25.13.1 Office of Taxpayer Correspondence Services

Manual Transmittal

February 05, 2018

Purpose

(1) This transmits revised IRM 25.13.1, Office of Taxpayer Correspondence Services.

Material Changes

(1) This IRM has been revised to include the new internal controls effective as of January 2017.

(2) This IRM has been revised to reflect current workflow processes, update web links and to combine related subsections and group similar topics in new subsections, and to clarify guidance and improve reading flow.

(3) The following sections have been revised:

  • IRM 25.13.1.1(2), revised description of Scope to include compliance with Plain Writing Act.

  • IRM 25.13.1.1.1, Authority - added legal authority, The Taxpayer Bill of Rights and Plain Writing Act of 2010.

  • IRM 25.13.1.1.2, Responsibilities - revised to include Servicewide Initiatives and QuickReact Correspondence.

  • IRM 25.13.1.1.3, Servicewide Initiatives - moved content to clarify initiative.

  • IRM 25.13.1.1.5, Program Controls - added processes used for Office of Taxpayer Correspondence and refreshed websites.

  • IRM 25.13.1.1.6, Frequently used Terms and Acronyms - compiled a list of frequently used terms and acronyms in the IRM process, including those related to management and internal controls.

  • IRM 25.13.1.2(1), Content - added content in table format for easy readability and clarity.

  • IRM 25.13.1.2(2), updated website link.

  • IRM 25.13.1.2(7), Removed wording.

  • IRM 25.13.1.2.1(2), Removed historical.

  • IRM 25.13.1.3(1), Capitalized proper titles and added a note.

  • IRM 25.13.1.3(2) Inserted table and clarified content.

  • IRM 25.13.1.3 (3), Updated to clarify instructions for handling misdirected mail; and added a note.

  • IRM 25.13.1(4), Added website link and clarified workload process.

(4) Revised language throughout IRM to meet federal plain language guidelines.

Effect on Other Documents

IRM 21.3.1.2.1, Erroneous Correspondence Procedures, dated 10-1-2015, is superseded.

Audience

The policies, procedures and instructions outlined in this IRM apply to all divisions, functional units, employees and contractors within the IRS who are responsible for creating or revising taxpayer correspondence products, letters or notices.

Effective Date

(02-05-2018)

LuCinda J. Comegys
Director, Distribution - Media and Publications
Wage and Investment Division

Program Scope and Objectives

  1. Purpose. This IRM section describes the responsibilities of the Office of Taxpayer Correspondence (OTC).

  2. Scope. OTC provides comprehensive taxpayer correspondence services, from design and development to implementation and impact analysis. OTC consults and collaborates with partners such as Chief Counsel to apply specialized knowledge and ensure IRS correspondence is legally and procedurally sufficient, consistent, and facilitates taxpayer compliance. OTC delivers correspondence cases and data requests according to established procedures with tolerance for high profile, expedited issues.

Background

  1. The IRS established OTC to ensure all taxpayer correspondence from the business units is compliant with established standards and contains a Servicewide look and feel. OTC is a specialized unit within Wages and Investment’s Media and Publications focused on distribution activities. OTC develops a strategic plan to explore and implement initiatives, allocate resources, monitor controls, and evaluate program effectiveness.

Authority

  1. Taxpayer Bill of Rights - Taxpayers have the right to know what they need to do to comply with the tax laws. They are entitled to clear explanations of the laws and IRS procedures in all tax forms, instructions, publications, notices, and correspondence. They have the right to be informed of IRS decisions about their tax accounts and to receive clear explanations of the outcomes.

  2. Plain Writing Act of 2010 - The law requires federal agencies use clear government communication the public can understand and use.

Responsibilities

  1. OTC is responsible for:

    • Leading Servicewide initiatives that impact or will require communication with taxpayers.

    • Creating and revising taxpayer correspondence products, both electronic and paper.

    • Forecasting and measuring downstream impact of correspondence products.

    • Collecting and evaluating correspondence data

    • Coordinating Servicewide response to Erroneous Taxpayer Correspondence (ETC).

    • Implementing taxpayer correspondence standards, procedures, and policies.

    • Creating QuickReact Correspondence.

Servicewide Initiatives

  1. All product owners and stakeholders are required to contact the Office of Taxpayer Correspondence (OTC) when developing or revising Servicewide initiatives with taxpayer correspondence impact.

  2. OTC will:

    • Oversee the development of new or revised taxpayer correspondence.

    • Act as the liaison between the product owner and stakeholders.

    • Provide data analysis, and metrics for correspondence.

  3. To request OTC assistance for Servicewide initiatives, submit a request through the Request Services (Green Button) application at:http://win.web.irs.gov/mp/mp_OTC.htm.

Program Controls

  1. Requesting Services Process (Green Button). Request Services is the online process for all requests to revise or create IRS taxpayer correspondence and request data analysis and metrics of correspondence. Request Services is located on the OTC website at: http://win.web.irs.gov/mp/mp_OTC.htm.

  2. Reporting Erroneous Correspondence (Red Button). Report Erroneous Correspondence is the online process for reporting the risk or occurrence of correspondence sent erroneously to taxpayers (Erroneous Taxpayer Correspondence (ETC)). Reporting ETC is available at: http://gatekeeper.web.irs.gov/snipMain.aspx.

Frequently used Terms and Acronyms

  1. The following charts contain defined terms used throughout this IRM and acronyms:

    Terms

    Term Definition
    Green Button Another name used for the Request Services online process for all request to revise or create IRS taxpayer correspondence and request data analysis and metrics of correspondence.
    Red Button Another name for the online process to report erroneous correspondence.
    QuickReact Correspondence QuickReact Correspondence includes high-profile initiatives and emerging issues needing outside of normal processing timeframes (legislative, executive, or directorate level). Request for QuickReact Correspondence are made at an executive level.
    Notice Start-Up A review of newly created or revised Computer Paragraph (CP) notices to identify errors prior to mailing.

     

    Acronyms

    Acronym Definition
    ACA Affordable Care Act
    APGolf Appeals Generator of Letters and Forms
    CP Computer Paragraph
    CPS Correspondence Production Services
    CRX Correspondence Letter System
    ETC Erroneous Taxpayer Correspondence
    IDRS Integrated Data Retrieval System
    MFT Master File Tax
    OTC Office of Taxpayer Correspondence
    PII Personal Identifiable Information
    RGS Report Generation Software
    SME Subject Matter Expert
    SNIP Servicewide Notice Information Program
    TAS Taxpayer Advocate Services

     

Request for New and Revised Taxpayer Correspondence Products - Request Services Process

  1. OTC works with letter owners to create and revise taxpayer correspondence, including:

    Types of Taxpayer Correspondence

    Type of Correspondence Description
    Computer Paragraph (CP) Notices CP Notices are tax account related systemically generated correspondence, created as a result of an account related activity or condition and sent directly to taxpayers.
    Correspondex letters (CRX) CRX letters are generated through the Integrated Data Retrieval System (IDRS). Variable data and content is selected by the originator.
    Repository letters Repository Letters are correspondence sent directly to taxpayers regarding specific tax account activities. Variable data and content is selected by the originator.
    QuickReact Correspondence QuickReact Correspondence includes high-profile initiatives and emerging issues needing outside of normal processing timeframes (legislative, executive, or directorate level). Request for QuickReact Correspondence are made at an executive level.

     

  2. OTC will work with organizations to develop and design taxpayer correspondence. The functional business owner submits requests for OTC services through the Request Services (Green Button) application found at http://win.web.irs.gov/mp/mp_OTC.htm.

  3. To create or revise any correspondence product intended for distribution to 10 or more persons, submit a Request Services by following these steps:

    1. Click the Request Services(Green Button).

    2. Select Request Type and provide a brief description (for a revision also provide CP/letter number).

    3. Check the Affordable Care Act (ACA) box if your request is ACA related.

    4. Attach supporting documentation (such as legislative references, policy statements, etc.).

    5. Click submit.

  4. OTC will make initial contact with requester within 2 business days.

  5. OTC will discuss appropriate timeframes for the entire product development phase with the customer.

  6. OTC will coordinate, monitor development and implementation with stakeholders and partners.

    Stakeholders/Partners

    Stakeholder/Partner OTC will… Stakeholder/Partner will…
    Accounts Management Services Prepare an impact assessment of toll- free telephone numbers on new products.  
    Correspondence Production Services Coordinate the production of new products with Correspondence Production Services (CPS).  
    Information Technology Prepare programming requirements and submit Unified Work Requests (UWR) for correspondence products. OTC will coordinate product review for Notice Start-Up. If the correspondence products require use in a proprietary program (ie. Report Generation Software (RGS), Appeals Generator of Letters (APGolf),etc.) the Subject Matter Expert (SME) must work with their respective programmers to ensure that new and revised correspondence products are compatible and load properly into their respective programs.
    Tax Advocate Services (TAS) Share an advance copy of new and revised correspondence products with TAS. TAS will have 10 business days to provide feedback on taxpayer rights and taxpayer burden issues. For expedited correspondence, OTC may request an accelerated review.
    Chief Counsel Send a copy of new and revised correspondence products to Counsel. Counsel will determine if legally sufficient language is incorporated in the correspondence. Estimate feedback timeframe:
    • Priority 1; 5 business days

    • Priority 2; 10 business days

    • Priority 3; 20 business days.

    Other Stakeholders Coordinate services as applicable.  

     

  7. OTC will share feedback from stakeholders with product owner. The product owner and OTC will consider all changes based on this feedback.

Requests for Correspondence Data, Forecasting and Downstream Impacts

  1. OTC will provide data, analysis and metrics for correspondence issues.

  2. Data reports include the following:

    • Volumes of notices generated.

    • Response rates for toll-free phones and paper processing.

    • Projected response rates for toll-free phones and paper processing.

    • Correspondence cost information including postage costs.

    • Sample images of correspondence (not reprints of notices/letters sent to taxpayers).

    • Sample data sets from notice populations.

  3. Click the Request Services(Green Button)to submit Data and Forecasting request at http://win.web.irs.gov/mp/mp_OTC.htm.

  4. Include as much information as possible to describe the desired information.

    Note:

    Do not include Personally Identifiable Information (PII).

Erroneous Correspondence Procedures - Report Erroneous Correspondence Process

  1. All IRS employees are responsible for reporting any incident or potential incident of Erroneous Taxpayer Correspondence (ETC) to the Office of Taxpayer Correspondence through the Report Erroneous Correspondence (Red Button) process within 1 hour of discovering the incident. Refer to IRM 10.5.4, Privacy and Information Protection.

    Note:

    Correspondence is Erroneous only when it is the result of an IRS error, not Identity Theft or taxpayer error.

  2. The table below are examples of ETC.

    Examples of ETC

    ETC can be …. Such as ….
    Notices, letters, transcripts, faxes, or other electronic documents.
    • Correspondence sent in error to a wrong person and not the last known address of record.

    • Multiple correspondence for different taxpayers in one envelope.

    • Correspondence sent by fax, efax, email, or other electronic transmissions to the wrong addressee.

    • Correspondence incorrectly sent to spouse.

    • Correspondence incorrectly sent to a power of attorney.

    • Return Delinquency notices sent to taxpayers who filed on time.

    • Math error notices sent to taxpayers whose returns were correct as filed.

    • Mixed entity information (such as correct taxpayer information is on page 1, but unrelated taxpayer information is on page 2).

    • Incorrect, missing, or unreadable text (such as incorrect phone number, wrong or missing tax period or MFT, misspellings, typographical errors, incorrect text, incorrect dates. Nonsensical/garbled content such as the text makes no sense or is unreadable, blurry or misaligned print).

    • Erroneous account information (such as $100,000 instead of $10,000 or math error explanation in correspondence not matching a math error code on IDRS.

     

  3. The following table is examples of what is not considered ETC.

    Examples of Non ETC

    The following items are NOT considered ETC….
    • Correspondence sent to the taxpayer's address of record, even if the taxpayer no longer resides or receives mail at the address.

    • Correspondence sent to locate delinquent taxpayers.

    • Correspondence issued to an address from a return filed fraudulently or involving potential identity theft.

  4. Use the following instructions when handling erroneous taxpayer correspondence sent to the wrong person:

    1. Apologize to the taxpayer.

    2. Request the taxpayer return the mail in a sealed envelope.

    3. Ask the taxpayer to write "Not at this address" and "Return to Sender on the envelope and place it in the mail" . If taxpayer refuses ask them to destroy the correspondence.

      Note:

      OTC does not contact taxpayers, solve technical issues, update taxpayer accounts, or refer cases to the appropriate area. For additional actions, contact your manager.

  5. Report all ETC using the Report Erroneous Correspondence (Red Button) process. Visit the Servicewide Notice Information Program (SNIP) website: http://gatekeeper.web.irs.gov/snipmain.aspx.

    1. Click the Report Erroneous Correspondence tab on the SNIP menu.

    2. Follow the prompts and answer the questions.

    3. Provide a detailed description - Include as much detail as possible on the form for our research, including details of the error, how you identified it, and all PII. The PII information will be encrypted when you transmit the form through the Report Erroneous Correspondence tab. If you have documentation, check Employee to Fax box.

      Note:

      A fax cover sheet will appear with your name and ETC Report case number. If a fax sheet does not populate to print, use a local fax coversheet and include the ETC Report case number on the fax coversheet.

    4. Review the information you entered for accuracy.

    5. Click submit.

    6. Complete the fax cover sheet and fax any supporting documentation to the fax number on the cover sheet (855-696-9562).

    7. Include the ETC Report case number on any additional information you need to submit at a later date (such as erroneous correspondence you requested and received from the taxpayer).

      Note:

      OTC will review the report and contact you for additional information within 2 business days, if necessary. OTC does not contact taxpayers, solve technical issues, update taxpayer accounts or refer cases to the appropriate area. For additional actions, contact your manager.