WASHINGTON, June 20, 2019 /PRNewswire/ -- National Taxpayer Advocate (NTA) Nina E. Olson today released her 37th and final report to Congress in advance of her previously announced retirement. In the preface, Ms. Olson reflects on her 18 years in her role and provides her assessment of key challenges facing the IRS and the Taxpayer Advocate Service (TAS).
"I am enormously grateful for the opportunity I have had to advocate on behalf of our nation's taxpayers," Ms. Olson wrote. "Despite the challenges of complying with our multi-million-word tax code, more than 150 million individual taxpayers and more than 10 million business entities do their civic duty every year by filing income tax returns with the IRS."
Key IRS Challenges
Taxpayer Service. The NTA's report says the IRS is not taking adequate steps to address service shortcomings. While the Administration's budget proposal for fiscal year (FY) 2020 requested an increase of 5.0 percent for enforcement, it requested a decrease of 6.6 percent in taxpayer services funding.
Appropriate Use of Self-Service Applications. In its FY 2018-2022 Strategic Plan, the IRS established the "Enterprise Self-Assistance Participation Rate" as one of its principal measures of taxpayer service. According to the IRS, "this measures the percent of instances where a taxpayer uses one of the IRS's self-assistance service channels versus needing support from an IRS employee."
The National Taxpayer Advocate's report cites survey data that indicates customers who use the Internet are comfortable with self-assistance for some categories of interactions but prefer personal contact for others, particularly those that involve uncertainty and complex decision-making known to provoke anxiety.
The NTA's report contains a "roadmap" that pinpoints the stages of a taxpayer in the tax return processing "journey" and outlines instances when taxpayer anxiety warrants personal contact and interaction.
Treatment of Financially Vulnerable Taxpayers. The Internal Revenue Code and the IRS's procedures contain rules designed to protect taxpayers experiencing economic hardship from IRS collection action.
However, the IRS generally does not assess whether there is economic hardship unless and until the taxpayer asks it to do so. As a result, taxpayers entered into about 2.1 million installment agreements in FY 2018, and about 40 percent of those taxpayers had incomes at or below their Allowable Living Expenses.
Additional Report Volumes
The NTA will be releasing two additional volumes of this report next month. The first will contain the IRS's responses to each of the administrative recommendations proposed in the 2018 Annual Report to Congress, as well as specific responses to each recommendation.
The second volume will contain an assessment of the Earned Income Tax Credit and make recommendations designed to increase the participation rate of eligible taxpayers and reduce over-claims by ineligible taxpayers.
In addition, the NTA plans to publish a metro/subway map depicting a taxpayer's "journey" through the tax system both in digital form and in hard copy. The map offers an illustration of the modern tax system and the complexity of tax administration noting the numerous twists and turns that occur as taxpayers navigate the road to compliance.
About the Taxpayer Advocate Service
The Taxpayer Advocate Service (TAS) is an independent organization within the IRS that helps taxpayers and protects taxpayer rights. Your local advocate's number is in your local directory and at https://taxpayeradvocate.irs.gov/contact-us. You can also call TAS toll-free at 877-777-4778. TAS can help if you need assistance in resolving an IRS problem, if your problem is causing financial difficulty, or if you believe an IRS system or procedure isn't working as it should. Our service is free. For more information about TAS and your rights under the Taxpayer Bill of Rights, go to https://taxpayeradvocate.irs.gov. You can get updates on tax topics at facebook.com/YourVoiceAtIRS, Twitter.com/YourVoiceatIRS, and YouTube.com/TASNTA.
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