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Enforcement-oriented culture continues at IRS

The National Taxpayer Advocate, Nina Olson, has been the voice of taxpayers for 15 years. She heads up an independent organization called the Taxpayer Advocate Service that helps resolve taxpayer problems and advocates for systemic change.

One major accomplishment was the June 2014 Taxpayer Bill of Rights, which we discussed in our February 2015 post. The Taxpayer Advocate now seeks a culture shift to place taxpayers first rather than enforcement.

 

A service model to encourage compliance

Describing an agency that uses resources to “hunt down” down noncompliant taxpayers, the report states that: “if taxpayers don’t get the help they need to comply and they make a mistake, they are treated as if they are tax evaders. This treatment … breeds resentment and increases the risk that the taxpayer who was willing to comply is no longer will to do so. In this way, the underlying assumption by the tax agency that taxpayers will evade tax becomes a self-fulfilling proposition.”

Ms. Olson advocates for more customer-centric service. Funding and budget cuts have become a significant issue leaving the agency largely unable to meet taxpayer needs or improve its technology systems, however.

Enforcement first is evidenced by allocations in the IRS budget request for FY 2017. A larger increase in funding (7.2 percent) is sought for enforcement and 43 percent of the budget is directed toward enforcement. Meanwhile, taxpayer services receive less attention (with a request for a 3.1 percent increase) and less than six percent of the budget directed toward taxpayer outreach and education.

Still a challenge to reach anyone on the phone

The IRS receives more than 100 million telephone calls each year. In FY 2015 it was only able to answer 38 percent. In FY 2015, that percentage improved to 53 percent. Wait times went from 30 minutes to 18 minutes, which remains a long time to sit on hold.

Future State plan

As a part of a Future State plan, business divisions developed “taxpayer vignettes” to illustrate its vision of the future. Each has a taxpayer conceding to the IRS and accepting to the agency adjustment. A concern addressed by the Taxpayer Advocate was that there was no scenarios where the taxpayer prevailed.

This all demonstrates the necessity of seeking guidance from a tax attorney who knows the system and can advocate for your interests during an audit.

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