TIGA Reports on IRS's Taxpayer Advocate Service

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Despite an ongoing effort to improve its customer service and its image, the Internal Revenue Service recently received low marks for efficiency and responsiveness in a Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGA) report, Dow Jones Newswires reported.

The IRS's Taxpayer Advocate Service (TAS), an independent branch o the agency intended to help taxpayers wade through red tape and bureaucracy when the easier routes have been exhausted.

Friday's TIGA report found that TAS's response time has increased significantly over the last five years, jumping from an average of 37 days in fiscal year 1998 to 76 days in fiscal year 2003, despite consistent staffing levels since 2000, Dow Jones reported. In addition, TIGA found that new case receipts and closures have decreased approximately 41percent since fiscal year 1998.

"Based on our review, we believe a significant portion of the increase in time needed to resolve taxpayers' problems was due to inefficient case management on the part of TAS employees (called case advocates) and inadequate management oversight by the TAS," TIGTA said.

"We reviewed a statistical sample of 500 of the 203,634 TAS cases closed in FY 2003," it said. "There were 273 cases in our sample in which case advocates did not take timely action to resolve the taxpayers' problems."

However, TIGTA noted the National Taxpayer Advocate "expressed some concerns about the presentation of the data and conclusions in this report," disagreeing with, among other things, "our determination of more than 30% of the cases we reviewed" and maintaining that "many of the audit team's findings of delay reflect subjective judgments about how cases should be handled rather than instances of inefficiency or neglect," Dow Jones reported.

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