Call the IRS at Your Own Risk!

Ad-vo-cate : Noun, /ˈadvəkət/

A person who publicly supports or recommends a particular cause or policy. “He was an untiring advocate of economic reform.”

Synonyms: champion, upholder, supporter, backer, promoter, proponent, exponent, spokesman, spokeswoman, spokesperson, campaigner, fighter, crusader, and more. [1]

The most serious problem facing taxpayers is the declining quality of service provided to them by the IRS when they seek to comply with their federal tax obligations. In FY 2015, the IRS is unlikely to answer even half the telephone calls it receives.

Federal law provides for the appointment of a National Taxpayer Advocate, and this position has been filled for some time by Nina E. Olson. This week, she delivered her required annual report for 2014 to the Congress. The full report is available here: http://www.taxpayeradvocate.irs.gov/2014-Annual-Report/ .

This year’s report, in a continuing and disturbing theme, says that taxpayers this year are likely to receive the worst levels of taxpayer service since at least 2001 when the IRS implemented its current performance measures. The report recommends that Congress enact a principles-based Taxpayer Bill of Rights, adopt additional safeguards to make those rights meaningful, and provide sufficient funding to make the “Right of Quality Service” a reality.

The report also urges congress to enact comprehensive tax reform, pointing out that simplification would ease burdens on taxpayers and the IRS alike.

The major areas in which the Taxpayer Advocate’s office found problems in the IRS were:

  • The Right To Quality Service
  • The Right to a Fair and Just Tax System: Complexity
  • The Right to Be Informed: Adequate Explanations
  • The Rights to Privacy and to a Fair and Just Tax System

Many of the deficiencies identified could probably be corrected or improved on if Congress would fund the IRS in the way the Advocate feels appropriate. Some of these would enable taxpayers and their advocates to have better lines of communication with the IRS. And of course, the tax laws and regulations grow more and more complex as time passes, and one of Ms. Olson’s criticisms of IRS is that it does not report on tax complexity as required by law.

Although if past is prologue we will see little attention paid to the Advocate by the Congress, it can be hoped that the Congress will adopt much or all of her advice.

We have written here about The Taxpayer Advocate in prior Pottscasts. You may view that Pottscast by clicking this link: http://pottscast.com/the-taxpayer-advocate/.

 

Joe

[1] Google’s online unattributed dictionary response.