13.1.6 Casework Communications

Manual Transmittal

November 23, 2020

Purpose

(1) This transmits revised IRM 13.1.6, Taxpayer Advocate Case Procedures, Casework Communications.

Material Changes

(1) IRM 13.1.6.1 Internal controls added.

(2) Various grammatical, editorial, and link corrections throughout this IRM.

(3) Content revised to include Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TBOR) and empathy verbiage throughout.

(4) IRM 13.1.6.1.7 added to include related resources and IRM references.

(5) IRM 13.1.6.4 updated to include guidance on the use of email by TAS employees.

(6) IRM 13.1.6.4.2 and 13.1.6.4.2.1 combined for similar content and renumbered to 13.1.6.4.1.

(7) IRM 13.1.6.4.2.1.1 and 13.1.6.4.2.1.2 omitted to remove unnecessary letter descriptions.

(8) IRM 13.1.6.4.3 added new subsection to address emergency situations that may affect TAS communications ability.

(9) IRM 13.1.6.6 updated to include more specific guidance pertaining to the use and content of TAS employee voice messages.

(10) IRM 13.1.6.6(8) incorporated Interim Guidance TAS-13-0619-0010, Temporary Voicemail Message for Use in Special Circumstances.

(11) Exhibit 13.1.6-1 information moved to IRM 13.1.6.6.

(12) Exhibits 13.1.6-1 and 13.1.6-2 added to include terms and acronyms, respectively.

Effect on Other Documents

This IRM supersedes IRM 13.1.6 dated October 17, 2014.

Audience

Taxpayer Advocate Service employees

Effective Date

(11-23-2020)

Signed by Bonnie Fuentes, Executive Director Case Advocacy, Intake and Technical Support.

Program Scope and Objectives

  1. Purpose: This IRM section provides communication guidance and outlines communication requirements for Taxpayer Advocate Service (TAS) employees advocating to resolve taxpayer issues. It is also designed to encourage TAS employees to consider issues from the taxpayer’s perspective, and act with empathy when communicating with the taxpayer or representative as they work to resolve the taxpayer’s problem.

  2. Audience: These procedures apply to all TAS employees.

  3. Policy Owner: The Executive Director Case Advocacy, Intake and Technical Support (EDCA-ITS), who reports to the Deputy National Taxpayer Advocate (DNTA).

  4. Program Owner: The Director, Technical Analysis and Guidance, who reports to the EDCA-ITS.

Background

  1. To advocate effectively, TAS employees must be excellent communicators and need to know how to use both written and oral communications to convey an attitude of advocacy and service. Employee communications must be professional and at the same time encourage confidence in the TAS organization and its representatives. Communications must be clear, concise, and informative. Taxpayers need to know we hear them, and want to help resolve their problems in a fair and equitable manner. TAS employees have an obligation to educate taxpayers about their rights, while also ensuring these rights are being considered and protected. Refer to IRM 13.1.16.4, Communication Skills and Requirements, for additional guidance.

  2. Taxpayers have the right to know what they need to do to comply with the tax laws. They are entitled to clear explanations of the laws and IRS procedures in all tax forms, instructions, publications, notices, and correspondence. They have the right to be informed of IRS decisions about their tax account, and to receive clear explanations of the outcomes.

  3. Taxpayers and representatives have the right to receive prompt, courteous, and professional assistance in their dealings with the IRS, to be spoken to in a way they can easily understand, to receive clear and easily understandable communications, and to have a means to file complaints about inadequate service.

Authority

  1. Pursuant to IRC 7803(c), the Office of the Taxpayer Advocate (known as TAS) shall assist taxpayers to resolve problems with the IRS.

Responsibilities

  1. TAS employees are responsible for communicating with taxpayers and representatives in a prompt, courteous and professional manner.

  2. TAS employees will strive to empathize with the taxpayer during these communications and will speak to the taxpayer in a way that the taxpayer can easily understand.

  3. TAS managers are responsible for ensuring employees within their purview are following TAS communication policies.

Program Reports

  1. Reports to monitor TAS communications are derived from the TAS Case Quality Review System (CQRS).

Terms

  1. Exhibit 13.1.6-1 contains a list of terms used throughout this IRM.

Acronyms

  1. Exhibit 13.1.6-2 contains a list of acronyms and their definitions used throughout this IRM.

Related Resources

  1. TAS employees will use the following resources in conjunction with this IRM when communicating with taxpayers and representatives:

    • TAS Letter Writing Guide;

    • Case Advocate and Intake Advocate Pattern Letters (English and Spanish);

    • Document 13093, Over the Phone Interpreter Laminated Card;

    • IRS Style Guide;

    • Power of Attorney/Third Party Authorization Toolkit (See IRM Supplements tab on SERP); and

    • Knowledge Management - SSN Elimination and Reduction.

  2. This is a list of relevant IRMs TAS employees will use when communicating with a taxpayer or representative:

    • IRM 1.10.1, IRS Correspondence Manual;

    • IRM 1.10.3.2.1, Secure Messaging & Encryption;

    • IRM 10.5.1, Privacy and Information Protection, Privacy Policy;

    • IRM 10.5.1.6.8.4, Emails with Personal Accounts;

    • IRM 13.1.2.4.2, Inform Taxpayer of Taxpayer Advocate Service (TAS) Independence;

    • IRM 13.1.16.4, Communication Skills and Requirements

    • IRM 13.1.18.3, Initial Contact;

    • IRM 13.1.8.6, Congressional Letter Writing;

    • IRM 13.6.1.16, Telephone Policy ;

    • IRM 13.6.1.13.6, E-mail Restrictions;

    • IRM 21.1.3.3.1, Third Party Designee Authentication;

    • IRM 21.3.3.4.17, Outgoing Correspondence; and

    • IRM 22.31.1.6, Over-the-Phone Interpreter (OPI) Service.

Oral Communication

  1. Calls to taxpayers (and their representatives), will generally be made between the hours of 8:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m. in the taxpayer’s time zone, unless a time outside these hours is requested by the taxpayer (or representative) and falls within the TAS employee’s tour of duty. Keep in mind, the taxpayer may have valuable information to assist in resolving the issue so making every effort to contact the taxpayer at a time when the taxpayer is available is crucial to gaining and understanding the taxpayer’s needs and situation. If the taxpayer makes such a request, update the “Best Time” field on TAMIS, Taxpayer Screen 1 of 5, and notate the request on the History Screen.

  2. In every initial contact with the taxpayer employees are required to furnish the following:

    1. Last Name;

    2. Job title;

    3. Office address;

    4. Office telephone number;

    5. Tour of duty;

    6. IRS HSPD-12 (Smart ID) 10-digit Personal Identification (PID) Number;

    7. Specific, sincere apology;

    8. Notice of acceptance in TAS;

    9. TAS statement of independence;

    10. Explanation of TAS confidentiality; and

    11. An estimated completion date (ECD) and next contact date (NCD).

  3. The purpose of the contact should be to:

    1. Restate and clarify any questions regarding the problem identified on the Form 911 or correspondence;

    2. Gain an understanding of the taxpayer’s needs and circumstances surrounding the taxpayer’s situation;

    3. Request any additional information needed;

    4. Discuss the proposed remedy or solution to the problem; and

    5. Explain what actions TAS will take to resolve the issue.

  4. TAS employees must always verify the taxpayer’s identity per IRM 13.1.16.4.1.1, Authorized Disclosures, before discussing any information protected under IRC 6103.

  5. Check Command Code (CC) CFINK for any authorized representatives. If a valid Power of Attorney (POA) is present, TAS must contact the POA. Additional information can be found in IRM 21.1.3.3.1, Third party Designee Authentication. TAS employees need to remember, taxpayers have the right to retain representation; See IRC 7803(a)(3)(I). Before a TAS employee takes any action that could compromise the taxpayer’s representation, extreme care and caution must be taken to protect this right.

  6. If the taxpayer initiated the TAS case, TAS employees need to contact the taxpayer to advise of the presence of a POA, and TAS’s requirement to work with their representative unless the authorization is revoked by the taxpayer (or the representative has withdrawn from representation). Instructions for revoking an authorization can be found at the toolkit for Power of Attorney/Third Party Authorizations under the IRM Supplements tab on SERP.

    Note:

    It is vitally important for the POA to know the taxpayer has spoken to TAS directly. Taxpayers may not understand the law, the consequences of certain actions, or may react inappropriately due to a fear of enforcement activity.

  7. If the taxpayer’s issue relates to payments or a math error on an original return, research to determine if the taxpayer checked the box authorizing third party contact. If it is still within one year of the due date for the related return, contact the third party designee. Refer to IRM 21.1.3.3.1, Third Party Designee Authentication, for information on what can be discussed.

  8. Employees will not interrupt their calls and conversations with taxpayers, third parties or other IRS employees to take an incoming call on their personal cell phones. This includes incoming and outgoing phone media, such as text messages and emails. All personal cell phones should be silenced to avoid distractions and disturbances during working hours.

Tips for Oral Communication

  1. In all communications with taxpayers we must be aware of how our interactions can either encourage or discourage a taxpayer’s willingness to voluntarily comply in tax matters. A taxpayer who has an opportunity to ask questions and seek guidance, is going to be far more likely to do what is necessary to resolve a tax compliance issue. Therefore, TAS employees need to listen and be ready to respond to a taxpayer’s specific questions and address the taxpayer’s concerns in a confident and professional manner.

  2. Observe the following for effective communication with the taxpayer:

    1. Be empathetic; listen to the taxpayer’s concerns and consider how you might feel if you were in the same situation;

    2. Always be polite;

    3. Emphasize the positive, understate the negative;

    4. Be conversational, do not lecture;

    5. Don't make a taxpayer feel ignorant or troublesome;

    6. Don't blame or criticize the taxpayer;

    7. Be considerate, even when the taxpayer may be wrong or made a mistake; and

    8. Acknowledge the taxpayer’s feelings; Is the taxpayer frustrated, angry, or scared?

  3. TAS employees need to consider how the situation may be adversely impacting the taxpayer, either emotionally or financially. Often this is the first such interaction the taxpayer has had with the Service, and may be unsure of what steps should be taken. The taxpayer may not understand what, if anything, has been done wrong. TAS employees need to be aware of the increased anxiety these issues may be causing, and need to know how to put the taxpayer at ease.

    For Example: "We have several options available to resolve your tax situation. I know working with the IRS is very stressful, but I am here to help. Please come to me if you have any questions or concerns. I am here to advocate for you, and to ensure you understand your rights as a taxpayer."

  4. When discussing the taxpayer’s issue, or when trying to explain the cause of a problem:

    1. Listen carefully to what the taxpayer is saying;

    2. Step into the taxpayer’s shoes, hear yourself as the taxpayer hears you;

    3. Speak slowly, distinctly, and enunciate your words clearly;

    4. Restate the taxpayer's issue in your own words, and ask questions to ensure complete understanding; and

    5. Give the taxpayer an opportunity to ask questions.

  5. For a taxpayer unable to speak English, or for those with limited English proficiency, consider use of the Language Line Services - Over the Phone Interpretation (OPI); see IRM 22.31.1.6, Over-the-Phone Interpreter (OPI) Service.

Face to Face Contact

  1. TAS employees who are able to meet a taxpayer face to face have a unique opportunity to influence the taxpayer’s opinion of our organization. The attitude the taxpayer leaves with can greatly influence not only their own opinion of our employees and our organization, but also the opinions of other individuals with whom the taxpayer may share their experience. Because of this, we need to be conscious of how we present ourselves.

  2. When meeting a taxpayer face to face, there are several important things to keep in mind:

    1. Greet the taxpayer warmly, professionally, and try to put the taxpayer at ease;

    2. Maintain good body language (don’t act bored, disinterested, or superior);

    3. Be conscious of facial expressions, tone of voice, volume and pitch; and

    4. Dress professionally.

  3. Always verify the taxpayer's identity per IRM 13.1.16.4.1.1, Authorized Disclosures, before discussing any tax information protected under IRC 6103.

Written Communication

  1. While the majority of contacts will be in person or by telephone, there are times when written communication is necessary to:

    1. Send forms, transcripts, or other necessary information;

    2. Confirm issues agreed upon with the taxpayer; or

    3. Meet procedural or statutory requirements.

  2. An effective business letter has strength and sincerity which is achieved through proper wording and tone. Effective business writing maintains a professional attitude, but has a courteous tone that is still:

    • Polite;

    • Friendly;

    • Sincere;

    • Respectful;

    • Empathetic; and

    • Inclusive.

  3. Letters need to clearly state what will happen next:

    1. Let the taxpayer know what they need to do (e.g., sign and return a form);

    2. Tell the taxpayer what they can expect (e.g., when an item will be mailed, a refund issued); and

    3. Explain what you will do (e.g., monitor their account, follow up with another function).

  4. To improve the likelihood the taxpayer can understand the information and will be able to follow your instructions, you need to make your message direct, clear, and complete:

    DIRECT 1. Always begin with an explanation of why you are writing the letter.

    Example:

    I’m writing in response to your correspondence dated (Month-DD-YYYY), referred to our office by _____. Your inquiry expressed concern regarding (List each issue briefly in the same order as the taxpayer's inquiry).

    CLEAR 1. Respond to each issue the taxpayer has raised in the order it is listed in the introductory paragraph;
    2. Use a separate paragraph for each issue;
    3. Write as you would speak;
    4. Provide the taxpayer with the answer, then explain the rationale;
    5. Use active voice, rather than passive voice;
    Example of Passive voice: My office is responsible for reviewing and monitoring correspondence,
    Example of Active voice: My office reviews and monitors correspondence;
    6. Create a positive tone;
    Example of Negative Tone: Don't hesitate to call me if you have questions,
    Example of Positive Tone: Please call me if you have questions; and
    7. Use bullets, lists or headings when presenting complex or technical information.
    COMPLETE 1. The message should include all necessary information;
    2. You can achieve brevity in content by omitting needless words;
    Examples:
    Instead of:Use
    in order toto
    for the purpose of for
    enclosed you will findenclosed is
    3. Write so the reader can understand your letter the first time it is read;
    4. Avoid using specialized terms;
    Examples:
    Instead ofUse
    accordinglyso
    demonstrateshow
    pursuant to under
    5. Be specific, and use concrete concepts, rather than vague or abstract terms;
    Example of vague : We will process your application shortly.
    Example of specific: We will process your application by MM/DD/YYYY.

  5. In general, TAS should not communicate with a taxpayer by email, and TAS can never use email to communicate with a taxpayer about the specifics of a case; See IRM 13.6.1.13.6, E-Mail Restrictions and IRM 1.10.3.2.1 ,Secure Messaging & Encryption.

    Note:

    See IRM 13.1.6.4.3, Emergency Situations That Affect TAS Communications Ability, for additional information and exceptions.

  6. In only limited circumstances is it permissible for TAS employees to communicate with the taxpayer using email (e.g., to forward blank forms or publications, no phone number provided, or repeated attempts to contact the taxpayer have failed).

    Note:

    These communications must never include sensitive but unclassified (SBU) information. TAS employees should use language similar to the following, “Our records reflect you contacted us for information or assistance. We have been unable to reach you. Due to security concerns, the IRS does not generally correspond with the public through email. If you would like to contact us, please call XXX-XXX-XXXX.”

    Caution: Before using email to communicate with a taxpayer in such a limited circumstance, a TAS employee must consult with his or her manager.

  7. TAS employees must never use a personal email account to conduct official business of the government; See IRM 10.5.1.6.8.4, Emails with Personal Accounts.

TAS Letter Requirements and Pattern Letters

  1. TAS has specific requirements which need to be incorporated into letters sent by our employees, including a requirement to use TAS letterhead. "Quick notes" are not acceptable. If sending a letter other than a TAS pattern letter, include all required TAS information.

  2. Approved TAS letterhead and pattern letters can be found on the TAS website, under Case Advocate and Intake Advocate Pattern Letters (English and Spanish). TAS letters can also be generated using the Integrated Automation Technologies (IAT) letter tool.

  3. TAS correspondence must be prepared in accordance with IRM 1.10.1, The IRS Correspondence Manual.

  4. TAS pattern letters are available for both case advocates and intake advocates, and differ slightly. Be sure to use the appropriate letter templates.

  5. TAS pattern letters have been developed to include specific mandatory format, statements and explanations on certain issues.

  6. All TAS letters must include the TAS logo, office name and address, TAS employee’s name, telephone number, office hours, and 10-digit Smart ID badge number.

  7. The independence statement must be included in all TAS letters as part of the TAS letterhead. Refer to IRM 13.1.2.4.2, Inform Taxpayer of Taxpayer Advocate Service (TAS) Independence.

  8. TAS letters must follow IRS standards for correspondence formats and guidelines as outlined in IRM 21.3.3.4.17, Outgoing Correspondence.

  9. Before initiating correspondence, check CC CFINK to ensure authorized representatives receive copies of all TAS correspondence. Refer to IRM 21.1.3.3.1, Third Party Designee Authentication.

  10. Correspondence should be directed to the taxpayer and a copy sent to the taxpayer’s representative, if applicable.

    Exception: See IRM 13.1.23, Taxpayer Representation, for information and guidance on bypassing a representative.

  11. It is mandatory to document TAMIS if a TAS letter is issued. If a Spanish letter is sent its content must be copied and summarized on the TAMIS history screen.

    Note:

    If using a TAS pattern letter, ensure all fill-in content is entered and reads accurately.

  12. Communications to internal customers (within TAS or IRS) and other non case-related stakeholders is covered in IRM 13.6.1, Internal and External Communications.

Social Security Number (SSN) Elimination and Reduction Plan

  1. As of March 23, 2018, IRM 10.5.1, Privacy and Information Protection, Privacy Policy, was revised to incorporate reference to the Social Security Number Elimination and Reduction (SSN-ER) Program. Implementation requires the elimination of all unnecessary use of SSNs. TAS has expanded this guidance to include all unnecessary use of Taxpayer Identification Numbers (TINs), not just SSNs. However, TAS has established a necessary and legitimate business need to include SSNs, Individual Taxpayer Identification Numbers (ITINs), and Employer Identification Numbers (EINs) within TAMIS. Most correspondence generated by TAS was determined to not require inclusion of a TIN.

  2. TAS employees must not use a TIN on taxpayer correspondence unless the employee needs to identify the account to the recipient. If the TIN must be included, TAS will use only the last two digits whenever possible. There may be times when use of the full TIN is necessary, but this should be decided on a case-by-case basis, and only after consultation with management. Be sure to document the conversation on TAMIS.

  3. TAS has updated the pattern letters available through the TAS website to remove space for a TIN.

  4. For more information, refer to the SSN Elimination and Reduction, Knowledge Management site.

Emergency Situations That Affect TAS Communications Ability

  1. In an emergency situation where mail, fax, or in person communication may not be possible or is hindered (such as social distancing due to COVID-19), TAS can implement temporary guidance for the use of email through an Internal Guidance Memorandum (IGM).

    Note:

    These memorandums will be posted at TAS Interim Guidance Memorandum website.

Apology

  1. TAS employees are required to offer a meaningful apology to each taxpayer. We need to acknowledge delays, miscommunications, processing errors, or anything else that may have contributed to the taxpayer’s problem. Just saying TAS is sorry for any inconvenience is not a sincere apology. Listed below are a few examples of appropriate apologies:

    1. First, let me apologize for any (actions taken/delays) that may have added to your frustration. In reviewing your (file/correspondence/situation), it appears the Internal Revenue Service could, and should, have done a better job explaining your rights and the options available to you.

    2. I regret that your contact with some Internal Revenue Service representatives has left you with an unfavorable impression. I assure you the Taxpayer Advocate Service is committed to ensuring the IRS understands its responsibility to provide courteous, quality service to all taxpayers.

    3. I regret that the process of reaching a final tax determination was confusing or difficult for you. It is TAS’s mission to provide top quality service while helping you understand and meet your tax obligations.

      Note:

      Since each TAS apology should reference specifics of the taxpayer’s issue, use of a generic apology is not appropriate. TAS employees should adjust the examples above to meet the needs and specifics of the taxpayer’s issue.

Telephone Listings & TAS Answering Machines

  1. To increase the public’s awareness of and access to TAS, Congress requested that local directories list a telephone number for the Local Taxpayer Advocate’s (LTA) office.

  2. Each LTA is responsible for verifying the publication of their respective TAS telephone numbers in their local directories. Refer to IRM 13.6.1.16, Telephone Policy, for guidance when numbers are not listed.

  3. The telephone numbers for each local TAS office will be listed immediately after the National Taxpayer Advocate (NTA) toll-free number, 1-877-777-4778. This will give taxpayers the option of toll-free services through the NTA number or access to the local TAS office, where they may incur charges.

  4. The following are established guidelines for incoming TAS telephone calls:

    1. LTAs will designate a member or members of their staff to answer telephone calls;

    2. LTAs may forward telephone calls to voice mail/answering machines for short periods of time if no one is available to answer the telephone; and

    3. There shall be no instances when all calls to the LTA office are routed to voice mail/answering machines as normal office procedure.

  5. LTAs will use the following standardized voice mail message:

    You have reached the Taxpayer Advocate Service office located in (city/state). TAS offers free, independent, and confidential assistance to taxpayers experiencing a hardship, and taxpayers unable to resolve their tax problems through previous communications with the Internal Revenue Service.
    For general IRS tax questions and information, you should call 1-800-829-1040.
    The Taxpayer Advocate Service operates independently of other IRS offices and reports directly to Congress through the National Taxpayer Advocate.
    Our business hours are from (provide office hours), Monday through Friday. Currently, we are unable to answer your call. If you would like our office to return your call within one business day, please leave your name, a phone number including area code, and your taxpayer identification number.

  6. Voice messages for all other TAS employees with regular interaction with taxpayers will include the following key components:

    1. Employee name, job title, office location, and tour of duty;

    2. An apology for not being available to answer the call;

    3. A request for the caller’s name, phone number (with area code), and the best time to return the call (case advocacy employees only);

    4. A fax number in the event the caller needs to send information (case advocacy employees only);

    5. A statement indicating when the caller can expect a return call (generally within one business day); and

    6. An alternate office telephone number, in the event the caller requires immediate assistance (case advocacy employees only).

  7. Use of one of the following voice mail messages is required and should be tailored to include all requirements as listed above:

    1. LOCAL OFFICE GENERAL LINE: You have reached the Local Taxpayer Advocate Office in (city and state). We provide assistance to taxpayers who have been unable to resolve tax problems through repeated discussions or correspondence with the IRS, or those with a current financial hardship. We are unable to answer your call, but you are important to us. Our office is open Monday through Friday from [hours of operation]. If you are calling with a general tax question please consider going to www.irs.gov or calling IRS Customer Service at 1-800-829-1040 for assistance. If you already have a case with the Taxpayer Advocate Service, you should contact your assigned case advocate for the most updated information. If you have not been assigned a case advocate or are calling about an issue you feel meets TAS criteria, please leave your name and Taxpayer Identification Number, a telephone number with area code, and the best time to call. We will get back to you within one business day. Thank you for your patience;

    2. TAS EMPLOYEE DESK LINE: You have reached [employee name], [job title], of the Taxpayer Advocate Service in [city], [state]. Thank you for calling. My office hours are [days and hours such as Monday through Friday, 7:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.]. I am sorry I am unable to take your call at this time. Please leave your name, your case number if available, a phone number with area code, the best time to reach you, and the reason for your call. I will return your call within one business day. If you need to send information pertaining to your case my fax number is [fax number]. If you need immediate assistance, and are calling between [your local office hours] please call [general number or a phone number that will be answered]. Thank you for your call. I look forward to speaking with you; or

    3. TAS EMPLOYEE DESK LINE FOR OUT OF OFFICE EMPLOYEES: You have reached [employee name], [job title], of the Taxpayer Advocate Service in [city], [state]. I am out of the office and will return on [day and date]. Please leave your name, your case number if available, a phone number with area code, and the best time to reach you. I will return your call on [date]. If you need to send information pertaining to your case my fax number is [fax number]. If you need immediate assistance, and are calling between [local office hours] please call [a phone number that will be answered] and someone will help you. Thank you for your call. Have a great day.

  8. The DNTA may institute temporary guidance for voicemail messages when warranted by special circumstances. The DNTA will issue a communication to employees specifying the contents of the temporary voicemail message and the period it may be used. The DNTA can end the use of this temporary voicemail message at any time when the underlying special circumstances have changed by communicating the end to employees.”

  9. Voice messages will not refer the caller to the NTA toll-free number. The only exceptions to this rule are for LTA voice mail, and in the event of an office shutdown, at which point TAS leadership will provide offices with the appropriate messaging to suit the circumstances.

  10. TAS employees will refrain from using automated voice messages.

  11. Under no circumstances will calls be sent to answering devices/voice mail as standard procedure. Employees are expected to answer their phones and not use voice mail as a screening device. Answering machines are not acceptable during normal business hours, except in special circumstances when no one is available to answer the telephone, such as all-employee meetings, special events, etc.

  12. If a taxpayer calls the case advocate or manager before the established NCD, a call back must be returned, generally within 24 hours or next business day.

Leaving Messages on Answering Machines

  1. Generally, no tax information protected by IRC 6103 may be left on an answering machine or voice mail.

  2. In order for a TAS employee to leave tax information on a taxpayer’s answering machine or voice mail, the taxpayer must give their consent.

    Note:

    TAS must inform the taxpayer he or she is under no obligation to have messages left on his or her answering machine or voice mail.

  3. It is acceptable to leave information specifically agreed to by the taxpayer if:

    1. The taxpayer submitted a Form 911, checked box 9b, and signed the form; or

    2. The taxpayer has given oral consent allowing TAS to leave confidential information at the telephone number provided;

    3. The TAS employee has documented the taxpayer’s consent in TAMIS;

    4. There has been positive identification of the number reached by the TAS employee; and

    5. The taxpayer has specifically requested the information be left on the answering machine or voice mail.

    Note:

    The taxpayer can agree to have his or her tax information left even if other individuals have access to the answering machine or voice mail.

  4. If the taxpayer contacted the NTA toll-free line and gives permission to leave a message on an answering machine or voice mail, the Accounts Management (AM) assistor will document the taxpayer’s consent on the Account Management Services (AMS) system. The assistor’s script also requires them to advise the taxpayer they should not agree if other individuals have access to messages and the taxpayer does not want those individuals to have access to the confidential information.

  5. When leaving messages, on answering machines/voice mail, follow procedures in paragraph (7) below in situations other than conditions explained in paragraph (3) above and in the Disclosure and Privacy Knowledge Base Site - Voice Mail. In situations where the conditions explained in (3) above and in the Disclosure and Privacy Knowledge Base Site - Voice Mail are not met, but where the telephone number reached is verified or authenticated as that of the taxpayer, only leave the following information:

    • Your name and ID number;

    • That you are with TAS;

    • That you are calling in response to the taxpayer's inquiry on (date);

    • Your telephone number;

    • The name of the person who should return the call; and

    • You are requesting a return call, and when calling to reference case file number XXXXXXX.

  6. If a taxpayer has agreed to TAS leaving tax information on an answering machine or voice mail, TAS employees must have a “reasonable belief” and document that they have reached the correct phone number for the taxpayer before leaving any confidential information. In accordance with the, Disclosure and Privacy Knowledge Base Site - Voice Mail, "reasonable belief" is met when the greeting on the answering machine or voice mail refers to the taxpayer being contacted, or the greeting refers to the phone number the taxpayer has provided to TAS.

  7. In cases where the number reached cannot be positively verified or authenticated as that of the taxpayer, do not leave the taxpayer’s name in the message. Only leave the following information:

    • Your name and ID number;

    • That you are with TAS;

    • That you are calling in response to an inquiry made (date);

    • Your telephone number;

    • State that an inquiry was received by the TAS office from an individual at that phone number; and

    • You are requesting a return call, and when calling to reference case file number XXXXXXX,

  8. In general, TAS employees cannot leave tax information on the answering machine or voice mail of the taxpayer's authorized representative, even if the representative asks them to do so. The TAS employee will not know whether anyone besides the representative has access to that answering machine or voice mail. The TAS employee should simply leave a message with his or her name, the case file number, and a request for a call back from the representative.

  9. The TAMIS history screen must be documented to include a record of all messages left, the taxpayer's oral consent as outlined in (3) above, and the identification on the answering machine.

    Note:

    Caution should be taken in leaving answering machine messages involving domestic violence situations or innocent spouse issues.

  10. In some cases, it is possible to make a closing contact by voicemail (e.g., case involved a simple issue and you have been unable to reach the taxpayer). If the taxpayer is represented, you can never complete the closing contact actions by voicemail.

    Note:

    If at all possible, make the closing contact by telephone to utilize the opportunity to further advocate, educate, and address any additional questions or concerns raised by the taxpayer or representative.

  11. When calling other IRS employees, and leaving information on an internal voice mail system, do not leave confidential information. However, it is acceptable to leave non-confidential information on the system, such as "call me regarding TAMIS case number XXXXXX" , or similar verbiage.

Disclosure Issues - Cell Phones and Cordless Devices

  1. For taxpayer initiated contacts, refer to the Disclosure and Privacy Knowledge Base Site - Cell Phones. TAS is under no obligation to determine if the caller is using a less secure platform such as a cell phone or cordless device. Whatever dialogue is necessary, including the disclosure of sensitive but unclassified (SBU) data, is authorized based on the fact the caller has accepted any security vulnerability by contacting TAS using a cordless device. If the TAS employee knows that the incoming call is on a cell or cordless device, the employee should ask the caller if it is permissible to discuss SBU data considering the communication methodology in use. Such permission should be documented as appropriate.

  2. For TAS employees contacting a taxpayer using a cell phone or cordless device, refer to the Disclosure and Privacy Knowledge Base Site - Cell Phones. TAS employees may use a cell phone or cordless device to contact a taxpayer, but no SBU information should be disclosed unless the person contacted agrees after being advised the call is being made from a cell phone or cordless device. The taxpayer should also be advised that his/her agreement to use a cell or cordless device is voluntary and that any decision against using the device will have no detrimental effect on the handling of the taxpayer’s issue. If the taxpayer does not agree, the TAS employee should offer the taxpayer the option of rescheduling the conversation until a more secure "land" line is available.

  3. Agreements pertaining to disclosure matters should be completed during the initial contact, if at all possible. TAS employees should document the agreement, as well as whether the agreement pertains to future contacts, in the TAMIS history.

  4. Classified information must never be discussed over a cell phone or cordless device.

Terms

Business Days Workdays (does not include weekends or holidays).
Designee An individual delegated authority to perform duties assigned to someone else.
Central Authorization File (CAF) The computerized system of records which houses authorization information from both Powers of Attorney (POAs) and Tax Information Authorizations (TIAs). The CAF system contains several types of records, among them taxpayer and representative records, tax modules and authorizations.
Estimated Completion Date Projected date for case resolution communicated to the taxpayer/representative.
Enforcement Activity Liens, levies, and seizure.
Form An IRS document identified by a number, e.g., Form 1040.
Form 911 Request for Taxpayer Advocate Service Assistance (And Application for Taxpayer Assistance Order).
Hardship An indication of severe consequences for a taxpayer caused by the normal application of IRS regulations and procedures.
History Screen Screen on TAMIS where case actions are documented with corresponding dates.
HSPD-12 (Smart ID) 10-digit PID The ten-digit number on the front of all SmartID/PAC Cards (formerly Legacy ID).
Initial Research Research on IDRS or other systems to determine status of case and location for assignment.
Math Error An error made on an amended or original return, adjusted or otherwise addressed during processing.
Master File A magnetic tape record which contains taxpayer accounts.
Next Contact Date A promised date given to the taxpayer or representative as to when next contact will be made by the TAS employee.
Over-the-Phone Interpreter (OPI) Services A secure telephone interpreter service, which allows employees to communicate with taxpayers who have limited English proficiency.
Power of Attorney A form authorizing a representative to perform certain acts on the taxpayer’s behalf.
Quick Notes Hand-written letters.
Return Due Date The date in which the return is due to the IRS.
Sensitive But Unclassified Information Any information which if lost, stolen, misused, or accessed or altered without proper authorization, may adversely affect the national interest or the conduct of federal programs (including IRS operations), or the privacy to which individuals are entitled under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA 5 U.S.C. 552).
Social Security Number A nine-digit number identifying the account of an individual on the Individual Master File.
Taxpayer Advocate Service An independent organization within the IRS whose employees assist taxpayers who are experiencing economic harm, who are seeking help in resolving tax problems that have not been resolved through normal channels, or who believe the IRS system or procedure is not working as intended.
TAMIS Taxpayer Advocate Management Inventory System - An Oracle web-based inventory control and report system used to record, control, and process TAS cases.
Taxpayer Identification Number A nine-digit number which identifies the account of an individual or business taxpayer. The TIN may be a Social Security Number, an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN), an Adoption Taxpayer Identification Number (ATIN), or an Employer Identification Number (EIN).
Third Party Designee Person given permission by the taxpayer to discuss their current year return processing issues with the IRS.
Tour of Duty The hours an employee is scheduled to work.

Acronyms

AM Accounts Management
AMS Account Management Services
ATIN Adoption Taxpayer Identification Number
CC Command Code
CFINK Centralized Authorization File Inquiry
CQRS Case Quality Review System
DNTA Deputy National Taxpayer Advocate
ECD Estimated Completion Date
EDCA Executive Director Case Advocacy
EIN Employer Identification Number
IAT Integrated Automation Technologies
IDRS Integrated Data Retrieval System
ITS Intake and Technical Support
LTA Local Taxpayer Advocate
NCD Next Contact Date
NTA National Taxpayer Advocate
SBU Sensitive But Unclassified Information
SSN Social Security Number
SERP Servicewide Electronic Research Program
SSN ER Social Security Number Elimination and Reduction
TAS Taxpayer Advocate Service
TAMIS Taxpayer Advocate Management Inventory System
TBOR Taxpayer Bill of Rights
TIA Taxpayer Information Authorization
TIN Taxpayer Identification Number