Taxpayer Advocate Service News
  1. NTA Blog: National Taxpayer Advocate Releases Annual Report to Congress and Purple Book

    Subscribe to the NTA’s Blog and receive updates on the latest blog posts from Acting National Taxpayer Advocate Bridget T. Roberts. Additional blogs can be found at www.taxpayeradvocate.irs.gov/blog.

    Earlier this week, I submitted to Congress the 2019 Annual Report to Congress and the third edition of the National Taxpayer Advocate’s Purple Book, which presents legislative recommendations designed to strengthen taxpayer rights and improve tax administration for all taxpayers.

    Section 7803(c)(2)(B)(ii) of the Internal Revenue Code (IRC), as amended by the Taxpayer First Act, dictates that the National Taxpayer Advocate submit a report to Congress each year describing the 10 most serious problems encountered by taxpayers and making administrative and legislative recommendations to mitigate those problems. The 2019 Report to Congress and the Purple Book do just that by identifying problems, making dozens of recommendations for administrative change, making 58 recommendations for legislative change, and analyzing the tax issues most frequently litigated in federal courts.

    This report highlights the Taxpayer First Act, in which Congress has sent a clear message to the IRS that it should reassess how it approaches tax administration; how it can implement high-quality personalized customer service; and ultimately, what it needs to do differently and better going forward to meets its mission of “providing taxpayers top quality service by helping them understand and meet their tax responsibilities and enforce the law with integrity and fairness to all.”  The Act requires the IRS to develop plans to revamp its taxpayer service strategy, organizational structure, employee training strategy, and technology priorities.

    Most taxpayers want to comply with the law. But to do so, they must be able to get help from the IRS when they need it. I support the IRS’s plan to expand digital services, especially accounts online, which allow taxpayers to see valuable real-time information to understand how or why the IRS made certain decisions regarding their returns or accounts. But a digitally-focused organization does not necessarily equate to a customer service-focused organization. The IRS interacts with every taxpayer in the country, and many taxpayers may be well supported by a robust digital platform. That said, we must understand there are those who will still need to easily speak with someone at the agency – regarding simple or complex filing questions, payment options, or more information so they can answer an IRS request they don’t understand or meet a critical deadline. These people may even be quite active online but need or prefer speaking to a live person. We have also recommended a 311-type system staffed by employees who route calls (rather than an automated system) to help taxpayers.

    To understand and address what taxpayers need requires the IRS to take an honest, holistic, taxpayer-focused review of its entire organization; it must assess what does or does not work, starting when the customer considers filing their taxes to resolving tax issues or addressing enforcement actions.

    Customer service needs funding to support it. We address this in the “most serious problem” discussions on the need for more funding for the IRS to improve its customer service and modernizing its information technology systems.

    We also look at problems facing taxpayers and practitioners in certain groups, such as return preparers, users of Free File, and multilingual taxpayers, and what the IRS needs to do to improve these interactions. We examine how certain IRS initiatives, such as the presence of IRS compliance personnel in Appeals conferences, the Offer in Compromise program, and Combination letters, impact taxpayer rights, and we recommend strategies for increasing the effectiveness of these initiatives.

    We discuss processing delays that affected both taxpayers and the Taxpayer Advocate Service, including delays in releasing legitimate refunds, false positive rates as high as 71 percent, and inadequate information as to the reasons for refund delays and what steps taxpayers can take to expedite the process. This year, for the first time, TAS will hold a week of pre-filing season events across the United States and in Puerto Rico from January 13 to 17, where Local Taxpayer Advocates will share tips with taxpayers to help them avoid filing and processing delays.

    This year’s report concludes with four in-depth research studies impacting segments of the taxpayer population. These studies contain valuable insights into Earned Income Tax Credit processes, the relative effectiveness of in-person audits versus correspondence audits, and Form 1023-EZ application determinations.

    As the Taxpayer Advocate Service approaches its 20-year anniversary this year, we are proud to say we have assisted nearly 4.5 million taxpayers, made hundreds of administrative recommendations adopted by the IRS, and proposed some 46 legislative recommendations that Congress has enacted into law. These many years of experience working with individuals and businesses who cannot solve their problems with the IRS give TAS the unique ability to offer insight into how the IRS can shift its culture and examine what is working and what is not.

    As the IRS considers the best path forward, I believe TAS should have had a seat at the table to the same extent as key IRS operating divisions for the purposes of implementing the Taxpayer First Act’s requirements. But absent that commitment from the IRS, TAS will participate on executive teams and lower-level working groups and continue to offer recommendations to enhance customer service and protect taxpayer rights based on our 20-year history of assisting taxpayers with problems with the IRS.

    The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the Acting National Taxpayer Advocate. The Acting National Taxpayer Advocate presents an independent taxpayer perspective that does not necessarily reflect the position of the IRS, the Treasury Department, or the Office of Management and Budget.

  2. National Taxpayer Advocate Delivers Annual Report to Congress

    Each year's Annual Report to Congress identifies the ten most serious problems facing taxpayers and offers recommendations to fix them.

  3. TAS Tax Tip: Important information you need to know about refunds

    Planning for a refund this year? Use these tax tips and find out what you need to know and understand about tax refund timing, when you could receive it and why you may only get part or none at all.

    General Information


    Different factors can affect the timing of a refund. The IRS and partners in the tax industry continue to strengthen tax security reviews to help protect against identity theft and refund fraud.

    While some tax returns require additional review and take longer to process than others, it may be necessary when a return has errors, is incomplete or is affected by identity theft or fraud. A refund delay can happen when the IRS must contact you by mail to request additional information needed to process your tax return.

    • Generally, the IRS issues most refunds in less than 21 days. However, if information from reporting sources such as your employer, your bank or others is not received timely when the IRS cross-checks your data, it can delay the issuance of your refund.

      • Direct deposit is the fastest way to get your refund. Simply request it in the software you are using or add your bank routing information to your paper return.

    The quickest and easiest way to track your refund is to use the Where's My Refund? ‎tool on IRS.gov or download the IRS2Go app on your mobile device. You can also check the IRS’s What to Expect for Refunds web page for answers to frequently asked questions. The IRS “When Will I Get My Refund? video provides details on what info you’ll need to check your refund status.

    Delayed Release

    Refund timing for Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and Additional Child Tax Credit (ACTC) filers is different than from anyone else. By law, neither the IRS nor the Taxpayer Advocate Service can release refunds related to these tax returns until after mid-February.

    • Generally, the earliest EITC/ACTC related refunds are available in taxpayer bank accounts or on debit cards by the first week of March, if you chose direct deposit and there are no other issues with the tax return. If there are other items that need addressing, the refund may be delayed further.

    If you claim these two tax credits, you should know that you won’t see the status of your refund on Where's My Refund?, the IRS2Go app or through tax software packages until at least the end of February.

    Certain Past-due Debts Can Reduce Refunds

    By law, the Department of Treasury's Bureau of the Fiscal Service (BFS) issues IRS tax refunds and conducts the Treasury Offset Program (TOP). BFS may reduce a taxpayer’s refund and offset all or part of the refund to pay past-due federal tax, state income tax, state unemployment compensation debts, child support, spousal support or other federal nontax debts, such as student loans.

    • BFS will reduce the refund to pay off the debt owed and send a notice to the taxpayer if a refund offset occurs. Any portion of the remaining refund after offset is issued in a check or direct deposited to you as originally requested on your tax return.
       
    • Separate from the TOP, refund amounts may also be adjusted due to changes the IRS made to the tax return.

    For more information on any of these refund offset possibilities, including lost or stolen refunds, see our website’s Get Help tax topic pages.

    Financial Hardship


    Have you tried to get your refund, and now are having financial hardship? There are certain types of issues where the IRS itself can generally provide the service you need, without our involvement.

    However, if you've contacted the IRS and tried to get your refund unsuccessfully, unless it is because of a law, and not having the refund is causing you a financial hardship, the Taxpayer Advocate Service may be able to help. Our priority is always helping the taxpayers who need us most, so you may need to provide evidence to support your hardship claim in order to request an expedited refund.

    Get More Tax Filing Tips by Joining Us at an Event Near You

    The Taxpayer Advocate Service is holding events around the country the week of January 13-17, 2020. The main purpose of these events is to help taxpayers who complete their own tax return, whether through software or paper, by providing tips for avoiding federal filing and processing delays. The events are free, and no appointment is needed. To find an event near you, visit https://taxpayeradvocate.irs.gov/awareness.

    You can also go to our TAS Tax Tips page throughout the upcoming filing season to see more helpful information.

    For More Resources and Information:

  4. TAS Tax Tip: Wait to receive your W-2 form or other income statements to file your tax return

    The Taxpayer Advocate Service (TAS) wants to help you be prepared for the tax filing season. One way to avoid tax processing or refund delivery delays is to wait until you’ve received all of your final wage and income statements, such as Forms W-2 or 1099. Why?

    The IRS checks the income amounts you claim against the forms and information filed by others, like employers. This can include wages, interest, stocks, and other income related amounts. The IRS uses information matching to strengthen security reviews that help protect against identity theft and refund fraud. This process can take time and also depends on the payers filing these forms timely.

    • If you are not sure what is considered income, see What is Taxable and Nontaxable Income?
      Also, your final income statement may include amounts that weren’t included in a regular pay statement. Those differences may include end of the year payroll adjustments, bonuses, or tips.

    Amending Your Tax Return


    Amending your tax return after filing your taxes to report additional income, if you forgot something or didn’t enter the correct amount, is no easy task and can take anywhere from 8 to 12 weeks to process since the IRS can only process amended returns via paper forms. Plus, if that change creates a tax increase, but you received a refund from your initial tax return submission, you may be charged interest and, in some cases, penalties, depending on when you submit the amended return.
    So, it really is worth waiting to file until all final income documents are received.

    Didn’t Receive a Form?

    Your employer and educational institutions have until January 31 to send your W-2, Form 1098T, and other income forms. Some exceptions to this rule may apply. The due date for other forms such as Forms 1099-B, 1099-S, and 1099-MISC (if amounts are reported in box 8 or 14) is February 18, 2020.
    Please note that different due dates may apply to other forms and versions of the Form 1099.

    Join Us at an Event Near You for More Tax Filing Tips

    The Taxpayer Advocate service is holding events around the country the week of January 13-17, 2020. If you prepare your own tax return using software or on paper forms, plan to attend one of these free events and get tips to avoid federal tax filing and processing delays. No appointment is needed. To find an event near you, visit https://taxpayeradvocate.irs.gov/awareness.
    You can also visit our TAS Tax Tips page throughout the tax filing season for more helpful information.

    Other Things to Consider

    Again, various financial transactions, especially those occurring late in the year, can often have an unexpected impact on taxes and any potential refund. Examples include year-end and holiday bonuses, stock dividends, capital gain distributions from mutual funds and stocks, bonds, virtual currency, real estate or other property sold at a profit.

    • Taxes are a pay-as-you-go system and must be paid as income is earned or received during the year, either through withholding or estimated tax payments. If the amount of tax withheld from your salaries or pensions is not enough, you may have to make estimated tax payments.

    • Taxpayers whose 2019 federal income tax withholding unexpectedly falls short of their tax liability for the year, can still make a quarterly estimated tax payment directly to the IRS. The deadline for making a payment for the fourth quarter of 2019 is January 15, 2020.

    For anyone at risk for a tax-time surprise, making an estimated or additional tax payment soon is the fastest solution. An estimated tax payment can be made electronically using IRS Direct Pay or the Treasury Department’s Electronic Federal Tax Payment System (EFTPS). For information on other payment options, visit IRS.gov/payments.

    For More Resources and Information:

  5. Save the date and attend a free pre-filing season tax tips event in your area, January 13-17, 2020

    Planning to file your tax return soon? Before you file your 2019 federal tax return, get tax tips from the Taxpayer Advocate Service (TAS) and avoid delays this tax filing season.

    The Taxpayer Advocate Service is offering pre-filing season events nationwide and in Puerto Rico, during the week of January 13 – 17, 2020. During those events, Local Taxpayer Advocates will share tips to help you avoid filing and processing delays, so you can pass “go” with confidence.

    Event dates, times and location information will be added to our website on a daily basis, so if you do not see events for your local area yet, be sure to check back in early January. You can also watch our News & Information page and follow @YourVoiceatIRS on Facebook and Twitter social media channels for updates.