1.5.8  Guidance for Taxpayer Advocate Service (TAS)

1.5.8.1  (10-01-2002)
Section Overview

  1. This section provides specific guidance on the use of statistics by Taxpayer Advocates Service employees. The majority of the guidance is provided in the form of questions and answers (Exhibit 1.5.8-1). The answers were determined by using the Decision Table in Section 2 (Exhibit 1.5.2-2). While it would be unreasonable to anticipate every possible current and future use of TAS statistics in this section, readers should use Section 1204, Regulation 801, this section and the Decision Table as guides in making determinations on items not directly covered here.

    Note:

    This section is not intended to stand alone. Please refer to Sections 1, 2 and 3 and the questions and answers in the other business units for additional guidance.

1.5.8.2  (10-01-2000)
General Guidelines

  1. National Directors, Area/Local Taxpayer Advocates, and their employees who work cases are covered under Section 1204 of RRA 98. Such employees exercise judgment in recommending or determining tax liabilities and/or ability to pay. Accordingly, TAS statistics determined to be ROTERs may not be used to evaluate these employees. Additionally, goals or quotas may not be imposed or suggested for such statistics.

  2. Statistical information accumulated on Taxpayer Advocate Service actions; e.g., whether to issue a Taxpayer Assistance Order, to issue a Taxpayer Advocate Directive, grant an installment agreement, adjust tax assessed on an account, or abate a penalty are ROTERs because the data represents specific case outcomes resulting from the exercise of judgment in working TAS cases.

  3. TAS cases are processed in accordance with IRM Part 13 and very specific quality standards. In addition, program effectiveness may be determined by case reviews and by other macro-measures, such as:

    • Volume of cases closed

    • Case cycle time

    • Casework quality index

    • Customer Satisfaction survey results, and

    • Employee Satisfaction survey results.

  4. None of the statistics in (3) above are considered ROTERs, since they are "outcome neutral" . Accordingly, they may be selected as balanced measures of Business Results, Customer Satisfaction and Employee Satisfaction. Goals may be set for these balanced measures. However, any activity involving balanced measures, such as setting goals, assessing progress and evaluating results, must consider and address all elements of the Balanced Measurement System.

    Note:

    See restrictions on the use of outcome neutral statistics (quantity measures) in IRM 1.5.2.18.

1.5.8.3  (10-01-2002)
Self-Certification

  1. On a quarterly basis, appropriate supervisors are required to certify that they have complied with RRA Section 1204 prohibitions. This certification includes, but is not limited to:

    • Taxpayer Advocate Service

  2. The levels of Section 1204 managers who report to the appropriate supervisor for Taxpayer Advocate Service include:

    • Taxpayer Advocate Group Manager (to)

    • Local Taxpayer Advocate (to)

    • Area Taxpayer Advocate (to)

    • National Directors (to)

    • Deputy National Taxpayer Advocate (to)

    • National Taxpayer Advocate (Appropriate Supervisor)

  3. Area Taxpayer Advocates certify for their Area Taxpayer Advocate staff only, not for the Local Taxpayer Advocate staffs. However, since the Area Taxpayer Advocate maintains the Employee Personnel File (EPF) of Local Taxpayer Advocates, those EPFs will be reviewed as part of the Area Taxpayer Advocate's quarterly self-certification. The appropriate supervisor (National Taxpayer Advocate) will certify for his/her immediate staff and the Employee Personnel Files (EPFs) of the Area Taxpayer Advocates.

  4. Refer to IRM 1.5.3 for procedures on the quarterly self-certification.

1.5.8.4  (10-01-2002)
Appropriate Supervisor

  1. The National Taxpayer Advocate, supported by the Deputy National Taxpayer Advocate, acts as the Appropriate Supervisor for the Taxpayer Advocate Service.

Exhibit 1.5.8-1  (10-01-2000)
Questions and Answers for the Taxpayer Advocate Service

The following questions and answers discuss the use of ROTERs and other statistics in the TAS organization. Where the termstepsis used, please refer to Regulation 801 Decision Table (Exhibit 1.5.2–2).

Q1. Will ROTERs continue to be used by the Service and TAS?
Yes. ROTERs will be used, but are restricted to use as diagnostic tools. ROTERs will not be used as balanced measures. ROTERs may not be used to evaluate employees or to suggest or impose performance quotas or goals.
Q2. May any TAS organizational unit receive its own statistical results?
Yes. An organizational unit may have results for the current year and prior years. This applies to balanced measures and diagnostic tools. The purpose for sharing these results is to assist managers in the planning process, determine the impact that actions are having on performance and establish revised plans based on what is learned from analysis of the numbers.
Q3. May any organizational unit receive its own ROTER results?
Yes. An organizational unit may receive performance results for any ROTER if the ROTER results are used as a diagnostic tool and the unit has a business purpose for using the tool. The unit may receive its ROTER performance for the current and prior years.
Q4. May TAS organizational units receive comparative data on other TAS organizational units?
The answer to this question is YES under some circumstances and NO to others. There are restrictions in both the law and Service policy on sharing comparative data. The law prohibits sharing comparative ROTER information where sharing would suggest or impose production quotas or goals. Organizational units may share balanced measures and other non-ROTER data with other units at the same level. (See IRM 1.5.1.11.3).
Q5. At a group meeting, a TAG manager states that the office's inventory has been rising the last few months and that greater attention needs to be paid to determining the reasons for a steady increase in aged inventory and variation in processing times of casework. Does discussing this information violate Section 1204 or Regulation 801?
No. Per the decision table, the sharing of this information is permissible to determine the causes of the variances. Caution should be used in the manner in which the information is conveyed as a diagnostic tool for getting behind the numbers. While sharing local level data on case age and variation in processing times is permitted, such discussions with SAAs and AAs are not recommended because of possible misinterpretation of managerial intent in sharing.
Some employees may conclude that they are being told that their own cases are not being closed fast enough. This may lead to premature closures and adverse impact in handling of individual cases. Concerns about the timeliness and age of TAS casework should be handled by reviewing cases in process for conformance with the IRM Part 13. In addition, other factors related to overall aging of inventory need be explored. Such factors include, but are not limited to, the volume of cases assigned per employee; delays in assigning cases after the TAS received date; and slow response from functional areas to Operations Assistance Requests (OAR).
Q6. May a TAS manager praise an AA for timely case actions when closing cases?
Yes. Timely actions taken on cases are not a ROTERs (step 1), nor are they considered quantity measures (step 3). Accordingly, the timely actions taken by an employee in closing their cases may be discussed with the employee. Caution should be used in the discussion so that a “time per case” goal is not inferred, since time per case is a quantity measure.
Q7. The Local Taxpayer Advocate (LTA) has concerns about the office's Quality Index, especially the scores for the Quality Standard #4-(Did TAS resolve all taxpayer issues?). The LTA shares these statistics with managers and employees and requests that steps be taken to identify the issues and improve this aspect of local casework. Does this violate Section 1204 or Regulation 801?
No. Since data on the quality of casework is not a ROTER (step 1), it can be shared with managers and employees. One purpose for having a Quality Index and related data is for use as a diagnostic tool. Caution must be exercised in any discussion to ensure that all participants understand the statistical validity (or lack thereof) of the data. Of course, whenever discussions are held with managers and employees relative to program results, emphasis must be on getting behind the numbers to make substantive improvements in case processing. Discussion must never focus on "how to make the numbers look better" .
Q8. While reviewing inventories, the LTA finds two AAs and one SAA have closed several of their cases without taking all appropriate actions. Can the LTA discuss these findings with them?
Yes. If the LTA (or TAG manager) has reviewed the merits of the case, neither Section 1204 or Regulation 801 applies. Sharing the results of case reviews with employees is encouraged. A balanced review of an employee's casework should document praiseworthy case processing actions as well as specific shortcomings. Each employee should be counseled, as necessary, regarding specific shortcomings that are related to the employee's job elements and standards and guidance should be given on actions not taken or incorrectly taken.
Q9. The local Quality Analyst returns a case reviewed by Centralized Quality Review (CQR) to a TAG manager because the case needs to be reopened. CQR indicates specific additional actions that should have been taken before case closure. May the manager discuss the case with the employee who worked the case?
Yes. As noted above, LTAs and TAG managers are free to discuss the merits, issues, development of techniques and proposed actions in a particular case. If the manager has reviewed the merits of the case, neither Section 1204 or Regulation 801 applies. Since CQR results are designed to be statistically valid at the office level only, the TAG manager may not use the results of the CQR case in an employee's evaluation. This prohibition applies to all cases returned from the TAS CQR sites.
Q10. Data on the number of Application for Taxpayer Assistance Order (ATAO) cases closed in which relief was granted to the taxpayer is available on the TAMIS database. Reports can be secured that stratify relief data by type of case; e.g., the number of taxpayers granted a release of levy or lien. How can this data be used and should this type of report (one having enforcement related actions) be shared with TAS managers and employees?
Data on just the number of ATAO cases closed is a TAS quantity measure and must be used in concert with other TAS balanced measures. However, when ATAO closures are stratified by how cases were closed (e.g., the number or percent of cases which relief was granted), the data becomes a ROTER because the information involves specific outcomes resulting from case decisions (Step 1). Accordingly, outcome specific data may only be used as a diagnostic tool, not as a measure for goal setting or evaluative purposes (step 2). In addition, this data should not be shared with employees who work ATAOs. Sharing such data may suggest a production quota or goal. In the example, employees may mistakenly conclude that the number or percent of relief actions they personally initiate is too high or too low compared to the report generated. This may inappropriately influence employees and result in determinations not supported by the facts in the casework. When used as a diagnostic tool, the data may be discussed among TAS managers with a view toward identifying the factors that influence case outcomes.
Q11. The Area Taxpayer Advocate (ATA) has noticed that closures are declining in one office. As a result, open inventory is increasing. May the ATA discuss this data individually with the Local Taxpayer Advocate (LTA)? May the ATA give directions to the LTA on taking steps to ascertain reasons for the decline in closures and to propose steps to reverse the trend?
Yes. It is not a violation of Section 1204 or Regulation 801 to share the closure data. In noticing the trend and asking the LTA to perform additional research to determine reasons for the decline, the ATA is using the data as a diagnostic tool and asking that the LTA do the same. Since the number of TAS case closures is a quantity measure for TAS, any steps proposed to reverse the decline must be taken in conjunction with the other TAS balanced measures. The ATA may NOT use this data to evaluate the LTA (step 4b).
Q12. If a local TAS office does not meet a goal set for a balanced measure, how should the ATA handle this fact when completing the local LTAs appraisal?
The ATA should discuss the underlying reasons for not meeting the goal with the LTA. The numeric result may not be used directly to determine the rating given to a LTA (step 4b). The ATA should "get behind the numbers" to determine if the LTAs agreed commitments were fulfilled. In addition, a dialogue should take place to ascertain whether there were factors beyond the control of the local LTA that contributed, in whole or in part, to not meeting the goal. Finally, achievements for all agreed commitments and evaluative standards must be taken into account in arriving at the overall rating for the period.

Exhibit 1.5.8-2  (10-01-2002)
Using the Taxpayer Advocate Service Functional Measures/Statistics Matrix

Measures Matrix
The following legend and matrix was developed to assist TAS personnel in determining what data can be made available to various levels in the TAS organization. It is useful in applying criteria to decide whether making a statistic available is likely to suggest a quota or goal (step 2 and step 4 of the Decision Table). The matrix does NOT require that information be shared; specific business purpose, risks and benefits should be considered in making decisions about each use of Records of Tax Enforcement Results (ROTER) data.
This matrix applies to the sharing of information for various business purposes. In no event may a ROTER be used to set a goal or evaluate an employee or manager. Data not considered a ROTER can be communicated to employees and managers in the proper context. ROTER data should not be communicated to non-managers.
The matrix applies to the sharing of information for various business purposes. In no event may a ROTER be used to set a goal or to evaluate a Section 1204 employee. ROTER data should not be communicated to non-managers*. Data, not considered a ROTER, may be communicated to employees and managers in the proper context. Incidental access to ROTER data by employees or managers who are not authorized to regularly receive the data does not violate Section 1204 or Regulation 801. For example, there is no Section 1204 or Regulation violation if TAS employees receive ROTER data in the course of an acting assignment or see published reports of ROTER data in reports such as the National Taxpayer Advocate's Annual Report to Congress.
The matrix indicates the organizational level within TAS for which data is available (or may be obtained through computer query capability). Comparative ROTER data about peer offices will not be provided. For example, if a LTA may have access to a ROTER for their office, the LTA will not receive ROTER data about other LTA offices. Similarly, TAG managers with access to their own ROTER data will not receive comparable data about other TAS managers.
The matrix may not cover every conceivable ROTER; if a specific ROTER is not shown in the TAS matrix, look first to the other matrices in the other sections of this handbook for guidance. If the specific ROTER is not shown in any of the matrices, the decision as to sharing must be made by applying the criteria in Section 1204, Regulation 801 and referring to similar ROTERS in the matrix.
The matrix applies to statistics (e.g., penalties abated, number of levies released, etc.) regardless of the source of the data (e.g. TAMIS, AIMS, Entity, manual TAS reports, etc.).
Organizational units may share balanced measures and other non-ROTER data with other units at the same level. (See IRM 1.5.1.11.3.)
*Exception-TAS analysts and TAS employees assigned to authorized Process Analysis teams will have access to all data necessary to conduct effective analyses.

Exhibit 1.5.8-3  (10-01-2000)
Business Purposes

Business Purposes
1 Long range planning
2 Forward planning and control
3 Financial planning
4 Allocation of Resources
5 Work planning and control
6 Obtain Appropriate Casework Results
7 Effective functional management (in conjunction with other data)
8 Preparation for operational reviews
9 Identify areas for program review
10 Identify trends and best practices
11 Identify areas for process analysis review
12 Public relations/outreach
13 General knowledge of business operations
14 Quality improvement projects/special projects or tests
15 Inventory management
16 Data available as public information
17 Identify training needs
18 Identify need for management counseling
19 Identify systemic trends
20 Ensure customer satisfaction
21 Cross functional quality indicator

Exhibit 1.5.8-4  (10-01-2002)
Taxpayer Advocate Service Functional Measures/Statistics Matrix

Level of Data Available
N = NTA A = ATA L = LTA T = TAG Manager
 
  Statistic Measure ROTER (Y or N) Area Taxpayer Advocate (A Local Taxpayer Advocate (L) TA Group Manager (T) Business Purpose (See legend)
1. T/A Case Closures No A,L,T L,T T **
2. T/A Case Receipts and Inventory No A,L,T L,T T **
3. Percentage Closures to Receipts. No A,L,T L,T T **
4. Rate of Case Re-openings No A,L,T L,T T **
5. Cycle Time (closed cases) No Section 1204 does not apply *
6. Days in Progress (open cases) No Section 1204 does not apply *
7. Casework Quality No Section 1204 does not apply *
8. Case Transfers and Referrals No A,L,T L,T T **
9. Number and/or percent of closed cases by type of relief provided (e.g., release of levy, penalty abated, IAs granted, OICs recommended, etc.) Yes A,L,T L,T T A=1,2,4,9,10,11,15,19, L=2,4,10,11,15,19, T=4,15,19
10. Closures by Major Issue (MI) NO A,L,T L,T T **
11. No. or Percent of Cases for which No Change was made to Functional Determination Yes A,L,T L,T T A=8,9,10,11,15,19,L=8,9,10,11,15,19,T=15,19
Note:**Although not a ROTER, Regulation 801 limits use of these quantity measures. See Regulation 801.2(b) in Exhibit 1.5.2–1.
Note:*Relating to quality measures (although not ROTERs), caution should be used to ensure that overemphasis does not cause inappropriate case resolution.

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