The DOR Advisory Council recently divided into three different subgroups with DOR staff to begin reviewing a number of topics germane to the agency’s mission and of great interest to the Commissioner. The topics are:

  1. Audit Practices and Dispute Resolution
  2. Communications and Customer Service Education and Outreach
  3. Innovation, Transparency and Change

Following is a short list of the items discussed at these individual meetings. The items will be opened up to general discussion at the second Advisory Council meeting on May 2.


Audit Practices and Dispute Resolution

Audit Practices

DOR is continuing to make the audit process more transparent.  For example, DOR has created a “How Do Audits Work?” page to explain the auditing process in simpler terms.

Audit Standards and Quality Control

The Audit Division is currently developing a set of comprehensive audit standards. The new Audit Workbench Case Tracking system lets DOR better monitor status via alerts.  There are more delays with multi-state cases, but DOR is trying to balance the timeliness of audit completions.  DOR is also improving communications during the audit process.

DOR is also exploring the IRS’s Quality Examination Process (QEP) for the largest audits.  Under QEP, DOR would try to work collaboratively with the Taxpayer at the start of the audit to identify the scope of the audit, the records to be produced, and the timelines for the records to be provided as well as the review of that information.

Dispute Resolution Process

The Council members agreed to follow up as to best practices with the IRS and other states.

Explanation of Audit Findings

The Audit Division is looking to improve its explanation of audit findings and statement of adjustments.  Audit intends to provide a better explanation of its position as to the significant issues in the audit after the exit conference has been held with the Audit Division.

DOR will seek the Council’s thoughts on these issues:

  • What should DOR’s audit standards be?  What Key Performance Indicators should be used to measure those standards?
  • What is the best means for resolving disputes with mid-size taxpayers, where they desire access to decision makers, yet the cost of setting out their positions in advance is prohibitive?
  • Suggestions for best practices within the IRS or other states, understanding that sometimes there are differences in law.  Where does the IRS process (or the process in another state) really work much better?
  • What should DOR include in a position statement following the completion of an audit?

Communications and Customer Service Education and Outreach

Customer Surveys

The subgroup strategized about how best to conduct – and roll out --customer satisfaction surveys.

Customer Education

Education is currently delivered via forms and instructions, formal public written statements and less formal, written information on the web and via web videos

Partnerships

The group discussed these questions about collaboration with outside partners:

  • How can we become more proactive and broaden the outreach audience at the same time? Who do we partner with?
  • How effective is social media in getting our messaging out to our target audience?

Messaging Channels

DOR sought advice from the subgroup on how to best present and distribute messages to various constituencies. The following questions were discussed:

  • What avenues of communication have been successful in your organizations?
  • How should DOR ensure that there is consistency and proper leveling across channels?

Managing Communications Content

The group began looking at various written and online options for organizing the myriad notices that go out from DOR. Utilizing information mapping techniques, DOR will structure a map of the many documents across the agency. Again, recommendations were sought for an approach to content development and maintenance across various channels.

DOR will seek the Council’s advice on these questions:

  • Are surveys the best way to capture feedback?
  • How best to stratify information to reach a more specific target audience?  For example: seniors and millennials. 
  • How do we identify what people don’t know, but should know about DOR operations or on-line tools or specific tax issues,  in order to create an education/outreach/publicity plan

Innovation, Transparency and Change

Identity Theft and Scams

The group discussed both identity theft issues with thieves and unscrupulous tax professionals.  Fraudulent tax preparers: Preying on the elderly, low income taxpayers, illegal residents, the ethnic poor and using children’s SS #s. The group also discussed the logic of registering tax preparers.

Transparency

The group examined what they thought DOR’s stakeholders (taxpayers and practitioners) really want to know or see from DOR. In addition, they also debated the best ways of measuring the efficacy of the current level and type of available guidance for individual taxpayers, business taxpayers, and practitioners.

Innovation

The group discussed the current social media toolset currently employed by DOR and how we are using it to inform, educate and market. Before time called a halt to the proceedings, the group began discussing the usage of live streaming and mobile tools to increase the range of DOR communications. Questions discussed included:

  • Do you think DOR’s social media tools are being used successfully?
  • How can we improve the effectiveness of social media?
  • Do you have any concerns?
  • DOR will seek the Council’s input on these items:
  • Creating an education campaign that warns taxpayers about fraudulent tax preparers
  • Investigating the creation of a LinkedIn page for DOR
  • Visiting Advisory Council members’ offices to exchange information
  • Continuing the live and mobile discussion