13.1.12  Technical Advisors and the Virtual Team Process

Manual Transmittal

March 1, 2012

Purpose

(1) This transmits revised IRM 13.1.12, Taxpayer Advocate Service Case Procedures, Technical Advisors and the Virtual Team Process.

Material Changes

(1) Editorial Update - 13.1.12.1.4 (2)(a) - Added hyperlink to the Special Counsel to the NTA website.

Effect on Other Documents

This revision supersedes IRM 13.1.12, dated November 13, 2009.

Audience

Primarily Taxpayer Advocate Service and all Operating Divisions and Functions.

Effective Date

(03-01-2012)

Signed by Nina E. Olson, National Taxpayer Advocate.

13.1.12.1  (11-13-2009)
Technical Advisors

  1. This section provides guidance to TAS employees on the roles and responsibilities of Technical Advisors and managers of Technical Advisors and on how and when to contact a Technical Advisor.

  2. Technical Advisors are an integral part of TAS' customer centered concept. They are used as a resource for the entire Taxpayer Advocate Service (TAS).

  3. The primary role of the Technical Advisor is to provide guidance to Case Advocates. Technical Advisors also work with the Office of Systemic Advocacy to resolve systemic issues.

  4. The term Technical Advisor refers to all three types of advisors:

    1. Campus Technical Advisor (CTA),

    2. Revenue Officer Technical Advisor (ROTA), and

    3. Revenue Agent Technical Advisor (RATA).

  5. Technical Advisors are self-directed and independent, and perform in a virtual environment, working effectively with one another from remote locations. Technical Advisors report to a Group Manager and are under the office of Director of Internal Technical Advisor Program. The Director reports to the Executive Director of Case Advocacy (EDCA).

  6. A current listing of Technical Advisors is located on the TAS Directory webpage, under Technical Advisors at http://tasnew.web.irs.gov/TASdirectory/National%20Office/ITAP.htm.

13.1.12.1.1  (11-13-2009)
Technical Advisors - Roles and Responsibilities

  1. Technical Advisors are responsible for resolving the most technically complex or sensitive issues using effective research, communication, coordination, and negotiating skills.

  2. They are responsible for consulting, training, resolving case referrals and communication with employees and stakeholders.

  3. They participate as consultants in the following tasks:

    1. Providing expert technical, procedural, and processing advice on IRS processing, procedural, examination, and collection issues.

    2. Acting as consultants to TAS Employees on technical issues.

    3. Communicating professionally, both orally and in writing.

    4. Providing technical backup for congressional and practitioner meetings.

    5. Negotiating with Operating Divisions and Functional Units to reach agreements on behalf of taxpayers.

    6. Serving as a member of a task force, when requested, to provide advice on tax law and processes, including systemic advocacy issue teams.

    7. Providing technical expertise on Annual Report to Congress (ARC) teams.

    8. Reviewing special cases, e.g., Senate Finance Committee (SFC), see IRM 13.1.9.2, Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act (SBREFA) (see IRM 13.1.10.8) and NTA cases from Headquarters (NTA-HQ) (see IRM 13.1.9.4 ).

    9. Conducting Internal Management Document (IMD) reviews;

  4. Their tasks under training may include:

    1. Instructing TAS personnel at Continuing Professional Education (CPE) symposiums and seminars.

    2. Educating TAS personnel on technical, procedural, and processing issues.

    3. Educating TAS personnel on effective use of Technical Advisors.

    4. Making presentations at functional CPEs.

    5. Developing and delivering technical training materials based on complex issues that the Case Advocates and Technical Advisors encounter in their workload. Written research on these complex issues will be posted on the TAS Web page.

    6. Assisting in the development of meaningful training courses in conjunction with the TAS Learning and Education organization.

    7. Attending functional CPEs.

    8. Making presentations for community and professional groups.

  5. Communication includes the following:

    1. Keeping current with the changes in IRS processes, IRS procedures, the Internal Revenue Code (IRC), Treasury Regulations, Internal Revenue Manual (IRM), new legislation, court decisions and tax publications.

    2. Keeping lines of communication open by networking with IRS employees in Operating Divisions, including Appeals and Counsel.

    3. Consulting with other Technical Advisors, as needed, to resolve complex tax law issues. Consultations can be by telephone, NetMeeting or any other suitable method.

    4. Acting as a key element in bridging any communication gaps on technical, procedural, and processing issues.

    5. Acting as a resource for Portfolios. Technical Advisors may be called upon to answer technical or procedural questions, review and comment on proposed IRM changes, and assist Portfolio owners as a resource in the efficient management of Portfolio issues.

    6. Writing memos and communicating with Counsel, when Counsel's opinion is needed.

    7. Keeping their managers informed about their involvement with case processing, their inventory, and special projects.

    8. Documenting on TAMIS all research and actions performed on a case including citing references and explaining basis for decisions.

    9. Identifying systemic issues and completing the necessary input to Systemic Advocacy Management System (SAMS) and SharePoint.

13.1.12.1.2  (11-13-2009)
Requesting Assistance from Technical Advisors

  1. Technical Advisors may be contacted for a variety of reasons, such as:

    1. Technical advice, procedural, or processing guidance on complex or sensitive cases beyond a Case Advocate's expertise.

    2. Technical, procedural and processing advice, guidance, information or assistance needed by TAS employees, including Area Directors, LTAs, managers, analysts and HQ personnel.

    3. Assistance on a special case that needs an independent, technical or procedural review.

      Example:

      May include SFC, SBREFA, Counsel Opinions, and NTA-HQ cases.

    4. Management determines that it is in the best interest of the taxpayer to have the Technical Advisor involved.

13.1.12.1.2.1  (11-13-2009)
Case Referrals through TAMIS

  1. Case Advocates must have TAMIS histories up to date before requesting assistance from a Technical Advisor and should attempt to explain what assistance is needed. Additionally, if applicable, the Case Advocate should explain what specific relief the taxpayer is seeking. This will help the Technical Advisor understand the question, research the account, and conduct preliminary technical research.

  2. Case Advocates will refer cases directly on TAMIS using the Referral button. In the"Refer to" portion of the screen, enter the appropriate organizational code and the type of referral, as shown below.

    Example:

    If you need to make a RATA referral, you would select A1-RATA TEAM 1. The organizational codes would be A1 - RATA TEAM 1; O1 - ROTA TEAM 1 and C1-CTA (all Areas).

  3. In the "Reason for Referral/Documents included" section of the Referral screen enter RATA, ROTA or CTA as appropriate and any pertinent information. The text field is limited to 100 characters.

    Example:

    If an expedite treatment is warranted, then a statement to that effect could also be entered in the "Reason for Referral/Documents Included " field.

  4. Indicate in the appropriate field either no documentation or documentation attached, faxed or mailed, as appropriate.

  5. Save the Referral screen. When you see the prompt,"Do you want to refer this case?" select"Yes."

    Note:

    For more information on the use of the Referral Screen on TAMIS, see IRM 13..4.5.3.10 .

13.1.12.1.2.2  (11-13-2009)
Case Assignment to a Technical Advisor

  1. The manager of the Technical Advisor will receive the case through TAMIS for immediate assignment within his or her group. The case advocate retains control of the case while it is in referral status and can update TAMIS accordingly on other case actions.

  2. The Technical Advisor receiving the request for assistance will contact the Case Advocate by close of business the day following assignment of the referral to acknowledge receipt of the referral. In order for the Case Advocate to keep the taxpayer informed, the Technical Advisor will, when possible, provide the Case Advocate with an estimated time for completion of the referral. If the Technical Advisor is unable to provide the Case Advocate with an estimated time of completion date, the Technical Advisor will keep the Case Advocate informed as to the progress of the referral .

  3. In those instances where expedited assistance is needed, the Case Advocate will obtain concurrence from his or her manager and document the TAMIS history as to why expedited assistance is needed. The manager will indicate concurrence with the Case Advocate by documenting the TAMIS history. The Case Advocate's manager will make telephone contact with the appropriate Technical Advisory Team Manager to alert him or her of the urgency of the referral. The "Referral/Documents Included field " , referred to in IRM 13.1.12.1.2.1, could be used to explain when expedited assistance is needed.

13.1.12.1.3  (11-13-2009)
Technical Advisors' Role in Providing Assistance

  1. The Technical Advisor may contact the taxpayer when explanations require a high degree of technical, procedural, or processing expertise.

  2. A team of Technical Advisors may be assembled to resolve a case, depending on the issues involved. The Case Advocate will be a virtual member of that team.

  3. Technical Advisory Team Managers will handle any disagreements regarding the referral of cases with the Case Advocate's LTA. Additionally, if disagreements occur between the LTA and TA about the technical guidance provided and recommended case actions, the issue will be elevated appropriately through management channels.

  4. Any assistance needed from the Operating Divisions or Functional Units should normally be initiated by the Case Advocate, but can be initiated by the Technical Advisor and followed up with issuance of an OAR by the Case Advocate.

  5. The Technical Advisor will document the TAMIS history screen with tax law or procedural references and any advice given to the Case Advocate.

  6. In some cases, it may be necessary for the Technical Advisor to refer the case to a Technical Advisor in a different organizational code. In that case, the Technical Advisor must document the TAMIS history as to why the case should be referred elsewhere and identify the new organizational code. The Technical Advisor will use the Return Referral button on TAMIS to return the case to the originating Case Advocate, who must then refer the case to the Technical Advisor in the new organizational code.

13.1.12.1.4  (03-01-2012)
Technical Advisor Case Actions

  1. Technical Advisors will:

    1. Update TAMIS with actions taken on the case.

    2. Analyze and research using IDRS, IRMs, IRC, Document 6209, and any other research tools available including LEXIS-NEXIS, Internet or intranet.

    3. Set up conferences with the taxpayer, Operating Division and Functional Unit personnel, NTA attorney-advisors, Counsel, NTA Counsel, Appeals, or the original Case Advocate, as necessary.

    4. Negotiate for taxpayers with Operating Division and Functional Unit personnel. If agreement cannot be reached, discuss with the manager or LTA whether the issuance of a Taxpayer Assistance Order (TAO) is appropriate. See IRM 13.1.20, Taxpayer Assistance Order (TAO) Process.

    5. Network with the LTA, IRS personnel , and others, if applicable to expedite resolution.

  2. When working a referral, a Technical Advisor may discover that legal advice is necessary. All requests for Counsel assistance prepared by a Technical Advisor must be routed through the Technical Advisor's manager, and when appropriate, through the EDSA or the EDCA. Where that legal advice comes from, however, will depend on the issue, and also on whether the Technical Advisor is assisting a Case Advocate with a specific taxpayer's case or whether the Technical Advisor is working with the Office of Systemic Advocacy to resolve a systemic issue.

    1. The field offices of the Division Counsel Small Business/Self Employed (SB/SE) will generally provide legal advice required in connection with a specific taxpayer's case. The list of SB/SE Counsel contacts can be found on the Special Counsel to the NTA website. Note, however, that SB/SE should not provide legal advice for the issues listed in d) below that are under the primary jurisdiction of the Special Counsel to the NTA. See also IRM 13.1.10.2, Obtaining Legal Advice From Chief Counsel.

    2. The field offices of General Legal Services (GLS) will provide advice on issues involving ethics, personnel, labor and procurement. The field offices of Criminal Tax (CT) Counsel will provide advice on criminal tax matters. The lists of GLS and CT contacts can be found on the Special Counsel to the NTA website.

    3. Legal advice needed in connection with a systemic issue being worked by the Office of Systemic Advocacy would generally be provided by the Office of the Special Counsel to the NTA

    4. Within the Office of Chief Counsel, the Special Counsel to the NTA has primary jurisdiction over the following issues:

    • IRC § 7803(c), including Local Taxpayer Advocate's discretion not to disclose information to the IRS under IRC § 7803(c)(4)(A)(iv);

    • IRC § 7811;

    • Taxpayer Advocate Directives;

    • The scope of TAS's statutory authority or delegated authority; and

    • Issues regarding TAS legislative proposals or any other matter related to the NTA's Annual Reports to Congress.

13.1.12.1.5  (11-13-2009)
Closing Actions by Technical Advisors

  1. The Technical Advisors will close a referral by:

    1. Summarizing advice to the Case Advocate in the TAMIS history.

    2. Preparing a draft response for signature, if necessary.

    3. Closing the referral by selecting the Return Referral button on the Referral screen in TAMIS.

    4. Notifying the Case Advocate that the referral is closed.

13.1.12.2  (11-13-2009)
Campus Procedures Variations Project (CPVP) Team - CTA Roles and Responsibilities

  1. The Campus Procedures Variations Project (CPVP) team is responsible for gathering the requirements and routing information for processes in each of the 10 Campuses. The information is then posted to the Case Advocacy Tools website. The purpose is to provide necessary and complete information in order for Case Advocates to prepare and route completed OARs to the appropriate Campus/Unit liaison for action. CPVP team members are responsible for the following:

    1. Serving as a liaison between the CPVP team and Campus Processing Technical Advisors.

    2. Reviewing new and revised process templates.

    3. Making corrections to formatting errors and ensuring formatting is consistent in all templates.

    4. Researching SERP to find IRM references and job aides to include in templates.

    5. Validating that consistent IRM and technical link references are shown for each campus/process.

  2. Initial CTA responsibilities include:

    1. Communicating the purpose and importance of process with Business Operating Division (BOD) and Functional liaisons.

    2. Contacting the BOD/Function OAR liaison at their campus and working together to complete the OAR template on each of the processes (each process on a separate template).

    3. Researching Operating Division websites for technical communications and job aids applicable to the template topic.

    4. Applying appropriate IRM, technical, and job aid links to all templates.

    5. Reviewing templates received from OAR liaisons for correctness and completeness..

  3. On-going CTA responsibilities include:

    1. Championing the use of the OAR website to Case Advocates.

    2. Notifying the core team of all liaison or process changes as soon as possible, to ensure the information is accurate and up-to-date.

    3. Alerting the core team when information (technical and organizational) has changed to an existing template that is posted by preparing the revised template.

    4. Reviewing posted templates against ones posted for other Campuses and providing updates to the core team, if appropriate.

    5. Conducting periodic reviews of posted information, templates and Campus Operating Division Responsibilities (CODR) information, and providing corrections to the core team.

    6. Authenticating any necessary template or CODR information changes received from sources outside the Campus.

    7. Identifying and providing information to the core team when a specific process is causing confusion for Case Advocates.

    8. Gathering future template topics from the OD liaisons, Local Office TAS liaisons, Case Advocates, and rejected OAR analysis and elevating them to the core team.

    9. Working with the core team to identify which processes should be added to the website either as a template or routing information.

    10. Attending periodic CPVP team meetings.

    11. Identifying and referring immediate intervention issues and advocacy projects using the Systemic Advocacy Management System (SAMS).

13.1.12.3  (11-13-2009)
Technical Advisor Manager Responsibilities

  1. Managers of Technical Advisors are responsible for:

    1. Ensuring that Technical Advisors are provided with clerical support, technical support, time reports and time tracking issues, training, travel, and access to IDRS and other systems, including appropriate command codes.

    2. Monitoring workload for balance by coordinating case assignments and workload priorities.

    3. Ensuring the success of the virtual team process by providing training on new technology and encouraging the use of innovative problem solving techniques. The manager must encourage self-directed and independent virtual teams by providing an atmosphere of flexibility.

    4. Ensuring the Technical Advisors are accessible to all TAS personnel by coordinating with other managers who supervise Technical Advisors on work schedules and availability.

    5. Evaluating Technical Advisors and developing Career Learning Plans (CLP) and four year training plans.

    6. Elevating and addressing systemic problems, equity issues, and process concerns forwarded to them by the Technical Advisors.

    7. Facilitating agreed upon Technical Advisor training.

    8. Soliciting feedback on the quality of assistance received from the Technical Advisors.

    9. Facilitating and supporting Technical Advisor visits and training for the TAS offices they service.


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