Taxpayer Advocate Service Can't Do It All

By Christina Camara

The Taxpayer Advocate Service (TAS), inundated with calls for help from taxpayers dealing with the IRS, has had to clarify what it can and can't handle. In a notice to taxpayers, TAS stated it "can't possibly help all the six to twelve million taxpayers who may be having problems at any given time."
 
Last year, TAS looked at the types of issues in which it can make the biggest impact, and as a result, decided against taking on "pure processing issues," as TAS described them. They involve processing of original returns, amended returns, unpostable returns, rejected returns, or issues involving injured "but not innocent" spouses.
 
In the notice, TAS lists four types of situations where it says it can do the most good for taxpayers. They include:
  • Those who need help more quickly than going through the usual IRS procedures because of financial difficulties, emergencies or hardships; for example, if the IRS needs to release a lien.
  • Those who need a "coordinator" or "traffic cop" to coordinate the many different IRS units involved.
  • Those who feel the normal IRS channels have "broken down" and need TAS to resolve the problem.
  • Those who feel the IRS is applying a "one-size-fits-all" approach to the problem that involves unique circumstances and requires a customized solution.
 
TAS said there are "many exceptions" to its policy of focusing only on higher-impact problems. In the report, TAS states: "If the taxpayer is suffering an economic burden, TAS will take the case. If the case involves other issues [see example in the following paragraph], TAS will take the case. If the taxpayer is referred by a congressional office, TAS will take the case. And if the taxpayer specifically requests and insists, TAS will take the case." 
 
The TAS report gives this example of a case it would take when more than one issue is involved: "The normal processing time for an amended return is approximately eight to twelve weeks. The taxpayer filed a 2010 Form 1040X more than four months ago expecting a refund, but also has an outstanding balance for tax year 2009 and is receiving IRS collection notices. The 2010 refund would pay the balance in full and leave a small amount for the taxpayer. TAS will accept the inquiry and establish a case because expediting the processing will resolve a collection issue."
 
TAS asks taxpayers to remember that it isn't a substitute for the IRS. Follow the normal IRS procedures first "and come to TAS only if we can really add value to the case."
 
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