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News - TAS in the News

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    National Taxpayer Advocate Nina E. Olson recently sat down with Yahoo! in their New York office to discuss some of the most common issues taxpayers face when navigating America’s tax system. She shared four common problems taxpayers face when either contacting the IRS or just trying to pay their taxes, and offered her insights as to just how taxpayers can solve some of these thorny issues.

    Read more here: https://finance.yahoo.com/news/4-solutions-to-common-tax-issues-155335301.html. - Yahoo! Finance  (March 7, 2017)


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    As tax day approaches, many taxpayers experience challenges in preparing and filing their tax returns. As part of a broadcast by C-SPAN Washington Journal’s “Your Money” series, National Taxpayer Advocate Nina Olson sat down with host John McArdle on April 10th for nearly an hour to discuss some of the hurdles taxpayers face and explain how the Taxpayer Advocate Service can help taxpayers overcome some of those challenges. With tax day approaching, Mr. McArdle presented a graphic showing data the Office of the Taxpayer Advocate has computed regarding the costs and complexity of the U.S. tax code, including that:

    • Individuals and businesses spend roughly 6 billion hours and $195 billion on income tax preparation each year;
    • More than 5,800 changes have been made to the U.S. tax code since 2001 – an average of more than one change every single day; and
    • The U.S. tax code consists of nearly 4 million words.

    Ms. Olson called on Congress to undertake a comprehensive provision-by-provision review of the tax code and reminded viewers that she has made recommendations to revamp the code’s child care, education, and retirement provisions– all with the aim of simplifying the tax code for taxpayers and addressing taxpayers’ legitimate sense that the tax code sometimes feels random and capricious.

    Ms. Olson spent most of the hour fielding viewer questions and discussing a wide variety of topics raised by callers, including stolen identity refund fraud, amended tax returns, and concerns about unlicensed tax return preparers.   Olson also described the administrative responsibilities of the Taxpayer Advocate Service, including how case and intake advocates handle taxpayer cases and elevate them through IRS management channels if a taxpayer is not receiving the assistance he or she should.

    Ms. Olson noted that of all individual audits undertaken by the IRS, roughly 80% are conducted by correspondence – which means that taxpayers don’t have the opportunity to work with a single IRS employee during the audit. If back-and-forth is required, the taxpayer must re-educate a new IRS employee with each contact, and no IRS employee is accountable for the correct and prompt resolution of the case.  The need for more personal taxpayer service was a major emphasis of Ms. Olson during the interview.

    Ms. Olson emphasized the importance of high quality taxpayer service and pointed out that the Taxpayer Advocate Service is truly the voice of the taxpayer within the IRS.  She encouraged taxpayers experiencing problems with the IRS to visit the Taxpayer Toolkit at www.TaxpayerAdvocate.irs.gov for more information. 

    Watch the video at C-SPAN: 


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    On May 13, 2017, National Taxpayer Advocate Nina Olson was honored by the American Bar Association Section of Taxation with the 2017 Distinguished Service Award for her outstanding service to the tax profession, the federal government, and the Section of Taxation. This award honors “individuals with distinguished careers in tax law and who have provided an aspirational standard for all tax lawyers to emulate.”  

    Nina has been a pioneer in the field of taxation for more than two decades. She began her tax career by opening a tax planning and preparation firm in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, in 1975.  In 1992, after becoming a lawyer, she established the first low income taxpayer clinic in the country that was not affiliated with a law or business school.  After testifying before House and Senate hearings that led to the enactment of the IRS Restructuring and Reform Act of 1998, Nina was appointed to serve as the National Taxpayer Advocate in January 2001.

    Under Nina’s leadership, TAS has assisted hundreds of thousands of taxpayers every year in resolving their account problems with the IRS.  Nina has also worked tirelessly to fix systemic problems that affect groups of taxpayers.

    Nina Olson’s Annual Reports to Congress have resulted in numerous changes across the IRS, including the IRS’s implementation of hundreds of recommendations she has made for administrative change. Members of Congress have introduced bills to implement dozens of her recommendations for legislative change, with 15 of them enacted into law. One of the NTA’s major accomplishments was her push for a Taxpayer Bill of Rights, the provisions of which the IRS adopted in 2014 and Congress codified in 2015. The Taxpayer Bill of Rights groups the many taxpayer rights dispersed throughout the Internal Revenue Code into ten clear categories.

    In presenting the award, the ABA Section of Taxation highlighted Nina’s global presence in the tax community, including her inaugural International Conference on Taxpayer Rights that brought together more than 170 government officials, scholars and practitioners from more than 20 countries to examine global taxpayer rights and explore how taxpayer rights globally serve as the foundation for effective tax administration. Most recently, Nina convened the 2nd International Conference on Taxpayer Rights, which was held on March 13-14, 2017, in Vienna with more than 40 countries represented.      

    Nina’s passion for advocacy and insights in tax law have been held in the highest regard,  as summarized by former IRS District Counsel Keith Fogg, who currently directs of the Federal Tax Clinic at Harvard Law School.  “She was relentless. I have seen her represent clients when I was the lawyer representing the IRS. She does not give up in the face of significant odds because many of her clients had very little information to give her to support their position. I have seen her pursue and procure legislation because she was unhappy with a position I took in a case we were litigating. As a result of that case, she testified in Congress that the IRS approach was wrong, and Congress changed the statute.”

    The Section of Taxation recognized Nina as a “’Woman for All Seasons’– serving effectively, and always striving for more, for the benefit of taxpayers, the IRS, and the country she serves so well.”


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    National Taxpayer Advocate Nina E. Olson testified before the House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Oversight today at a hearing entitled, “IRS Reform: Lessons Learned from the National Taxpayer Advocate.”
     
    Olson cited data showing that building trust with taxpayers correlates with increased voluntary tax compliance and said respecting taxpayer rights is critical to building trust.  She recommended the IRS revise its mission statement to explicitly state that the Taxpayer Bill of Rights will serve as the guiding principle for tax administration.
     
    She said the IRS must place greater emphasis on taxpayer service to become an effective 21st century tax administration.  “In my view, there is no conflict whatsoever between providing high quality taxpayer service and taking actions to ensure tax compliance, particularly on the part of persons actively seeking to evade tax,” she said.  “It is not an ‘either/or’ proposition.”
     
    She also shared her perspective on other steps the IRS should take to become a taxpayer-centric 21st century tax administration, as recommended in a “Special Focus” section of her 2016 Annual Report to Congress

    Watch the video: .


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    National Taxpayer Advocate Nina Olson recently spoke with Yahoo! Finance on new tax issues taxpayers may face during the filing season this year. During the brief interview, Ms. Olson highlights the scope of what the Taxpayer Advocate Service does to help taxpayers experiencing IRS tax issues find resolution. Additionally, she offers recommendations on how to navigate the tax landscape this year in order to be in compliance with the tax law.

    The National Tax Advocate further warns taxpayers of newly formed tax scams and how to detect these tax thieves when contacted. The NTA concluded the interview with details on how to claim newly restored tax benefits, if eligible, recently extended by Congress for tax year 2017.

    Read the full article from Yahoo! Finance here:IRS Warns 3 Problems You Could Face as You File.


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    National Taxpayer Advocate Nina E. Olson testified before the House Subcommittee on Health Care, Benefits, and Administrative Rules and Subcommittee on Government Operations Committee on Oversight and Government Reform on Oversight today at a hearing entitled, “Continued Oversight Over the Internal Revenue Service.”

    The following is an excerpt from her written testimony:

    Throughout my tenure as the National Taxpayer Advocate, TAS has completed significant research into taxpayer needs, preferences, and ability to interact with the IRS through various service channels. Our work has focused not only on understanding the taxpayer service needs and preferences of U.S. taxpayers, but also on how IRS traditional audit, compliance, and collection techniques affect taxpayers’ understanding of the tax law, their relationship and attitudes to the tax administrator, and their subsequent compliance behavior. In addition to our research studies, surveys and focus groups, in 2016 I travelled the breadth and depth of the US and convened 12 Public Forums on Taxpayer Needs and Preferences, in conjunction with Members of the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate, including Chairman Meadows. The complete transcripts of these fascinating public meetings are available on our website. I have also convened two International Conferences on Taxpayer Rights, with the third one coming up in Amsterdam in May of this year. Our body of work is designed to help the IRS improve tax administration and better meet taxpayer needs and preferences; it also enables us to identify emerging issues of concern.

    Read her full testimony.


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    Accounting Today magazine honored National Taxpayer Advocate Nina E. Olson by selecting her for its annual list of Top 100 Most Influential People in Accounting. According to the magazine, the honor is “a clear-eyed assessment by our editors of the individuals who are having the biggest impact on the current state and the future direction of the profession.” As part of its selection criteria, the magazine looked for individuals whose decisions “will have repercussions that will be felt for decades to come.”

    In the section of the list devoted to the NTA, the magazine justified Ms. Olson’s inclusion:

    The NTA adroitly performs two crucial functions: the more high-profile one of keeping an eye on the IRS to make sure it’s serving the American taxpayer well, and the less well-known one of keeping an eye out for the IRS, to make sure it has the resources it needs to handle vast new mandates like the changes brought about by tax reform.

    “It is an honor to be part of a group that includes company CEOs, high-ranking government officials and congressional leaders, but what means the most to me is the value the taxpayer places in our organization,” said Ms. Olson in response to the news of her inclusion on the list. “I am honored to receive this recognition but also know it is a testament to the unrelenting dedication to advocating for the rights of our taxpayers by all of us in TAS.


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