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News - TAS in the News
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    Every year, the Taxpayer Advocate Service (TAS) helps thousands of people with tax problems. All personal details are removed to protect the privacy of the taxpayer.

    While a taxpayer was out of the country, his brother stole his identity and used his Social Security number to file a tax return. The IRS audited the return, filed a lien against the taxpayer’s property, and took part of his refunds to pay the balance due (that showed on the bogus return the brother filed).

    The taxpayer provided his original passport that proved he was out of the country when the fraudulent return was filed and audited. He also provided a copy of his brother’s driver’s license showing his name, but with his brother’s picture. TAS worked to get the assessment removed from the taxpayer’s account but the IRS denied the request multiple times, stating the taxpayer knew the person using his identity. The Case Advocate did not give up and continued to advocate by elevating the case. Ultimately, the IRS agreed to reverse the assessment and issue a refund to the taxpayer.

    Learn more about identity theft.

    When working with the Taxpayer Advocate Service, each individual or business taxpayer is assigned to an advocate who listens to the problem and helps the taxpayer understand what needs to be done to fix it. TAS advocates will do everything they can to get the problems resolved and will stay with the taxpayers every step of the way. Occasionally we feature stories of taxpayers and advocates who worked together to resolve complex tax issues. Read more TAS success stories.


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    Every year, the Taxpayer Advocate Service (TAS) helps thousands of people with tax problems. All personal details are removed to protect the privacy of the taxpayer.

    The IRS took a taxpayer’s entire refund to offset a debt owed by her husband. The taxpayer didn’t try to recover the money through an “injured spouse” claim until two years later, and by then she’d been assessed additional tax for unreported income. The IRS refused to return the injured spouse’s full share of the overpayment because of the tax increase.

    A Low Income Taxpayer Clinic attorney contacted TAS for help in getting the injured spouse claim processed. The TAS case advocate argued the IRS acted incorrectly in taking the injured spouse’s share of the refund to pay debt for which she was not liable. After several attempts, TAS successfully negotiated the full allowance of the claim. The attorney recognized the case advocate’s “amazing work.”

    Learn more about injured spouse.

    When working with the Taxpayer Advocate Service, each individual or business taxpayer is assigned to an advocate who listens to the problem and helps the taxpayer understand what needs to be done to fix it. TAS advocates will do everything they can to get the problems resolved and will stay with the taxpayers every step of the way. Occasionally we feature stories of taxpayers and advocates who worked together to resolve complex tax issues. Read more TAS success stories.


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    In advance of the International Conference on Taxpayer Rights, National Taxpayer Advocate Nina E. Olson sat down with Tax Analysts' William Hoffman to talk about differences between taxpayer rights and remedies, embedding taxpayer rights in the Internal Revenue Manual, and why Sweden's idea of taxpayer rights would never work in the United States.

    The full interview is available from Tax Analysts

    Tax Analysts Exclusive: Conversations: Nina Olson Stands Up for Taxpayer Rights (November 5, 2015)

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    Every year, the Taxpayer Advocate Service (TAS) helps thousands of people with tax problems. All personal details are removed to protect the privacy of the taxpayer.

    Two taxpayers claimed the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) for the same dependents. This created a complicated case that required TAS’s advocates to use all their knowledge to figure out who was actually eligible for the credit. Based on the EITC rules, the taxpayer who came to TAS for help should have received the credit. However, the case advocate needed one missing piece of information -- a court-ordered custody agreement. The taxpayer promised to provide the information but did not send it or respond to a follow-up letter and phone calls. The case advocate did not give up and made one more contact to the taxpayer – who, as it turned out, had been out of town due to a family illness. The taxpayer quickly faxed in the information and the case advocate promptly shared it with the IRS, successfully advocating for the EITC and granting the taxpayer his refund.

    Learn more about the Earned Income Tax Credit.

    When working with the Taxpayer Advocate Service, each individual or business taxpayer is assigned to an advocate who listens to the problem and helps the taxpayer understand what needs to be done to fix it. TAS advocates will do everything they can to get the problems resolved and will stay with the taxpayers every step of the way. Occasionally we feature stories of taxpayers and advocates who worked together to resolve complex tax issues. Read more TAS success stories.


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    National Taxpayer Advocate Nina Olson was interviewed by Tax Analysts reporter Bill Hoffman for Tax Notes Live, a weekly show highlighting news in tax.

    NTA Nina Olson discussed the IRS’s adoption of the Taxpayer Bill of Rights and TAS’s effort to raise awareness among taxpayers through local outreach activities. She shared plans for a follow up taxpayer rights survey this coming year that will help measure if TAS and the IRS have made advances in educating taxpayers about their rights when dealing with the IRS.

    She also discussed her hopes for the inaugural International Conference on Taxpayer Rights held at the National Archives in Washington, DC – that it would start a dialog about taxpayer rights among the more than 20 countries represented at the conference.

    Listen to the interview on Tax Notes Live (beginning at 43:15)


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    The Associated Press covered the release of the National Taxpayer Advocate's 2015 Annual Report to Congress

    WASHINGTON (AP) — The IRS is planning to push you to fire up the computer rather than calling for tax help, but the agency's in-house watchdog says that could freeze out millions of taxpayers or force them to pay for advice.

    ...

    "Implicit in the plan — and explicit in internal discussion — is an intention on the part of the IRS to substantially reduce telephone and face-to-face interaction with taxpayers," Olson's report said. "The key unanswered question is by how much. ... It is incumbent upon the IRS to be much more specific about how much personal taxpayer assistance it expects to provide."

    Read the full article: IRS watchdog warns of scaled-back service in agency plans - Associated Press (Jan. 6, 2016)


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    The New York Times covered the release of the 2015 Annual Report to Congress, saying:

    Under pressure from Congress to do more with less, the Internal Revenue Service is planning to increase its reliance on technology and tax preparers. But this push threatens to create a “pay to play” system where the only taxpayers who will receive personalized service are those who can afford to pay for it, the agency’s taxpayer advocate warned.

    Read the full article: Taxpayer Advocate Warns of ‘Pay to Play’ I.R.S. System - The New York Times (January 9, 2016)


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    USA Today reported on the release of the 2015 Annual Report to Congress, saying:

    NEW YORK-- The Internal Revenue Service is quietly moving toward a high-tech future that could end up hurting taxpayers and costing them more money, a new report warns.

    Since 2014, the IRS has invested millions of dollars on a plan to make better use of its limited resources, including adoption of online taxpayer accounts.

    But the plan, which has yet to be made fully public, could add to people's costs come tax season — and discourage them from paying their dues, warned the National Taxpayer Advocate in its annual report to Congress, released Wednesday.

    "I have significant concerns that the IRS is embarking on a path that will unintentionally undermine taxpayer rights rather than enhance them, thereby eroding taxpayer trust further," wrote Nina Olson in her report to Congress.

    Read the full article: Report warns IRS's online plans could hurt taxpayers - USA Today (January 6, 2016) Watch the video.


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    The Wall Street Journal reported on the release of the 2015 Annual Report to Congress, saying:

    An internal watchdog at the Internal Revenue Service is warning that the agency’s plan to shift many taxpayer services to the Internet contains risks for the public and may not work as the IRS intends.

    Nina Olson, the national taxpayer advocate, deemed the uncertainty about the IRS “future state” project as the most serious problem facing taxpayers. She called on the IRS to provide more details about the plans immediately. Ms. Olson, who runs an independent office inside the IRS, released her annual report on Wednesday.

    Ms. Olson wrote that she is concerned about how IRS interaction with taxpayers may evolve as the agency tries to cope with funding limits and updates its aging technology. The new online account system, a priority for IRS Commissioner John Koskinen, could let the IRS reduce service even further than it already has on its toll-free telephone lines and its walk-in assistance centers.

    Read the full article: IRS Watchdog Warns of Risks in Moving Services to Internet - The Wall Street Journal (January 6, 2016)


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    The Washington Post reported on the release of the 2015 Annual Report to Congress last week, saying:

    Doing business with the Internal Revenue Service of the future will feel a lot like doing business with an online retailer or your bank. You’ll file your taxes online and be notified through a secure email account that the IRS got them. Questions, payments — even audits — will be communicated to you electronically. No more letters in the mail.

    The IRS says its jump to widespread automation sometime in the next five years will be a necessary act of catching up to the modern world. But a new report issued Wednesday by the national advocate for taxpayers alleges that the IRS of the future will more or less wipe out taxpayers’ interaction with a human being, either on the phone or in person.

    “Based on our internal discussions with IRS officials, [we have] been left with the distinct impression that the IRS’s ultimate goal is ‘to get out of the business of talking with taxpayers,'” National Taxpayer Advocate Nina E. Olson wrote in her annual report to Congress.

    Read the full article: Secret plan shows the IRS wants to ‘get out of the business of talking with taxpayers,’ advocate says - The Washington Post (January 6, 2016)


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    National Taxpayer Advocate Nina E. Olson appeared on C-SPAN earlier this week to talk about customer service at the IRS and taxpayer's concerns before the April 15 filing deadline.

    She also took questions from callers which covered a wide range of topics including the Earned Income Tax Credit, tax refunds,  abolishing the IRS, and Donald Trump's tax audits.

    Watch the video at C-SPAN.


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    Leslie Book, professor of law at Villanova University, was one of the panelists at the first National Taxpayer Advocate Public Forum, held Feb. 23 in Washington, DC. Professor Book also writes for the blog Procedurally Taxing, and this week he wrote a post discussing his own testimony, the other presentations, and the importance of the forums generally.

    It is not easy to administer a tax system. When you add into the mix a society as diverse as ours, and a tax system that really is not just one system but many differing systems, the IRS has its hands full. The forums are an important way for differing constituents to present their voices and hopefully allow the IRS to design future service plans with taxpayer needs in mind.

    Read the full article on Procedurally Taxing.


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    Tax Analysts has honored National Taxpayer Advocate Nina Olson as one of ten outstanding women in tax. After receiving more than 300 nominations, Nina Olson was recognized as a global tax pioneer, influencing tax administration and policy every day.

    Nina Olson has been a pioneer in the tax field, serving as the voice of the taxpayer at the IRS and before Congress. Under her leadership, the Taxpayer Advocate Service helps hundreds of thousands of people every year resolve problems with the IRS and address systemic issues within the IRS. Her Annual Report to Congress identifies the most serious problems facing taxpayers and recommends solutions. Nina Olson’s recognition of this award reflects her influence on the work of legislators, tax administrators and tax professionals across the globe.

    Read the full article: 2016 Outstanding Women in Tax - Tax Analysts (April 25, 2016)


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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.