How IRS Taxpayer Advocate Service Can Help You

Gouri Gupta
Expert Contributor
Last Updated:
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Putting your case before the IRS in the right manner requires a lot of knowledge and expertise in the field of taxation. Under the tax law, you can have a tax attorney to represent you before a federal tax authority. If you are facing trouble dealing with the IRS, or if any federal taxation issue is causing undue hardship to you, then the IRS Taxpayer Advocate Service can offer you some respite.

What Is the IRS Taxpayer Advocate Service?

The Taxpayer Advocate Service is intended to serve as taxpayers’ voice at the IRS. It is an independent organization functioning under the supervision of a Taxpayer Advocate, who reports to the Commissioner of Internal Revenue. In each state, there is at least one taxpayer advocate at the local level.

The Taxpayer Advocate Service serves as an effective medium for resolving individual and business tax issues that can’t be resolved through the IRS. This is a free service set up solely for the benefit of taxpayers.

An Overview of the IRS Advocate Service

The office of Taxpayer Advocate, created in 1996 under the Taxpayer Bill of Rights, replaces the Office of the Ombudsman that existed within the IRS. The TAS has about 1,800 employees, out of which almost 1,400 are case advocates whose job is to help taxpayers in getting their issues resolved with the IRS. However, in order to qualify for the personal assistance, you must meet certain criteria, such as undue financial hardship, delay by the IRS in resolving your tax issue, and no response from the IRS.

In addition to directly assisting taxpayers in resolving their tax issues, the TAS also works on identifying problems existing in the IRS system and its procedures as well as suggesting administrative and legislative changes to solve such issues. It studies the patterns in taxpayer problems to ascertain whether any procedural changes are required. It has an online reporting system wherein taxpayers can report any systemic issues of broader impact.

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TAS also offers a tax toolkit to educate taxpayers about their rights in a simple language with the help of examples. It even works to reduce the burden of taxpayers and promote equitable treatment.

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Do You Qualify for a Taxpayer Advocate Service?

The office of Taxpayer Advocate is not a help desk or complaint department. You can’t approach it for every tax issue you may have. Rather, it’s designed to be a service wherein a tax specialist can step in to solve a taxpayer’s problem that can’t be handled efficiently through the standard IRS channels.

You must have followed the IRS administrative procedure before being able to involve a taxpayer advocate in your issue. If you have used the IRS machinery to resolve your problem and it’s not working in the manner it should, you may qualify for the Taxpayer Advocate Service.

You may be a good candidate for TAS assistance if you are facing financial hardship or are a victim of an IRS procedure that’s doing more harm than good.

Following are some of the major eligibility requirements you must meet in order to qualify for a personal assistance program of TAS:

  • Your tax problem is causing financial hardship or involves a significantly high cost; for example, a very high cost of professional representation.
  • You are facing an immediate risk of adverse action; for example, when the IRS is about to seize your property to satisfy its back taxes.
  • There has been no response from the IRS despite your repeated communications to resolve your issue.
  • The IRS didn’t resolve your issue even after 30 days of the promised timeframe.
  • The IRS is administering tax laws in an inequitable manner or in a way that impairs your rights.
  • The national taxpayer advocate feels that it should provide you assistance pursuant to a public policy.

What Types of Cases Does a Taxpayer Advocate Take Up?

The Taxpayer Advocate Service usually takes up cases falling under any of the following four categories:

  • Taxation issues that are time-sensitive
  • Taxation issues that involve more than one IRS department
  • Taxation issues resulting from complications in IRS’ administrative procedures
  • Taxation issues resulting from a standard rule being applied to a taxpayer, disregarding his unique circumstances

Technically speaking, the TAS also accepts other cases than these, such as a case referred by a Congress member, or one where a taxpayer suffers a critical economic burden. However, since it’s mostly functioning at its full capacity due to a high number of cases, it usually sticks to cases falling under the above categories. The TAS website does have a “Get Help” section, though, where you can find answers to many frequently asked questions.

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Time-Sensitive Issues

Sometimes, you may be facing a financial emergency and want the IRS to act faster than usual to avoid a greater economic crisis. Say, for instance, you urgently need to sell a property in order to avoid going bankrupt. However, the IRS has a tax lien on the property. Now, you’ve paid all your back taxes and applied for removal of lien, but the IRS is delaying in processing the paperwork. So, what do you do? Approaching the Taxpayer Advocate Service would be the right thing to do in such a situation.

Let’s take another example where you are at the risk of eviction, and you want the IRS to process your tax refund at the earliest. The TAS can help you speed up the refund process and save you from eviction.

Issues Involving Multiple IRS Divisions

When a taxation issue involves multiple departments or divisions of the IRS, it may cause procedural delays. For example, your tax refund may be delayed just because the refund processing section of the IRS is waiting for removal of a lien by the revenue collections division, which in turn, might be waiting for processing of paperwork by some other department. The Taxpayer Advocate Service can be of help in such cases; it can coordinate between different IRS departments to sort out your issue.

Issues Resulting from Administrative Complications

The IRS is a huge organization, and it enforces one of the most complicated laws in the country. It ensures that all its divisions, branches, and units work in tandem with each other to process more than 200 million tax returns every year. Although there are procedures in place, things may go wrong sometimes. Say, for instance, a document gets lost or a critical employee leaves the job. If you happen to hit a dead end due to any such issues, the TAS may help you find a way out.

Issues Involving Unique Situations

The federal tax law is quite exhaustive and is capable of handling a huge variety of cases. However, there still might be a situation which the framers of tax law had not contemplated. Applying a standard IRS procedure to such unusual circumstances may result in gross injustice being done to the taxpayer. If the IRS does not understand your situation or applies a wrong rule, you can request the Taxpayer Advocate Service to intervene in such cases.

How to Get Help from Taxation Advocate Service

If you are facing any tax problem with the IRS that you think is fit to be taken up by a taxation advocate, you should approach the TAS office for help. Even when you are not sure that you qualify for personal assistance from TAS, there is no harm in approaching them for confirmation. Interacting with TAS personnel can be beneficial in that even if the issue is beyond their scope, they can guide you in the right direction.

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Contacting Your Local Taxpayer Advocate’s Office

Publication 1546 provides information on the Taxpayer Advocate Service. You can also check the government listing section in your phone book or visit the IRS website to find the phone number of the local taxpayer advocate in your state.

Call your local taxpayer’s office and provide the following information:

  • Your name and address
  • Your phone number
  • Your social security number
  • Your tax return type
  • The tax year related to the issue
  • Details of your issue and the steps you’ve taken for its resolution

Instead of calling, you can also submit a request to the Taxpayer Advocacy Office by filing IRS Form 911. This will log your request into the system and a TAS representative will be able to contact you. You can usually expect a response within a week of filing Form 911.

Assigning a Tax Advocate

The Taxpayer Advocate Service will evaluate your case to determine whether you qualify for personal assistance. If it approves your request, it will assign you a tax advocate to work with you to resolve the issue you are facing. The assigned advocate will act as your main point of contact throughout the entire resolution process. He will provide you his name and contact number, along with a broad timeframe for resolving your problem. He will also update you with progress on your issue.

The Resolution Process

When the Taxpayer Advocacy Office accepts your case, it uses its independent judgment to determine the appropriate outcome of the case. It then discusses the case on your behalf with the concerned officials at the Internal Revenue Service. Since the TAS officials are well-versed with tax laws and IRS procedures, having a taxpayer advocate by your side offers a level playing field with your taxman. The process ensures that your issue gets the attention, time, and expertise it deserves.

Depending upon the case, you may even qualify for an installment payment plan or an offer in compromise to settle your back taxes. However, note that getting a taxpayer advocate to handle your issue is no guarantee that you will always get the desired outcome.

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Approaching the Taxpayer Advocacy Office Through a Tax Consultant

Before you approach the taxpayer advocacy office, it’s advisable that you discuss the problem with your tax adviser. In addition to guiding you on whether your tax issue is suitable to be referred to a taxpayer advocate, an experienced tax counselor could improve the chances of getting your request accepted by the Taxpayer Advocate Service.

The taxpayer advocacy office allows you to file Form 911 through an authorized representative. If you’d like to request TAS assistance through a licensed tax professional, all you need to do is execute a power of attorney in his or her favor. In such cases, the Taxpayer Advocate Office will discuss your rights with your tax counselor and advise him on how to protect them. The counselor will have direct access to the taxpayer advocate assigned to you.

Your Rights as a Taxpayer

As a taxpayer, you have certain rights that must be respected by the IRS. The Taxpayer Advocate Service also aims at helping taxpayers understand their rights. Under the Taxpayer Bill of Rights adopted by the IRS, every taxpayer has the following basic rights while dealing with the IRS:

  • You have the right to get information and explanations about laws and procedures to be complied with. The IRS must inform a taxpayer about its decision on his or her tax account.
  • You have the right to receive quality service. The IRS must be prompt and professional while communicating with a taxpayer. If you feel that the service provided by an IRS employee is inadequate, you can speak to a supervisor.
  • You have the right to pay nothing else than the duly computed amount of tax, including interest and penalties, if any.
  • You have the right to disagree with the IRS and put your position before it. The IRS must consider timely objections from taxpayers.
  • You have the right to appeal against a decision of the IRS. You can challenge a penalty or any other decision on your account in the court of law.
  • You have the right to know the time limit within which you can challenge the IRS’ position on your account. The IRS must also inform you when it is done with your tax audit.
  • You have the right to privacy during all the IRS procedures, including search and seizures. The IRS can’t get more intrusive than what is required under the law.
  • You have the right to expect that the IRS keeps your information confidential.
  • You have the right to retain a taxation advocate to represent you before the IRS.
  • You have the right to expect the IRS to be fair and just in implementing the tax law.

What If I Do Not Qualify for the Taxpayer Advocate Service

The Taxpayer Advocate Service offers personal assistance only in certain cases. If you do not qualify for a taxpayer advocate, hiring a tax adviser can help you safeguard your interests and deal with difficult IRS officers. Even otherwise, you stand to benefit from retaining a strong taxation advocate to handle your case.

At Solvable, we offer a wide range of taxation services from highly qualified tax professionals. Reach out to our diverse pool of tax counselors for any type of taxation assistance you need.


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Gouri Gupta
Expert Contributor
Last Updated: