Taxpayer Advocate Experiencing Delays
The Taxpayer Advocate Service (TAS) is an independent organization within the IRS. They ensure that every taxpayer is treated fairly and that you know and understand your rights. They help you if you have tax problems that you can’t resolve on your own.
TAS recently announced in its blog that it has been overwhelmed with assisting taxpayers who need their help.
“Our advocates have been handling unusually high levels of inventory for the last year,” writes Erin Collins, the national taxpayer advocate, in a blog post. “The past two filing seasons have been particularly difficult. On top of dealing with personal, medical, and financial challenges brought on by COVID-19, taxpayers have struggled to get advice and answers from the IRS, and millions of refunds are still pending.”
TAS can’t actually fix problems itself. It can only work with the IRS to advocate for certain solutions. Consequently, the TAS can’t do its job if the IRS doesn’t do its job. Currently both entities are too understaffed to do their jobs efficiently. According to Collins, taxpayers wait an average of 80 minutes when they call the TAS for help, and many encounter what she described as “courtesy disconnects”, in other words they get hung up on.
There are several main reasons for the problems.
TAS is expecting 253,000 cased this year which is an increase of over 50% compared to 2017.
Adjusted for inflation, the budget to operate the TAS has fallen by 10% since 2017. As a result, staff levels have decreased by the same amount, even though the workload has increased.
Due to IRS logjams, the IRS is taking longer to fix things. Consequently, TAS advocates are having to spend more time on each case. When you multiply that by 253,000, it’s easy to see the problem.
TAS has the ability to prioritize taxpayers facing financial harm. However, it is now taking many months longer to provide the needed relief.
Collins requests that taxpayers and practitioners be courteous and understanding when speaking with the advocates. Employees are not responsible for the increased cases, the reduction in resources, or the pandemic which has slowed the IRS operations.
Collins recommends that Congress provide better funding to the IRS. This would both improve the agency’s efficiency and allow for adequate staffing levels at the TAS. The additional funding would also help taxpayers who “face immediate financial hardship or fall through the cracks of IRS bureaucracy.”
David Zubler is a tax accountant and Enrolled Agent in East Tennessee, providing tax strategies and representing clients before the IRS and has over 25 years of tax experience. He is the author of six tax books and has shared tax advice on national TV. He is the founder and president of Your Tax Care. The company provides business and tax education, including David’s one-minute tax tip radio recordings at YourTaxCare.com. David can be reached at (865) 363-3019 or contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.