A Closer Look: Expanding Access in Puerto Rico

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Take a closer look at how IRS is working to serve residents of Puerto Rico.

Get to know the IRS, its people and the issues that affect taxpayers.

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By Ken Corbin
CL-22-08, May 11, 2022

The IRS wants to serve in every community, and we’re committed to providing the assistance and opportunities to meet the needs of those we serve. Today we are taking a closer look at how we are working to serve residents of Puerto Rico. 

The American Rescue Plan Act was signed into law in March 2021, and one of the Act’s provisions permanently expanded Child Tax Credit eligibility to residents of Puerto Rico with one or more qualifying children. Previously, tax law limited Puerto Rico resident eligibility to those who paid Social Security or self-employment taxes during the year and had three or more qualifying children. The American Rescue Plan further made the credit fully refundable for 2021 – temporarily removing the requirement that limited the credit amount to the Social Security and self-employment taxes paid during the year. 

This provision in the legislation has already made a big impact. Last year, nearly 152,000 Form 1040 tax returns were filed by residents of Puerto Rico, and as of April 18, 2022 - the last day of the filing season – nearly 240,000, Form 1040 returns had been filed.

While that’s a good sign that more people have filed this year, we believe that there are many more eligible individuals who haven’t filed and claimed the credit, either because they don’t normally file a tax return, have never needed to file a federal tax return, or haven’t heard about this change. We also know that some island residents have had issues filing their tax form and/or claiming the credit. Fortunately, there is a three-year filing statute, so eligible Puerto Rico residents still have time to claim their money, and we are 100% committed to resolving any issues people may be experiencing so we can get money into the hands of eligible recipients. To help reach as many people as possible, the IRS has increased our in-person resources and outreach to raise awareness on the island. 

Strategic Approach and Three-Year Plan

We know we must start from the ground up to reach out to Puerto Rico residents who may have little or no experience filing a federal tax return or receiving the credit. Not only do we want them to know about the credit, but we also want them to know there is help – some of it free - for getting it. And, if they go to a tax professional, we want them to know the steps for finding a reputable one. Taxpayers should be wary of tax return preparers who promise a larger refund, base their fees on a percentage of the refund or promise other “too good to be true” outcomes.

We are in the process of launching a phased approach that will run over the three-year filing statutory window for Puerto Rican residents to claim the 2021 Child Tax Credit. Intensive short-term actions focus on education and outreach, with in-person engagement and assistance from and with our partners focusing on resolving filing issues for those who have already submitted tax returns. Next, we will focus on further outreach and education to ensure those eligible are aware of the changes to the credit and to engage them in streamlined filing options. And then we’ll focus on continued education, resolution of any additional filing issues for individuals and overall expanded IRS services in Puerto Rico.

Lastly, also in development is a partner-sponsored online portal that will allow residents of Puerto Rico to file a streamlined Form 1040 for the 2021 tax year. We’ll have more information about that soon.

Identity Protection and Verification

One key element of expanding the Child Tax Credit to more Puerto Rico residents is identity protection.  As we have seen with the various rounds of pandemic stimulus payments, scammers come out of the woodwork quickly when new programs provide money to eligible recipients. So, while we want eligible people to get the credit, we also want to avoid scammers stealing their money.   

As part of an effort to verify identity and confirm payment is going to the authorized recipient, Puerto Rico residents may receive a Letter 5071C, 5071C/SP, or 6331C after filing their 2021 tax return. These letters request that taxpayers verify their identity with ID.me and validate their tax return with the IRS to help ensure that an identity thief doesn’t steal their refund or credit. Individuals who receive the letter can go to the related Understanding Your Letter page on IRS.gov and at the top of the page choose from eight languages, including Spanish, for more information and instructions.  

One thing individuals can do to protect their identity and track their tax return and credit is to create an IRS Online Account. After establishing this account, taxpayers can access resources such as Get Transcript, Online Payment Agreement, Identity Verification Service (ID Verify) and Get an Identity Protection PIN (IP PIN)

The IRS uses ID.me, a trusted technology provider, to provide identity verification and sign-in services. If an individual has an ID.me account from a state government or another federal agency, they can sign in without verifying their identity again. New users will have to create a new ID.me account. ID.me offers two options for verifying your identity to access IRS online services – a self-service process and a live video chat. Both the self-service and video chat registration options are available in Spanish, and ID.me offers 24/7 customer support for both English and Spanish speakers.

In-Person Assistance

Because the Child Tax Credit is new to many people in Puerto Rico, we expanded outreach there and will continue to do so. The Taxpayer Assistance Center in Guaynabo is currently available to Puerto Rico residents for assistance with a full range of tax information and issue resolution. The Taxpayer Assistance Center operates by appointment and is open Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Those requiring an appointment should call 844-545-5640 to schedule it. It will also be open May 14, June 11 and June 25 with no appointments required.

To give you an idea of how helpful this Taxpayer Assistance Center has been, at a Taxpayer Experience Day event we hosted on April 9, we assisted approximately 500 individuals and established appointments to resolve issues for an additional 200 people whose issues couldn’t be resolved that day. Additional events will be conducted this spring and summer.

To serve other areas of the island, we will also be opening four additional Taxpayer Assistance Centers this calendar year, with two projected for this summer and two in the late fall. Staffing efforts are underway to augment current levels in the existing Taxpayer Assistance Center and to hire new employees for the additional centers we will be opening in Humacao, Ponce, Mayagüez and Carolina.

In addition to the Taxpayer Assistance Centers, we’ve worked with our partners to expand the number of free tax return preparation sites in Puerto Rico from 10 in 2021 to more than 250 in 2022. While Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) sites are traditionally only open February through April, a number of partners with a presence in Puerto Rico have agreed to continue assisting local residents with tax filing and with additional outreach activities related to the Child Tax Credit. These dedicated volunteers have been trained to assist people with the identity verification processes through IRS portals and will assist with establishing appointments for upcoming Taxpayer Experience Day events.

Looking long term, we plan to continue leveraging our community and local government partners to reach out to and help individuals in more remote areas of the island.

Online Assistance Available 24/7

For those with internet access, the Child Tax Credit information is available any time on IRS.gov in both English and Spanish. Individuals can also use the very popular IRS app called Where’s My Refund? also available in Spanish, to track their refund.

To meet the needs of all Puerto Rico residents, communications, tools and tax tips are available on the IRS’ multiple media platforms, and our Facebook, YouTube and Twitter platforms all provide information to Spanish-speaking taxpayers.

In addition to sharing information directly from our channels, we will provide information to our partners on the island, so they have the materials and social media/web content they need to support their stakeholders in partnership with local government and national representatives. We greatly appreciate all the local support to help get the word out to as many people as possible.

Telephone Assistance

The IRS can provide telephone assistance to island residents via a Spanish toll-free helpline and through an Over-the-Phone Interpreter (OPI) service. It’s important to note that these phone lines can often have long wait times, so I highly encourage starting with our online resources first, and if they are geographically convenient, visiting a Taxpayer Assistance Center. In the future, to further increase public awareness of Child Tax Credit eligibility, we are looking into the possibility of working with local partners to leverage use of community services such as the 2-1-1 capability which provides information about local resources and services through United Way Worldwide.

Career Opportunities for Puerto Rico Residents

While we’re talking about assistance for island residents, I think it’s also important to mention that the IRS has positions available to provide career opportunities to those who would like to join our team in Puerto Rico.  For example, on May 17 and 18, there will be an in-person Job Fair at Fort Buchanan for veterans and military spouses to fill Bilingual (Spanish) Contact Representative and Supervisory Contact Representative positions in Puerto Rico. Information about this event, other events and additional job openings can be found on our Careers page. Please also visit USAJOBS.gov to view and apply for IRS positions.

I’m very proud of the work we’ve been able to do to make this part of the American Rescue Plan help residents of Puerto Rico during this pandemic. We’ve greatly appreciated the support of our partners on the ground in Puerto Rico, as well as organizations with outreach capabilities there. The White House, the Treasury Department and other federal agencies have also worked very hard to raise awareness of the Child Tax Credit in Puerto Rico. We’re happy to work with national and local stakeholder groups, local media and anyone else interested in helping, and our efforts to build those bridges for Puerto Rico residents to get this benefit will continue for years to come.

Photo of Ken Corbin

About the Author

Ken Corbin is IRS’ first Chief Taxpayer Experience Officer. In this role, he’s working to unify and expand efforts across the agency to improve the customer experience for all citizens interacting with the IRS.

Ken is also Commissioner of the Wage and Investment Division, with responsibility for 37,000 employees, located across the country, who are administering tax laws governing individual U.S. wage earners.


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