Publication 947
Practice Before the IRS and Power of Attorney
(Revised: 4/2002)

When Is a Power of Attorney Not Required?

A power of attorney is not required in some situations when dealing with the IRS. The following situations do not require a power of attorney. (Each situation will be discussed in more detail following the list.)

  • Providing information to the IRS.
  • Authorizing the disclosure of tax return information through Form 8821.
  • Allowing the IRS to discuss return information with a third party designee.
  • Allowing a tax matters partner or person (TMP) to perform acts for the partnership.
  • Allowing the IRS to discuss return information with a fiduciary.
  • Representing a taxpayer through a nonwritten consent.

Providing information to the IRS.   If you are merely providing information to the IRS at the request of the IRS, a power of attorney is not required.

Disclosure of tax return information.   You do not have to file a power of attorney to authorize the IRS to discuss and provide specific confidential tax return information to any individual, corporation, firm, trust, partnership, or organization you designate through the use of Form 8821. You may file your own tax information authorization without using Form 8821, but it must include all the information that is requested on the form.

Form 8821 is strictly a disclosure authorization form and cannot be used to designate an individual to represent you. If you want to name a representative, you should use Form 2848.

Example.   John Oak wants his associate, Jane Birch, to be informed about his personal tax accounts. To have this information disclosed to Jane, John fills out Form 8821. This is only a disclosure form, so it will not give Jane any power to represent John before the IRS. (The filled-in form is illustrated on the following page.)

Filled-in Form 8821

Processing Form 8821.   When you file a Form 8821 with the IRS, it also is processed for entry on the CAF system. Entry on the CAF system enables IRS employees who do not have access to the actual power of attorney or tax information authorization to do all of the following actions.

  1. Determine whether a recognized representative or appointee is authorized to discuss specific confidential tax information.
  2. Determine the extent to which a recognized representative or appointee has been authorized to represent you.
  3. Send copies of notices and other IRS communications to the person (individual or other entity) designated on the form.

Revocation of tax information authorization(s).   You can revoke any existing authorization with the IRS by writing REVOKE across the top of the previously executed Form 8821 and signing your name again under the existing signature. You should send this to the office(s) where you originally filed the Form 8821. If you do not have a copy of the prior Form 8821, send a letter revoking authorization to the IRS office(s) where you filed the original. Include the name and address of each appointee whose authority is revoked and sign the letter.

Note.   The filing of Form 8821 will not revoke any Form 2848 that is in effect.

Third party designee.    You can authorize the IRS to discuss your return with a friend, family member, or any other person you choose. If you check the Yes box in the third party designee area of your 2001 tax return and provide the information required, you are authorizing:

  1. The IRS to call the designee to answer any questions that arise during the processing of your return, and
  2. The designee to:
    1. Give information that is missing from your return to the IRS,
    2. Call the IRS for information about the processing of your return or the status of your refund or payments, and
    3. Respond to certain IRS notices that you have shown the designee. These notices about math errors, offsets (see Refunds, later), and return preparation will be sent to you, not the designee.

The authorization cannot be revoked. However, it will automatically end no later than the due date (without any extensions) for filing your 2002 tax return. This is April 15, 2003, for most people.

See your form instructions for more information.

TAXTIP: If you want to allow the paid preparer who signed your return to discuss it with the IRS, just enter Preparer in the space for the designee's name.

Tax matters partner or person (TMP).   If you are a tax matters partner or person (TMP) (as defined in section 6231(a)(7) of the Internal Revenue Code), you are not required to file Form 2848. You are authorized to perform various acts on behalf of the partnership or subchapter S corporation. This may include the power to delegate authority to represent yourself and to sign documents in that capacity.

The following are examples of acts you can perform as a TMP. These acts cannot be delegated to another representative.

  • Bind non-notice partners to a settlement agreement under section 6224 of the Internal Revenue Code and, under certain circumstances, binding all partners to a settlement agreement under Tax Court Rule 248.
  • File a petition for readjustment of partnership items in Tax Court, District Court, or Claims Court, under section 6226 of the Internal Revenue Code, based on the issuance of a notice of final partnership administrative adjustment by the IRS.
  • File a request for administrative adjustments on behalf of the partnership under section 6227 of the Internal Revenue Code.
  • File a petition for adjustment of partnership items with respect to an administrative request in the Tax Court, District Court, or Claims Court, under section 6228 of the Internal Revenue Code.
  • Extend the statute of limitations on assessment of any tax attributable to partnership items (and affected items) under section 6229 of the Internal Revenue Code.

Fiduciary.   If you are a fiduciary (trustee, executor, administrator, receiver, or guardian) of a taxpayer, you are deemed to be the taxpayer. For this reason you are not required to file a power of attorney. However, a fiduciary should file Form 56, Notice Concerning Fiduciary Relationship, to notify the IRS of the fiduciary relationship.

Note.   If you, as a fiduciary, wish to authorize an individual to represent or perform certain acts on your behalf, you must file a power of attorney authorizing that individual to act on your behalf. The individual must complete Form 2848, Part II, Declaration of Representative.

Nonwritten consents.   The IRS has been allowed under a temporary regulation to discuss with a third party designee, tax return or return information after receiving your nonwritten (oral) consent. Under this temporary regulation, the IRS is permitted to disclose information to any person accompanying you to a meeting, interview, or participating with you, in a telephone conversation with the IRS. Before any disclosure of information, the IRS must verify the following.

  • The date, nature, and extent of information or assistance requested.
  • The return or return information to be disclosed.
  • The identity of the taxpayer and the designee.

The temporary regulation is in effect from January 11, 2001, through January 12, 2004.

Note.   Like Form 8821, a nonwritten consent cannot be used to designate an individual to represent you. If you want to name a representative, you should use Form 2848.

How Do I Fill Out Form 2848?

The following example illustrates how to complete Form 2848. The completed form is shown on the next pages.

Example.   Stan and Mary Doe have been notified that their joint tax return (Form 1040) for 2000 is being examined. They have decided to appoint Jim Smith, an enrolled agent, to represent them in this matter and any future matters concerning the return. Jim, who has prepared returns at the same location for years, already has a Centralized Authorization File (CAF) number assigned to him. Stan and Mary do not want Jim to sign any agreements, pay additional taxes, or receive any refund checks. They want copies of all notices and written communications sent to Jim. This is the first time Stan and Mary have given power of attorney to anyone. They should complete one Form 2848 as follows.

Filled-in Form 2848 - Page 1

Filled-in Form 2848 - Page 2

Line 1 - Taxpayer information.   They enter their names, street address, and social security numbers in the spaces provided.

Line 2 - Representative(s).   They enter the name and current address of their chosen representative, Jim Smith. They also enter Mr. Smith's CAF number, his telephone number, and his fax number. Mr. Smith's address and telephone number have not changed since the IRS issued his CAF number, so Stan and Mary do not check either box in the second column.

Line 3 - Tax matters.   They enter income for the type of tax, 1040 for the form number, and 2000 for the tax year.

Line 4 - Specific use not recorded on Centralized Authorization File (CAF).   Stan and Mary make no entry on this line because they do not want to restrict the use for their power of attorney to a specific use that is not recorded on the CAF. See Preparation of Form - Helpful Hints, earlier.

Line 5 - Acts authorized.   Stan and Mary want to sign any agreement that reflects changes to their 2000 income tax liability, so they restrict the acts Mr. Smith is authorized to perform by writing taxpayers must sign any agreement form on line 5. If they had chosen, they could have listed other restrictions on line 5.

Line 6 - Receipt of refund checks.   They make no entry on line 6 because they want any refund checks sent directly to them.

Line 7 - Notices and communications.   Stan and Mary make no entry on line 7 because they want the original notices and communications sent to them, and the copies sent to Mr. Smith.

Line 8 - Retention/revocation of prior power(s) of attorney.   Stan and Mary are filing their first power of attorney, so they make no entry on this line. However, if they had filed prior powers of attorney, the filing of this current power would automatically revoke any earlier ones for the same tax matter(s). Therefore, to retain an earlier power of attorney, they would need to have checked the box on line 8 and attached a copy of the prior power of attorney that they wanted to maintain.

If Stan and Mary decide later that they can handle the examination on their own, they can revoke the power of attorney. (See Revoking a power of attorney, earlier, for the special rules that apply.)

Line 9 - Signature of taxpayer(s).   This is a joint authorization (see line 1), so both Stan and Mary must sign and date the form. If they do not, the IRS cannot accept it.

Part II - Declaration of Representative.   Jim Smith must complete this part of Form 2848. If he does not sign this part, the IRS cannot accept the form.

What Happens to the Power of Attorney When Filed?

A power of attorney will be recognized after it is received, reviewed, and determined by the IRS to contain the required information. However, until a power of attorney is entered on the CAF system, IRS personnel may be unaware of the authority of the person you have named to represent you. Therefore, during this interim period, IRS personnel may request that you or your representative provide an additional copy.

Processing and Handling

How the power of attorney is processed and handled depends on whether it is a complete or incomplete document.

Incomplete document.   If the power of attorney document is incomplete, the IRS will attempt to secure the missing information either by writing or telephoning you or your representative. For example, if your signature or signature date is missing, the IRS will contact you. If information concerning your representative is missing and information sufficient to make a contact (such as an address and/or a telephone number) is on the document, the IRS will try to contact your representative.

In either case, the power of attorney is not considered valid until all required information is entered on the document. The individual(s) named as representative(s) will not be recognized to practice before the IRS, on your behalf, until the document is complete and accepted by the IRS.

Complete document.   If the power of attorney is complete and valid, the IRS will then take action to recognize the representative. In most instances, this involves processing the document on the CAF system. Recording the data on the CAF system enables the IRS to automatically direct copies of mailings to authorized representatives and to instantly recognize the scope of authority granted.

Documents not processed on CAF.   Specific-use powers of attorney are not processed on the CAF system (see Preparation of Form - Helpful Hints, earlier). For example, a power of attorney that is a one-time or specific-issue grant of authority is not processed on the CAF system. These documents remain with the related case files. In this situation, you should check the box on line 4 of Form 2848. If it is checked, the representative should bring a copy of the power of attorney to each meeting with the IRS.

Dealing With the Representative

After a valid power of attorney is filed, the IRS will recognize your representative. However, if it appears the representative is responsible for unreasonably delaying or hindering the prompt disposition of an IRS matter by failing to furnish, after repeated requests, nonprivileged information, the IRS can contact you directly. For example, in most instances in which a power of attorney is recognized, the IRS will contact the representative to set up appointments and to provide lists of required items. However, if the representative is unavailable, does not respond to repeated requests, and does not provide required items (other than items considered privileged), the IRS can bypass your representative and contact you directly.

If a representative engages in conduct described above, the matter can be referred to the Director of Practice for consideration of possible disciplinary action.

Notices and other correspondence.   If you have a recognized representative, you and the representative will receive required notices and other correspondence from the IRS (either the original or a copy), unless you checked box (c) on line 7 of Form 2848 or placed a similar restriction on your authorization of a representative (power of attorney). If the power of attorney is processed on the CAF system, the IRS will send your representative(s) a duplicate of all computer-generated correspondence that is sent to you. (This includes notices and letters produced either at the Martinsburg Computing Center, or other IRS centers.) The IRS employee handling the case is responsible for ensuring that the original and any requested copies of each manually-generated correspondence are sent to you and your representative(s) in accordance with your authorization.

How To Get Tax Help

You can get help with unresolved tax issues, order free publications and forms, ask tax questions, and get more information from the IRS in several ways. By selecting the method that is best for you, you will have quick and easy access to tax help.

Contacting your Taxpayer Advocate.   If you have attempted to deal with an IRS problem unsuccessfully, you should contact your Taxpayer Advocate.

The Taxpayer Advocate represents your interests and concerns within the IRS by protecting your rights and resolving problems that have not been fixed through normal channels. While Taxpayer Advocates cannot change the tax law or make a technical tax decision, they can clear up problems that resulted from previous contacts and ensure that your case is given a complete and impartial review.

To contact your Taxpayer Advocate:

  • Call the Taxpayer Advocate at 1-877-777-4778.
  • Call the IRS at 1-800-829-1040.
  • Call, write, or fax the Taxpayer Advocate office in your area.
  • Call 1-800-829-4059 if you are a TTY/TDD user.

For more information, see Publication 1546, The Taxpayer Advocate Service of the IRS.

Free tax services.   To find out what services are available, get Publication 910, Guide to Free Tax Services. It contains a list of free tax publications and an index of tax topics. It also describes other free tax information services, including tax education and assistance programs and a list of TeleTax topics.

COMPUTE: Personal computer. With your personal computer and modem, you can access the IRS on the Internet at www.irs.gov. While visiting our web site, you can:

  • Find answers to questions you may have.
  • Download forms and publications or search for forms and publications by topic or keyword.
  • View forms that may be filled in electronically, print the completed form, and then save the form for recordkeeping.
  • View Internal Revenue Bulletins published in the last few years.
  • Search regulations and the Internal Revenue Code.
  • Receive our electronic newsletters on hot tax issues and news.
  • Get information on starting and operating a small business.

You can also reach us with your computer using File Transfer Protocol at ftp.irs.gov.

FAX: TaxFax Service. Using the phone attached to your fax machine, you can receive forms and instructions by calling 703-368-9694. Follow the directions from the prompts. When you order forms, enter the catalog number for the form you need. The items you request will be faxed to you.

For help with transmission problems, call the FedWorld Help Desk at 703-487-4608.

PHONE: Phone. Many services are available by phone.

  • Ordering forms, instructions, and publications. Call 1-800-829-3676 to order current and prior year forms, instructions, and publications.
  • Asking tax questions. Call the IRS with your tax questions at 1-800-829-1040.
  • TTY/TDD equipment. If you have access to TTY/TDD equipment, call 1-800-829-4059 to ask tax questions or to order forms and publications.
  • TeleTax topics. Call 1-800-829-4477 to listen to pre-recorded messages covering various tax topics.

Evaluating the quality of our telephone services. To ensure that IRS representatives give accurate, courteous, and professional answers, we evaluate the quality of our telephone services in several ways.

  • A second IRS representative sometimes monitors live telephone calls. That person only evaluates the IRS assistor and does not keep a record of any taxpayer's name or tax identification number.
  • We sometimes record telephone calls to evaluate IRS assistors objectively. We hold these recordings no longer than one week and use them only to measure the quality of assistance.
  • We value our customers' opinions. Throughout this year, we will be surveying our customers for their opinions on our service.

WALKIN: Walk-in. You can walk in to many post offices, libraries, and IRS offices to pick up certain forms, instructions, and publications. Some IRS offices, libraries, grocery stores, copy centers, city and county governments, credit unions, and office supply stores have an extensive collection of products available to print from a CD-ROM or photocopy from reproducible proofs. Also, some IRS offices and libraries have the Internal Revenue Code, regulations, Internal Revenue Bulletins, and Cumulative Bulletins available for research purposes.

ENVELOPE: Mail. You can send your order for forms, instructions, and publications to the Distribution Center nearest to you and receive a response within 10 workdays after your request is received. Find the address that applies to your part of the country.

  • Western part of U.S.:
    Western Area Distribution Center
    Rancho Cordova, CA 95743-0001
  • Central part of U.S.:
    Central Area Distribution Center
    P.O. Box 8903
    Bloomington, IL 61702-8903
  • Eastern part of U.S. and foreign addresses:
    Eastern Area Distribution Center
    P.O. Box 85074
    Richmond, VA 23261-5074

CDROM: CD-ROM. You can order IRS Publication 1796, Federal Tax Products on CD-ROM, and obtain:

  • Current tax forms, instructions, and publications.
  • Prior-year tax forms and instructions.
  • Popular tax forms that may be filled in electronically, printed out for submission, and saved for recordkeeping.
  • Internal Revenue Bulletins.

The CD-ROM can be purchased from National Technical Information Service (NTIS) by calling 1-877-233-6767 or on the Internet at www.irs.gov. The first release is available in mid-December and the final release is available in late January.

IRS Publication 3207, Small Business Resource Guide, is an interactive CD-ROM that contains information important to small businesses. It is available in mid-February. You can get a free copy by calling 1-800-829-3676 or visiting the IRS web site at www.irs.gov.

Attorney-in-fact:    An agent authorized by a person under a power of attorney to perform certain act(s) or kind(s) of acts for that person.

CAF number:    The Centralized Authorization File number issued by IRS to each representative whose power of attorney, and each designee whose tax information authorization, has been recorded on the CAF system.

Centralized Authorization File (CAF) System:    The computer file system containing information regarding the authority of individuals appointed under powers of attorney or persons designated under the tax information authorization system. This system gives IRS personnel quicker access to authorization information.

Commissioner:    The Commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service.

Durable power of attorney:    A power of attorney that is not subject to a time limit and that will continue in force after the incapacitation or incompetency of the grantor (the taxpayer).

Enrolled agent:    Any individual who is enrolled under the provisions of Treasury Department Circular No. 230 to practice before the IRS.

Fiduciary:   Any trustee, executor, administrator, receiver, or guardian that stands in the position of a taxpayer and acts as the taxpayer, not as a representative.

General power of attorney:    A power of attorney that authorizes the attorney-in-fact to perform any and all acts the taxpayer can perform.

Government officer or employee:    Any officer or employee of a state or the United States in the executive, legislative, or judicial branch of the government, or in any agency of the United States, including the District of Columbia.

Limited power of attorney:    A power of attorney that limits the attorney-in-fact to certain specified act(s).

Practitioner:    Generally an attorney, CPA, enrolled agent, or enrolled actuary authorized to practice before the IRS. Other individuals may qualify to practice temporarily or engage in limited practice before the IRS, however, they are not referred to as practitioners.

Recognized representative:   An individual who is recognized to practice before the IRS.