Tax Disputes and the Taxpayer’s Ombudsman

Experts specializing in tax issues especially tax disputes believe that the two developments that are of huge significance for all citizens were the enactment of the Restructuring and Reform law at the turn of the last millennium and the creation of the Taxpayer Advocate Service (abbreviated as TAS). The Service, which works in a similar fashion as many Ombudsman, was created to help taxpayers where, the system failed to function as expected. Thankfully, for the most part of its life, it has rendered exceptional service to the US citizens.

Sadly, the very health and wellbeing of the TAS is now in great jeopardy. The IRS Commissioner Douglas H. Shulman has cautioned that the budget cuts expected to be put in place by the Federal Government were going to have a heavy toll on the service and enforcement duties of the IRS. What should really baffle the mind of any right-thinking citizen is nobody in Congress has reacted in any helpful way to his warning.

The TAS constitutes the service side, and as the years have gone by, the Commissioner and other highly placed officials at the IRS have grown frustrated and uneasy with the efficiency displayed by the TAS in sorting out taxpayers’ problems, and always appears to be on an unending mission to neutralize its authority. For instance, on October 1st 2011, the TAS announced that the IRS was acting as a limiting factor in its taking up matters which involved a delay by the IRS in processing tax documents, in cases where the individual’s issue was not immediately threatened by enforcement action or under any other kind of financial burden.

For some time now, especially the period after the IRS reconstitution in the late 20th century, several changes seem to have taken place. These include change in personnel, tackling the issue of unpostable payments and remittances, dealing with amended returns and payments, claims by innocent spouses, and performing routine duties.

Any diligent taxpayer has undoubtedly experienced numerous cases where a normal filing has somehow disappeared at the IRS offices, and attempts to deal with the officials at the IRS have seemed a futile exercise. It is only the TAS that has been successful in sorting out the traffic and getting things moving again. Now, it is becoming crystal clear that the very existence of this source of help is shrouded in doubt. If the government carries on its threat to reduce the budgetary allocation for the Tax advocate, the ability of the organization to assist taxpayers as it traditionally has will be severely hampered.

If the Congress has its way, and the TAS is scrapped, any taxpayer with an IRS challenge that only the TAS could tackle, one will be told by any tax professional that there is just no recourse anymore.

What remains is for every taxpayer to petition their Congressmen and Congresswomen to reject the IRS Commissioner’s weird proposal to cut the budgetary allocation for the TAS. On the contrary, the TAS needs to be strengthened for the sake of every diligent taxpayer!