Tax Insights

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The Taxpayer Advocate Service – When and how to get help

In case of emergency: break glass, stop drop and roll, dial 911. These are all practices that have been instilled in our minds since childhood as proper responses to a crisis situation. Personally, I just try to find an adult. But what do you do if you have a tax problem that even your CPA is having a hard time with? Ironically, one option is to file Form 911, Request For Taxpayer Advocate Service Assistance.

That’s right, just like the number you’re only supposed to dial in an emergency, filing Form 911 is somewhat of a last resort when you just can’t get the IRS to work with you. Similar to picking up the red phone in the oval office (ok maybe not that cool), Form 911 is your hotline to the Taxpayer Advocate Service, an independent division of the IRS that exists to assist taxpayers with pressing issues that they can’t resolve on their own. Billing themselves as “your voice at the IRS”, the Taxpayer Advocate can help ensure your rights as a taxpayer are protected.

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When should you consider getting the Taxpayer Advocate involved? First of all, know your rights. There is actually a Taxpayer Bill of Rights, and as a taxpaying citizen you should be familiar with them. Without getting too far into the weeds on each one, the following ten items comprise the Taxpayer Bill of Rights:

  1. The Right to be Informed
  2. The Right to Quality Service
  3. The Right to Pay No More than the Correct Amount of Tax
  4. The Right to Challenge the IRS’ Position and Be Heard
  5. The Right to Appeal an IRS Decision in an Independent Forum
  6. The Right to Finality
  7. The Right to Privacy
  8. The Right to Confidentiality
  9. The Right to Retain Representation
  10. The Right to a Fair and Just Tax System

The vast majority of IRS issues can be resolved by the taxpayer or their CPA with either a phone call or a letter. And while the IRS can seem intimidating for people who don’t work with them every day, they are actually a pretty reasonable organization. Every once in a while though, you have to go the extra mile for them to get it right. This is where the Taxpayer Advocate Service comes in – if you believe your rights are being infringed upon and the usual methods of resolution aren’t getting it done, consider getting the TAS involved.

Form 911 is a relatively simple form, and can be filed easily via fax. On the form itself you provide your usual identification and contact information, the tax year and tax form in question, and a description of the problem and the relief you are requesting. With a valid power of attorney, taxpayers can also designate a representative (typically their CPA) to file the form and discuss the issue on their behalf.

After the form is filed, you will receive a call from the TAS within a couple of weeks. This time frame can vary, but the recent Forms 911 that I have been involved with both received callbacks within ten business days. On the call, you can expect to spend roughly an hour discussing your issue with the TAS representative assigned to your case. They will want to know the detailed background of your issue, as well as details of all prior correspondence with the IRS related to the issue at hand. Following the call, your TAS representative will work with the IRS to resolve your issue, hopefully smoothly. Depending on the complexity of your situation, this can take as little as a few weeks or as long as months or in extreme cases even years. But regardless of the time frame, you can rest assured that you have someone on your side within the IRS.

Just as you wouldn’t call in the Navy SEALS to apprehend a jaywalker, most tax problems don’t warrant getting the Taxpayer Advocate involved, and their limited bandwidth should be conserved for very pressing issues. But when those pressing issues do arise, it’s good to know that there is a route to resolution. For more information on the Taxpayer Advocate Service or the Taxpayer Bill of Rights, visit www.taxpayeradvocate.irs.gov, or reach out to your Henry+Horne tax advisor.

Austin Bradley, CPA