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There is a taxpayer advocate, and she's set TAS' 2015 priorities

It may feel as if the IRS and the federal government are in league against American taxpayers at times. The rules change, new taxes appear and old taxes expire -- when taxpayers expire, in fact, they still have to pay taxes. There is an agency that watches out for taxpayers, though: the Taxpayer Advocate Service.

The TAS is an independent agency within the IRS and has a few primary functions. First, the TAS acts as an ombudsman for taxpayers, investigating and working to resolve their complaints about the IRS. Second, the agency is a watchdog of the IRS, monitoring and evaluating IRS operations. Third, the agency reports twice a year to the House Committee on Ways and Means and the Senate Committee on Finance.

The first report is devoted to the agency's own plan for the upcoming fiscal year. The second report identifies the top 20 (or more) issues raised by taxpayers in the past year and reviews the 10 most commonly litigated tax issues. The second report also recommends changes to laws and regulations that the TAS believes will resolve and forestall those taxpayer issues.

The reports provide, in essence, consumer research to Congress. Tax policy is about more than the IRS, though. Congress is not bound to implement any of the recommendations, just as McDonald's may choose not to adopt menu items and policy changes suggested by consumers.

The National Taxpayer Advocate, Nina E. Olson, recently released the first report for fiscal year 2015. The report identifies the TAS' priority issues for the coming year. It came as no surprise to anyone that the first priority has to do with the recently passed Taxpayer Bill of Rights.

We will discuss the particulars of the report, including comments and recommendations for the Taxpayer Bill of Rights, in our next post.

Source: Internal Revenue Service, "National Taxpayer Advocate Identifies Priority Areas and Challenges in Mid-Year Report to Congress," July 16, 2014

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