The Taxpayer Advocate Has Spoken – Is Anybody Listening?

Today the Taxpayer Advocate Service (TAS) released its annual report to Congress and, once again, the tone of the report is one of alarm.

Nina Olson, head of TAS, is particularly concerned about the lack of funding at the IRS. Fewer employees are being asked to do more and more work, and services that should be handled by live bodies are often done by IRS automated systems. The result is that individuals can’t get their tax problems resolved. It’s a tax administration that may be on the brink of failure.

“We’ve had a number of years where the trending of taxpayer service funding has gone down and down in contrast to the increase of enforcement funding.  And then when you layer on the budget constraints, what you see is that taxpayer service is going to decline even more . . . I’m trying to give a warning to everybody, if we continue down this road, bad things are going to happen to taxpayers and it will be very difficult to reverse.

~ Nina Olson, National Taxpayer Advocate

The relationship between the TAS and the IRS is a strange one. The IRS posts the annual report on its website consistently every year and notifies interested parties by way of the IRS Newswire. But it seems obvious from the official IRS statements that the IRS is not happy with the strong comments from the TAS.

“While today’s report includes a number of helpful suggestions, the link described in the report between a challenging budget environment and alleged erosions in taxpayer rights is inaccurate and without basis in fact.

~ Michelle Eldridge, IRS spokesperson

The adversarial/independent nature of the IRS and the TAS perhaps should not be questioned these days. These certainly do not sound like unified voices.

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