Tuesday, August 5, 2014

MA DOR kicks off Small Business Initiative with Practitioners

Practitioners work with small businesses every day and many run their own small businesses.  So, they were the perfect group to start with to gather information.  We kicked off the 2014 Small Business Initiative with a statewide tour to meet with members of the Mass Society of CPAs and then launched an online crowdsourcing challenge with practitioners across the state.  DOR is reviewing the material collected during the tour and challenge and taking actions based on the feedback. Practitioners gave us great information to help launch the initiative and engage small business owners in conversation about their needs.

What We Learned

DOR took the information learned from practitioners during the statewide tour and through the crowdsourcing challenge and plans to ask small businesses to expand upon the information so DOR ends up with a well-rounded understanding of their needs. Here are some of the comments DOR received from practitioners:

New Business Clients:

Practitioners wanted to know if there was a way the agency could be alerted when a small business is formed so that it can increase education and outreach efforts. Practitioners would like DOR to provide informational emails for new business clients.  They also suggested a new business webpage explaining tax obligations. DOR is looking at each of these suggestions and will follow up with ideas.

Rulings & Regulations:

Participants suggested that when an email communication on a tax matter is sent out, a basic description of what it is, how it affects taxpayers and forms involved should be included.  Many practitioners said having examples were very helpful. DOR recently changed the format for email communications to provide a quick summary of the highlights of the information to make it easier for readers to determine the significance to them.  Whenever possible, more examples will be included.  


Practitioners have asked that DOR clarify what actions taxpayers should take upon receiving a notice, including how to make a payment. They also requested that notices include an obvious indication of what year it relates to.  It was suggested that notices be available electronically and/or emailed to taxpayers and practitioners. DOR is in the process or reviewing all notices that are sent out and making revisions to keep taxpayers better informed of the reason for the notice and the actions they need to take.    There will be a great number of options available within the new tax system that is currently being developed.  


Practitioners would like the Guide to Sales Tax to be available in PDF form. They also suggested that DOR send out information about the most popular topics or a ‘tip of the week’ including links with more information on the subject. DOR is currently working to make website navigation quick and easy. Currently the Taxpayer Advocate posts TIPS on the website.


Practitioners also suggested DOR send an email notice to a taxpayer prior to money being withdrawn from an account for a scheduled tax payment if possible. DOR is looking into its efiling system capabilities based on these suggestions.

Customer Service:

Practitioners suggested that customer service hours are staggered during tax season to help with the number of calls. Both extended hours and a practitioner hot-line are under discussion in conjunction with the phased-in implementation of our new IT system.  


Practitioners encouraged DOR to review its collections processes in an effort to maximize revenue collections while still ensuring fair practices. Practitioners also believe taxpayers need to further understand their options and the process involved for claiming hardship. DOR is working on new content for the “How Do Collections Work” webpage to explain the collections process and help taxpayers better understand their options if they cannot pay a bill.


Practitioners believe having desk auditors available in district offices where practitioners and their clients could stop by with records for review would be beneficial. DOR is examining the feasibility of scheduled visits by auditors to district offices.


Practitioners were asked if they or their clients have utilized the online CA6 or amend a return/abatement option.  Practitioners suggested that confirmations be issued or that checking the status of an application online be considered.  Additionally, they would like to know the reason an application is denied. DOR plans to look into ways to enhance the online abatement process to makes it even easier for taxpayers and practitioners to use. The agency is also discussing ways to let taxpayers and practitioners know the specific items in the abatement that have been denied before a case hearing is scheduled.


Practitioners asked about DOR surveys.  Some had a concern about their comments going directly to auditors.  DOR surveys are an important resource for practitioners and small business owners to speak directly to DOR.  The Taxpayer Advocate reviews all responses and reports directly to the Commissioner on the issues and concerns. Responses to surveys taken from the website survey page

1099 Withholding:

Practitioners asked for a solution to requests for copies of 1099s every year in order to credit money from the same taxpayer. DOR is looking into other ways to verify information for consecutive years.

Power of Attorney:

Practitioners with Power of Attorney for their clients would like to receive copies of all notices sent to clients. While not possible in the current tax system, this will be a goal for the future.

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