Congress created the Taxpayer Advocate Service (TAS) to help individual and business taxpayers resolve problems that have not been resolved through normal IRS channels. We also address large-scale, systemic issues that affect groups of taxpayers.
TAS began as the Office of the Taxpayer Ombudsman in 1979 to serve as the primary advocate within the IRS for taxpayers. This position was codified in the Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TBOR 1), which was included in the Technical and Miscellaneous Revenue Act of 1988.
In TBOR 1, Congress added IRC § 7811, granting the Ombudsman the statutory authority to issue a Taxpayer Assistance Order (TAO) “if, in the determination of the Ombudsman, the taxpayer is suffering or about to suffer a significant hardship as a result of the manner in which the internal revenue laws are being administered by the Secretary.”1 The Taxpayer Ombudsman and the Assistant Commissioner (Taxpayer Services) were directed to jointly provide an annual report to Congress about the quality of taxpayer services provided by the IRS.2
In 1996, Taxpayer Bill of Rights 2 (TBOR 2) replaced the Office of the Taxpayer Ombudsman with the Office of the Taxpayer Advocate,3 with the following functions:
- To assist taxpayers in resolving problems with the IRS;
- To identify areas in which taxpayers have problems in dealings with the IRS;
- To the extent possible, propose changes in the administrative practices of the IRS to mitigate those identified problems; and
- To identify potential legislative changes which may be appropriate to mitigate such problems.4
In the IRS Restructuring and Reform Act of 1998 (RRA 98), Congress renamed the Taxpayer Advocate as the National Taxpayer Advocate.5 RRA 98 provided for Local Taxpayer Advocates (LTAs) to be located in each state, and mandated a reporting structure for LTAs to report directly to the National Taxpayer Advocate (NTA).
RRA 98 expanded the definition of “significant hardship” to include four specific circumstances:
- An immediate threat of adverse action;
- A delay of more than 30 days in resolving taxpayer account problems;
- The taxpayer’s incurring of significant costs (including fees for professional representation) if relief is not granted; and
- The taxpayer will suffer irreparable injury or a long-term adverse impact.
The committee reports make clear that this list is a non-exclusive list of what constitutes significant hardship.6
Under Section 7803(c)(2) of the Internal Revenue Code, the Office of the Taxpayer Advocate has two principal statutory missions:
- To assist taxpayers in resolving problems with the Internal Revenue Service (Case Advocacy), and
- To identify areas in which groups of taxpayers are experiencing problems with the IRS and, to the extent possible, propose administrative or legislative changes to resolve or mitigate those problems (Systemic Advocacy). This summary provides an overview of the main functions of the TAS as well as the elements of its work, and the indicators and measures it uses to evaluate its performance.
2. TAMRA, Pub. L. No. 100-647, Title VI, Sec. 6235 (b), 102 Stat. 3342, 3737 (Nov. 10, 1988).
3. Pub. L. No. 104-168, Sec. 101, 110 Stat. 1452, 1453 (July 30, 1996).
4. Pub. L. No. 104-168, Sec. 101, 110 Stat. 1452, 1453-54 (July 30, 1996).
5. Pub. L. No. 105-206, Sec. 1102, 112 Stat. 685, 697 (July 22, 1998).
6. H.R. Conf. Rep. No. 105-599, at 215 (1998).