13.1.7  Taxpayer Advocate Service (TAS) Case Criteria

13.1.7.1  (07-23-2007)
Introduction to Taxpayer Advocate Service (TAS) Case Criteria

  1. While the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is continually working to serve customers in a quality manner, some taxpayers still have difficulty getting solutions to their problems or getting timely and appropriate responses to their inquiries. Per IRC § 7803(c), Congress established the office of the National Taxpayer Advocate (NTA) and its functions within the IRS to assist these taxpayers. TAS has identified criteria that qualify taxpayers for TAS assistance, which includes an independent review by a Case Advocate of actions that have been taken or need to be taken to resolve the problems taxpayers are experiencing. TAS Criteria 1-9 reflect situations requiring acceptance of taxpayer cases to be worked by TAS. TAS commonly refers to Criteria 1-4 as "economic burden" cases , and Criteria 5-7 as "systemic burden" cases Criteria 8 is "Best Interest of the Taxpayer" and Criteria 9 concerns "Public Policy."

  2. TAS Case Criteria should not be viewed as a means of excluding taxpayers from TAS, but rather, as a guide to TAS case acceptance. The criteria under which TAS accepts a case should not govern whether a taxpayer is entitled to relief. Similarly, as discussed in IRM 13.1.20, TAS Taxpayer Assistance Order (TAO) Process, the criteria under which TAS accepts a case should not govern whether TAS can issue a Taxpayer Assistance Order (TAO).

13.1.7.2  (07-23-2007)
TAS Case Criteria

  1. A taxpayer contact that meets any of the criteria listed below should be worked by TAS:

    Type TAS Criteria Description
    Economic Burden 1 The taxpayer is experiencing economic harm or is about to suffer economic harm.
    Economic Burden 2 The taxpayer is facing an immediate threat of adverse action.
    Economic Burden 3 The taxpayer will incur significant costs if relief is not granted (including fees for professional representation).
    Economic Burden 4 The taxpayer will suffer irreparable injury or long term adverse impact if relief is not granted.
    Systemic Burden 5 The taxpayer has experienced a delay of more than 30 days to resolve a tax account problem.
    Systemic Burden 6 The taxpayer has not received a response or resolution to the problem or inquiry by the date promised.
    Systemic Burden 7 A system or procedure has either failed to operate as intended, or failed to resolve the taxpayer's problem or dispute within the IRS.
    Best Interest of the Taxpayer 8 The manner in which the tax laws are being administered raises considerations of equity, or have impaired or will impair taxpayers' rights.
    Public Policy 9 The NTA determines compelling public policy warrants assistance to an individual or group of taxpayers.

    Reminder:

    Taxpayers do not need to document their hardship to be accepted into the TAS program. Case Advocates will need to document the hardship in the course of developing the case and determining what relief is appropriate.

    Note:

    TAS will track some cases instead of working them. These types of cases will be identified on TAMIS with tracking code zero (0) recorded in the Case Criteria Field. For example, in the past TAS cases worked by Governmental Liaisons were identified on TAMIS with a zero in the Case Criteria Field.

13.1.7.2.1  (08-24-2007)
TAS Case Criteria 1 – 4, Economic Burden

  1. Criteria 1 -- The taxpayer is experiencing economic harm or is about to suffer economic harm. The economic harm may be the result of actions by the IRS or created as a result of circumstances in the taxpayer's personal life.

    IRC § 7811(2) outlines three examples of significant hardship that are categorized below as Case Criteria 2, 3 and 4. Economic Harm situations that require TAS's assistance but do not fall under these criteria will be captured under Case Criteria 1.

    Note:

    Be careful not to confuse "economic harm" with "economic hardship." The term "economic hardship" has significance in IRC § 6343, Authority to release levy and return property.

    Example:

    A taxpayer’s return has been selected for examination based on the claim for Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). The taxpayer is expecting a $3,000 refund but cannot wait for the completion of the examination, as the taxpayer has a serious medical condition and no health insurance. She needs the money to pay for prescription drugs and nonelective surgery. This case should be accepted into the TAS program as a Criteria 1 case.

  2. Criteria 2 -- The taxpayer is facing an immediate threat of adverse action. Most situations will involve an action by the IRS, such as the filing of a Notice of Federal Tax Lien, the service of a Notice of Levy or the seizure of property. Threat of adverse actions can also involve the taxpayer's personal situations, such as utility cutoffs or evictions. Such actions may result in negative financial consequences or economic burden to the taxpayer. A warning of impending action that will negatively impact the taxpayer is considered a "threat." An immediate threat is defined as an action that will take place unless there is an intervening action to stop the action.

    Example:

    On June 15, the taxpayer came to TAS with an eviction notice stating that he will be evicted on July 1 if his rent is not paid. The taxpayer is awaiting a refund of $2,000 on his 2006 Form 1040 income tax return. This refund will pay in full his arrearage, thus preventing the eviction. This case would be accepted into the TAS program as a Criteria 2 case because the threat of adverse action exists (the eviction notice), and the threat is immediate (15 days).

  3. Criteria 3 -- The taxpayer will incur significant costs if relief is not granted (including fees for professional representation). Situations where the IRS is unable to immediately make adjustments, process returns, release a lien, etc., could result in the taxpayer having to incur significant costs. Significant costs could include professional fees for assistance.

    Note:

    The Local Taxpayer Advocate (LTA) will determine what constitutes significant costs based on the facts and circumstances of each case.

    Example:

    A corporate officer filed a form on behalf of the corporation to elect to be treated as an "S" corporation rather than a "C" corporation. The election request was not filed timely. If the corporation did not have reasonable cause for the failure to timely make the S-corporation election, the IRS now requires a private letter ruling to make the change. There is a user fee for private letter ruling requests (generally $10,000, although a reduced user fee is available depending on a taxpayer's gross income), and the corporation would have to obtain representation to request and obtain the ruling. The corporate officer states that this is a start-up business which does not have the cash flow to pay these costs. This case should be accepted into the TAS program by the LTA as a Criteria 3 case.

  4. Criteria 4 --The taxpayer will suffer irreparable injury or long term adverse impact if relief is not granted. This includes situations where a taxpayer may lose assets, income, or potential income if relief is not provided. Some situations include loss of the ability to be licensed or bonded as part of the taxpayer’s occupation, or loss of borrowing power or clients due to filing of a Notice of Federal Tax Lien. Other situations may involve damage to credit ratings resulting in denial of a loan.

    Example:

    The taxpayer has a lien on his property due to an outstanding tax liability. He is trying to refinance his mortgage, which would result in a lower monthly payment and would allow him to pay his outstanding tax liability. He has filed an amended return which would eliminate the tax liability. The amended return has been selected for examination, but no action has been taken. This case should be accepted into the TAS program as a Criteria 4 case.

13.1.7.2.2  (07-23-2007)
TAS Case Criteria 5 – 7, Systemic Burden

  1. Criteria 5 -- The taxpayer has experienced a delay of more than 30 days to resolve a tax account problem.

    1. Where there is an established time frames for a specific action based on an IRM, IRS form, or other official document, Criteria 5 is met when the problem or inquiry is delayed more than 30 days after the prescribed period. Refer to Exhibit 13.1.7-1, General Response Time Guidelines, for established normal response times on various (not inclusive) issues.

      Example:

      Sixty days is the normal processing time for a Form 4506, Request for Copy of Tax Return, when the taxpayer is requesting a copy of an actual return. If no response is received on the 90th day after filing Form 4506, the taxpayer's circumstance meets Criteria 5.

    2. Where there is no established time frame for a specific action based on an IRM, IRS form, or other official document, Criteria 5 is met when the problem or inquiry is delayed more than 30 days after the initial date the taxpayer made a request for IRS assistance.

      Example:

      A taxpayer received an examination determination from a revenue agent. On January 10, the taxpayer wrote to the IRS, requesting an interest calculation so she could pay her account in full. On March 1, the taxpayer contacts TAS for the interest calculation because she has not received a response to her letter. Since more than 30 days have passed from January 10, Criteria 5 is met.

    3. Criteria 5 is met when the IRS sends multiple interim responses and no other actions by the IRS have been taken. Interim letters can extend prescribed time frames unless the delay is extensive or unreasonable. Judgment should be used to determine if the operating division or function's delay is justified or whether it is an unwarranted delay.

      Example:

      A taxpayer writes to the IRS for an abatement of his federal tax deposit penalty on June 12. The taxpayer receives a response from the IRS on July 1, acknowledging receipt of his letter and informing him that it will be another 30 days before his inquiry can be answered. On July 27, the taxpayer receives another IRS letter stating that it will take an additional eight weeks for a reply. The TAS employee checks IDRS information and no action has been taken by the IRS on the taxpayer’s account other than sending the second interim correspondence. The taxpayer’s circumstances meet Criteria 5.

    4. Delays due to taxpayer unresponsiveness will not meet Criteria 5.

      Example:

      A taxpayer writes to the IRS for an abatement of his federal tax deposit penalty on June 12. The taxpayer receives a response from the IRS on July 1, acknowledging receipt of his letter and requesting additional information by July 12 to abate the penalty. On July 27, the taxpayer receives another IRS letter with a second request for information. The taxpayer has not submitted any information for consideration. The taxpayer contacts TAS for assistance on August 1, stating the penalty has not been abated. The TAS employee checks IDRS and determines from the history items that multiple requests for information were sent to the taxpayer. The TAS employee asks if the taxpayer has received any contact from the IRS. The taxpayer states he did receive a request for more information but has not mailed it in. This circumstance does not meet Criteria 5. However, TAS should still explain to the taxpayer what information the IRS, in general, needs to make a penalty abatement.

  2. Criteria 6 --The taxpayer has not received a response or resolution to the problem or inquiry by the date promised.

    Example:

    The taxpayer has been in contact with the Correspondence Examination unit at an IRS campus because of alleged unreported income. The tax examiner requested substantiation of the taxpayer’s basis of some stock transactions. The taxpayer sent the information five weeks ago. The taxpayer received IRS correspondence acknowledging receipt of the information. The IRS correspondence also indicated that a determination would be made and the taxpayer would be contacted by March 5. On March 7, the taxpayer contacts the NTA toll-free number for assistance. The inquiry is accepted into TAS as a Criteria 6 case because the taxpayer was not contacted by the promised date of March 5.

  3. Criteria 7 -- A system or procedure has either failed to operate as intended or failed to resolve the taxpayer's problem or dispute within the IRS.

    Example:

    The IRS examined a taxpayer’s return in a prior year for EITC and subsequently allowed the credit. The taxpayer filed her subsequent year return and the IRS failed to issue her refund. The taxpayer contacts TAS for assistance. TAS determines the refund was held because the IDRS transaction code 810 indicator was never reversed as it should have been. The taxpayer’s circumstances meet Criteria 7 because the IRS’s procedures for releasing a refund freeze failed to operate as intended.

    Example:

    A taxpayer writes to the IRS for an abatement of his federal tax deposit penalty and requests a credit elect to the next quarter. IRS abates the penalty, but the overpayment has not been credited to the next quarter. The taxpayer’s circumstances meet Criteria 7 because the IRS’s procedures for crediting overpayments failed to operate as intended.

13.1.7.2.3  (07-23-2007)
TAS Case Criteria 8, Best Interest of the Taxpayer

  1. Criteria 8 -- The manner in which the tax laws are being administered raises considerations of equity or has impaired or will impair the taxpayer’s rights.

    Example:

    The taxpayer disagrees with the proposed tax assessment. A notice of deficiency was issued without giving the taxpayer his appeal rights.

    Example:

    The IRS assessed penalties and interest against a group of taxpayers whose returns were prepared by the same tax return preparer. The return preparer deducted inflated expenses on the taxpayers' federal income tax returns to increase their refunds, on which the tax return preparer based his fees. The taxpayers generally are self-employed, minimally educated, and speak English as a second language. They trusted that the return preparer would accurately prepare their returns.

    Note:

    RRA '98 § 1203(b)(3) addresses violations of taxpayers' constitutional or civil rights by an IRS employee. The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) has responsibility for investigating such alleged violations. If you believe a taxpayer's constitutional or civil rights were violated by an IRS employee, please refer to IRM 13.1.15, Customer Complaints / RRA98 Section 1203 Procedures.

13.1.7.2.4  (04-26-2011)
TAS Case Criteria 9, TAS Public Policy

  1. Criteria 9 -- The NTA determines compelling public policy warrants assistance to an individual or group of taxpayers. The NTA has the sole authority for determining which issues are included in this criteria and will so designate by memo.

    Example:

    The NTA decided any inquiries related to organizations where the IRS automatically revoked their tax-exempt status because the organization did not file an annual return or notice for three consecutive years.

13.1.7.3  (07-23-2007)
Exceptions to Taxpayer Advocate Service Criteria

  1. There are certain cases that should not be accepted into TAS:

    1. The taxpayer’s complaint or inquiry only questions the constitutionality of the tax system.

    2. The focus of the taxpayer's inquiry solely involves frivolous tax strategies intended to avoid or delay the filing or paying of federal taxes.

13.1.7.4  (10-01-2001)
Same Day Resolution by Operations

  1. Problems that meet TAS criteria do not necessarily need to be sent to TAS when they can be immediately resolved by an operating division or function. It is important that all IRS employees handle potential TAS cases with the taxpayer's best interest in mind. The definition of "Same Day Resolution" is "within 24 hours" . The following two situations meet the definition of "Same Day Resolution:"

    • The issue can be resolved within 24 hours.

    • The IRS takes steps within 24 hours to resolve the taxpayer's issue.

    Cases that can be resolved on the "Same Day" should not be referred to TAS unless the taxpayer makes the request. Before referring potential cases to TAS, the following guidelines will be applied:

    1. A case meeting TAS criteria may be retained in the general program area when the problem has been corrected or will be resolved immediately (within 24 hours) to the taxpayer's satisfaction, or resolution is undertaken (within 24 hours) AND

    2. The taxpayer is advised of the name, phone number, and unique identification number of the employee who resolved the problem, AND

    3. The NTA toll-free number, 1-877-777-4778, is provided and the taxpayer is advised that TAS is available if the resolution is not satisfactory.

Exhibit 13.1.7-1 
General Response Time Guidelines

Issue IRM Reference Processing Time
Account Referral Form 4442 / e-4442 21.3.8.8.2 30 Days from Receipt
Adjustment / Math Error Notices 21.3.1.4 See Specific Math Error
Audit / Collection Adjustment Overpayment (CP210) 21.3.1.4.94 2 to 5 Weeks
Collection Adjustment Balance Due (CP220) 21.3.1.4.95 2 to 5 Weeks
Copy of Audit Report 21.5.10.4.4 60 Days
Copy of CP 2000 / 2501 / 2893C 21.3.1.4.59 60 Days
Correspondence to the Accounts Management 21.3.3.3.4 30 Days
Credit Transfer Overpayment (CP62) 21.3.1.4.43 2 to 4 Weeks
DDIA Changes in CSCO 5.19.1.5.5.13.2 72 hours from Receipt (3 business days)
Form SS-4 Submitted by Mail 21.7.13.3.6.1 4 Weeks
Form SS-4 Submitted by Fax 21.7.13.3.7.2 4 Business Days
Form SS-4 Submitted by EIN Toll-Free Telephone Service 21.7.13.3.5.1 Immediately
Form SS-8 21.7.2.4.23 180 Days from Receipt
Form W-7 / W-7A Instructions 6 Weeks (8 to 10 weeks during peak processing periods of January 15 through April 30)
Form 3911 Form 6 Weeks
Form 4506 - Copy of Return Instructions 60 Days
Form 4506 - Copy of W-2 Instructions 60 Days
Form 8379 Attached to Original Return Instructions 14 Weeks
Form 8857 Instructions 6 Months
-A Freeze (Amended Returns) 21.5.6.4.2 12 Weeks
-D Freeze 21.5.6.4.8 75 Days
E Freeze 21.5.6.4.9 6 Weeks from Control
S Freeze 21.4.3.4.3 4 to 6 Weeks
T Freeze 21.5.6.4.38 None Provided
INTST Payoffs by Phone 5.19.1.5.2 Add 10 Days to Date TP States Payment will be made
INTST Payoffs by Mail 5.19.1.5.2 Add 21 Days to Date TP States Payment will be made
Refund from Paper Return 21.4.1.3 6 to 8 Weeks
Refund from ELF Return 21.4.1.3 3 Weeks
Refund from Form 1040X 21.4.1.3 8 to 12 Weeks
Response from Taxpayer to Underreporter 4.19.2.2.1 30 Days
Unpostable is Open 21.5.5.3.3 6 to 8 Weeks
Unpostable is Closed 21.5.5.3.3 4 to 6 Weeks

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