We’re still in the middle of the pilot and still assessing the results,” the IRS said in a statement. “It’s premature to speculate about future steps.”