Tax News
Ask the Advocate

Steve Sims, Taxpayers' Rights Advocate.

CSEA Liasion Meeting

The California Society of Enrolled Agents (CSEA) held its annual liaison meeting with us on September 23, 2011. Many interesting topics were discussed including changes to the forms for the upcoming filing season and pending federal and state legislation. CSEA members also submitted a number of interesting questions, a few follow.

Question: Our members report that in spite of the difficult economy, FTB Collection activity seems more severe than a couple of years ago, and the number of Advocate cases being opened has increased as a result. Can you comment?
Answer: Advocate staff has verified that the number of Advocate contacts as a result of Accounts Receivable Management collection staff actions has not increased notably in the last 12 months. However, as a result of the economy, more taxpayers are in the collection system than ever before. Taxpayers who previously paid their taxes as they became due are now opting for installment payment agreements, or entering into the collection cycle. As a result, installment agreement inventories and the length of the collection process have increased in recent years. 
Question: Due to the difficulty in easily reaching FTB by phone, our members report requesting information by fax. These requests for transcripts, payments made on an account, and other questions receive no response. What is your normal turnaround time for a faxed request for information? If information requested is not timely received, what recommendations do you have as to next point of contact?    
Answer: Fax requests for “information” are treated in the same manner as paper correspondence based on date received. This provides consistent and equitable treatment for all taxpayers. Processing time frames for correspondence can vary based on the time of year and range from two to four months.

As an alternative to faxing us for client information, we recommend that practitioners use the self-service options available on our website. MyFTB Account provides tax professionals immediate access to their clients’ information for both individuals and business entities. By taking advantage of these self-service options, practitioners enable us to improve our turnaround time for those specific items of correspondence that cannot be handled through our self service channels. We appreciate the practitioners support in helping us provide all taxpayers better service. In fact, in the last four months, the use of MyFTB Account for client information has already enabled us to redirect approximately 2,000 hours toward our other correspondence workloads. Thank you for your support!

Question: We applaud FTB for recent improvements to the Practitioner Hotline, which include the ability to discuss a maximum of three cases. In spite of these improvements, our Members report that FTB Hotline staff will not stay on the phone, while a POA is faxed, but rather request the practitioner fax the POA and call them back. Please confirm that this is your procedure, and whether the procedure could be streamlined in a manner similar to IRS staff, who will retrieve a faxed document while on an active call?
Answer: Yes, the Practitioner Hotline has a similar process to the IRS, however there is a slight delay because faxes are received at a centralized fax location and distributed to agents several times a day. Once the practitioner faxes the complete POA, our turnaround timeframe is two hours and we advise the practitioner to call back. When we receive the POA, the information will be updated on their client’s file. Upon the return call from the practitioner, any agent can handle the call to resolution. We value practitioner input and will evaluate our current process and procedure to look for opportunities for us to streamline our process.

In the meantime, we have two recommendations for practitioners, which will expedite service. First, we recommend that you use the self-service options available on our website using MyFTB Account. MyFTB Account provides practitioners immediate access to their clients’ information for both individuals and business entities. Second, practitioners should immediately fax the POA for your new clients to the POA Unit prior to calling the Hotline. By doing this ahead of time, the information would be on file and Hotline staff would be able to assist you during your first contact.

Steve Sims, EA
Taxpayers’ Rights Advocate

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Back to November 2011 Tax News