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: .

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:



[1] Google’s online unattributed dictionary response.

The Taxpayer Advocate

The 6th century BCE Chinese General Sun Tzu in his book The Art of War, reminds his followers: “It is said that if you know your enemies and know yourself, you will not be imperiled in a hundred battles; if you do not know your enemies but do know yourself, you will win one and lose one; if you do not know your enemies nor yourself, you will be imperiled in every single battle.”

National Taxpayer Advocate Nina E. Olson delivered her report for 2012 on January 9, 2013. She identified the need for tax reform is the overriding priority in tax administration. She also expressed concern that the IRS is not adequately funded to serve taxpayers and collect tax, and identified ways in which this chronic underfunding harms taxpayers and the public purse.

If you’re like most people, you probably weren’t aware of the existence of the “Taxpayer Advocate Service” within the Internal Revenue Service. One of the principal duties of the National Taxpayer Advocate is to submit an annual report to Congress. This report includes:

  • A summary of the 20 most serious problems encountered by taxpayers;
  • Legislative and administrative recommendations for solving those problems; and
  • An examination of the year’s most frequently litigated issues.