Part 1. Organization, Finance, and Management
Chapter 1. Organization and Staffing
Section 8. National Taxpayer Advocate
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Restructuring and Reform Act of 1998 (RRA’98) amended Internal Revenue Code (IRC) sections 7803 and 7811. This Act created the position of the National Taxpayer Advocate (NTA) and strengthened the Taxpayer Advocate organization by making it independent within the IRS. The NTA reports to the Commissioner and serves as his or her advisor on taxpayer advocacy. In the spirit of the legislation and the modernization of the IRS, the Taxpayer Advocate organization was restructured, the mission statement revised, and the organization renamed the Taxpayer Advocate Service (TAS).
By statute, the Office of the Taxpayer Advocate assists taxpayers in resolving their problems with the IRS and identifies both administrative and legislative proposals that might mitigate those problems. Key changes were mandated:
An independent reporting structure for all TAS employees;
TAS representation in every state;
Local Taxpayer Advocate (LTA) discretion to withhold taxpayer communications from the IRS.
To insure both independence and impartiality on the part of TAS employees when dealing with tax-related concerns all employees report directly to the NTA or delegate. This reporting structure provides an independent perspective and ensures taxpayer cases get a second opinion while providing full accountability to the TAS.
TAS has a dual mission to provide quality service to the taxpayer and elevate issues when appropriate. TAS accomplishes this mission through two types of advocacy:
Case advocacy, which deals with problems faced by specific individual and business taxpayers. These problems range from simple IRS processing errors or delays to complex examinations and appeals.
Systemic Advocacy, which plays a vital role in the identification, analysis and resolution of broad-based taxpayer problems. TAS, other IRS field offices, and external stakeholders identify problems.
TAS National Office is comprised of the NTA, Deputy National Taxpayer Advocate (DNTA), Executive Director for Systemic Advocacy, Area Taxpayer Advocates (ATA) and Headquarters Directors responsible for: EEO and Diversity, Strategic Human Resource, Taxpayer Account Operations, Communications and Liaison, Financial Operations, Program Planning and Quality, Low Income Taxpayer Clinics and the Taxpayer Advocacy Panel (TAP). See Exhibit 1.1.8-1 for the organization structure of TAS.
The National Taxpayer Advocate is required by statute to provide two annual reports directly to Congress. The Annual Report has three major sections:
Identify the twenty most serious problems facing individual and business taxpayers;
Recommend key legislative proposals to resolve significant taxpayer problems, address inequities in the law, or simplify the administration of the tax laws;
Discuss the ten most litigated tax issues, analyze trends, and identify approaches that might prevent the need for litigation.
The Executive Director for Systemic Advocacy is supported by two Systemic Advocacy Directors, and their staffs and reports directly to the NTA. The Business and Individual Advocacy Directors, and their staffs, are responsible for identifying and raising awareness of systemic taxpayer issues within the Operating Divisions or Functional Units. The ultimate goal of the advocacy staff is to represent taxpayer interest during decision-making processes, to improve customer service, to address the inequitable treatment of taxpayers, and to reduce taxpayer burden.
There are seven Area Taxpayer Advocates (ATAs) who are responsible for local field and/or campus offices. Area offices are responsible for:
Ensuring proper resource allocation within their area;
Building support for systemic changes at the local and campus level;
Working with operating Division or Functional Unit analysts to identify systemic and procedural problems;
Ensuring that LTAs conduct case review, monitor case cycle time and are carrying out their responsibilities related to case advocacy and quality;
Providing input to Systemic Advocacy for the NTA’s Annual Report to Congress.
Reviewing and evaluating the Service Level Agreements in their respective areas to ensure that the program is conducted in accordance with national guidelines and instructions.
There are 74 Local Taxpayer Advocates (LTAs) who represent taxpayers in the area served by the local offices. At least one LTA is located in every state as required by statute. All LTAs report directly to the seven ATAs and are responsible for:
Resolving all TAS cases,
Identifying areas in which taxpayers have problems with the IRS and proposing changes in IRS practices that will relieve such problems,
Working with congressional staffs on tax account issues,
Educating the public about the role of the Advocate and solicit taxpayer and practitioner comments on recurring problems with IRS systems and procedures,
Ensuring that each office has a separate phone, fax machine, and office address and that employees are informing taxpayers that TAS operates independently of any other IRS office and reports directly to Congress through the NTA.
Case Advocates are located in every TAS office and they advocate for the taxpayer – one case at a time.
Technical Advisors are located in various cities across the nation and are responsible for advising case advocates on the resolution of the most technically complex or sensitive issues. Technical Advisors were either Revenue Officers or Revenue Officers and they have been trained to use effective research, communication, coordination and negotiating skills to resolve these issues.
The Taxpayer Advocacy Panel was formerly a pilot program called the Citizen Advocacy Panel (CAP), and was established under the Federal Advisory Committee Act in June 1998 as a way of improving the IRS responsiveness to taxpayer needs and monitoring the quality of taxpayer service. The panel was renamed to Taxpayer Advocacy Panel in an effort to emphasize the focus on taxpayer participation in the process. The panel will consist of approximately 100 members. LTA’s will serve as designated officials for the local board. The panel is demographically balanced with representatives based on the taxpaying population (with minimally one representative per state). The TAP represents the best of government, allowing for direct citizen comments and participation. Members will participate in IRS focus groups and issue committees providing input on strategic initiatives. The TAP Headquarter Director reports directly to the NTA.
The NTA Toll-Free Telephone Number (1-877-777-4778) was established to provide access to taxpayers with issues that have not been resolved through normal channels. The calls are answered in six call sites and staffed by Wage and Investment and Small Business/Self-Employed employees. When calls are received the NTA assistors make every effort to resolve the case on line. If the case cannot be resolved, a TAS case is added to the Taxpayer Advocate Management Information System (TAMIS) and immediately transferred to the appropriate TAS office for resolution.
On May 1, 2003 the responsibility for administering the Low Income Taxpayer Clinic (LITC) program moved from the Wage and Investment Division to TAS. The LITC grant program is designed to help organizations provide free or low-cost legal assistance to taxpayers to resolve tax disputes and inform taxpayers for who English is a second language about their tax rights and responsibilities. The LITC Headquarters Director reports directly to the NTA.