Audit: IRS slow to process preparer complaints

The IRS is slow to process taxpayer complaints against preparers, according to a new federal audit.

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Treasury’s inspector general for tax administration found that the IRS had yet to start work on almost 4,000 complaints against preparers filed in 2012 and 2013 — or 47 percent of the 8,354 complaints filed in all.

Almost half of the unprocessed complaints had been in the IRS inventory for at least two months. Russell George, Treasury’s inspector general for tax administration, said the IRS also had issues making sure that complaints were accurately processed after work began on them.

“Tax return preparers play an increasingly important role in helping taxpayers to comply with the tax laws,” George said in a statement. “Unqualified or unethical tax return preparers can negatively impact taxpayers as well as tax revenue if the tax returns they prepare are incorrect and/or fraudulent.”

The audit comes as the IRS has made a concerted effort to battle unscrupulous tax preparers. The agency is now offering optional educational programs for tax preparers after a federal court ruled it overreached by seeking to broadly regulate unlicensed preparers.

The inspector general made eight recommendations in its latest audit, urging the IRS to clean up its processing system for the complaints.

The IRS agreed with six of those recommendations, and added that it had “made significant progress establishing effective processes to handle the large volume of complaints we receive every year.”