Every year, the Taxpayer Advocate Service (TAS) helps thousands of people with tax problems. Each individual or business taxpayer is assigned to an advocate who listens to the problem and helps the taxpayer understand what needs to be done to fix it. TAS advocates will do everything they can to get the problems resolved and will stay with the taxpayers every step of the way.
Read real-life examples of the ways TAS helps taxpayers:
- TAS Gets Penalty Removed
- Getting a Fresh Start
- TAS Finds “Alternative” Documents to Support FTHBC
- Hospitalized Taxpayer Gets Help, Levy Release and Funds Returned
- Stop That Lien!
- TAS Gets Refund for Earthquake Victim Using Unconventional Means
- TAS Helps Taxpayers Defrauded by Preparer
- One Digit Makes the Difference
- Helping a Family Deal with a Stolen Identity
- TAS Helps Lower Installment Agreement Payments
- TAS Helps Organization Avoid Levy
- Helping a Soldier’s Family Get Medical Aid
- TAS Helps Business Avoid Asset Seizure
- TAS Eliminates Crime Victim’s Tax-Due Burden
- TAS Intervention Allows Debt-Ridden Landlord to Provide Tenants with Necessities
- TAS Case Advocate Helps Taxpayer Keep Her Home
- TAS Uncovers Identity Theft, Helps Victim Fund Medical Expenses
- First-Time Homebuyer Credit (FTHBC) - Timing Is Everything!
- TAS Helps Taxpayer Secure Construction License Through Lien Withdrawal
- TAS Helps Unemployed Taxpayer Recover Car Seized by the IRS
- TAS Helps Taxpayer Get Levy Released
- TAS Identifies Computer Programming Glitch Subjecting Some IndianTribal Governments (ITG) to Levies
- Taxpayer Gets Help with Penalties on Family-Owned Business
A married couple turned to TAS after the IRS audited their return and disallowed their claim for the adoption credit. After the case advocate determined they were not eligible for the credit and clearly explained why not, the taxpayers agreed to remove it from their return. Since they hadn’t received the credit, no tax was due, but in addition to disallowing the claim, the IRS proposed a large understatement penalty. The IRS initially denied the case advocate’s request not to assert the penalty, but after further discussions the IRS dropped the penalty.
The taxpayer came to TAS after the IRS wouldn’t accept his proposed payment amount for an installment agreement on a balance due. TAS reviewed the taxpayer’s financial situation and confirmed that his proposal fit the streamlined installment agreement criteria. The revenue officer continued to insist the taxpayer could pay more, by liquidating assets if necessary. The revenue officer also suggested the taxpayer make small payments for a year followed by a balloon payment. TAS continued to advocate for the streamlined agreement as provided for in the “Fresh Start” initiative created to assist struggling taxpayers. Just as TAS was about to elevate the issue, the revenue officer conceded that the streamlined installment agreement was acceptable. The payment agreement allowed the taxpayer to address other financial obstacles while beginning to pay his IRS debt.
If you have concerns about paying your taxes or questions about installment agreements, visit the Tax Collection and Payment Alternatives page or watch the “Installment Agreements – IRS Collection Alternatives” video on TAS’s YouTube channel.
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The IRS challenged a taxpayer’s deduction for the First-Time Homebuyer Credit (FTHBC). Because he bought the home directly from the builder, the taxpayer didn’t have all the typical documents most people use to support their claims for the credit. TAS asked the IRS to reconsider the claim based on documents sent with the request, but the IRS asked for more.
The taxpayer contacted TAS because the IRS levied his Social Security income and bank account. TAS determined the IRS was levying 100 percent of the taxpayer’s income by attaching to a portion of his Social Security directly and the rest by levying the taxpayer’s bank account. This was going on while the taxpayer was in the hospital, and had no one to help him comply with the revenue officer’s demands for a collection financial information statement.
A self-employed government contractor found herself owing a significant balance due after the IRS disallowed certain expenses she had claimed on her return. The taxpayer’s preparer filed an amended return consistent with the exam adjustments. The taxpayer also requested that the IRS place a collection hold on the account because she could not make any payment at this time. She provided the IRS with financial information which supported her claim that she could not pay.
A taxpayer on vacation became the victim of an earthquake that destroyed his hotel, leaving him only his cell phone and the clothes on his back. When he checked his bank account through his phone, he found the IRS had not direct deposited his tax refund as he’d expected, which meant the account didn’t have enough money for him to come home. Again, relying only on his cell phone, he located an IRS office online and called to ask for help. Ultimately, the IRS referred him to a TAS office where he discovered his refund was delayed because he used the incorrect bank routing number on his tax return.
The case advocate worked diligently with the taxpayer and the bank to secure correct account information. However, when the bank didn’t respond quickly, the taxpayer snapped a picture of a blank check to document the proper routing number and emailed it to the case advocate. The taxpayer eventually received his refund and was able to return home.
Concerned about the status of your refund, or issues that may affect the amount you receive? Learn more about refund delivery and access resources to track the status of your refund on the Income Tax Refund Delivery page. If you fall victim to a federally-declared disaster, special tax law provisions may help you recover. Learn more on the Disaster Relief page.
Some tax return preparers defraud taxpayers and the government by inflating income, deductions, credits, or withholding without the taxpayer’s knowledge, with the goal of increasing the taxpayer’s refund, and then diverting the refund (or part of it) into his or her account. TAS worked with the IRS and its Criminal Investigation (CI) division to see that the IRS did not take collection against innocent taxpayers victimized by one such unscrupulous preparer. The preparer had one taxpayer sign a return showing a significant balance due, and asked the taxpayer to write a check to the preparer, with the understanding that the preparer would then make a payment with the return. After the taxpayer left the office, the preparer increased the expenses reported on the return, thereby decreasing the tax liability. The preparer then kept the difference between the liability shown on the return and the check received from the taxpayer.
When the IRS placed a levy on a taxpayer’s Social Security income and U.S. government pension, the taxpayer was forced to borrow money from family and friends to meet basic living expenses. While the IRS insisted the taxpayer owed employment taxes on the wages the taxpayer paid to the employees of his business, the taxpayer’s representative informed the IRS that the taxpayer was the only employee, and he had never employed anyone else. After several unsuccessful attempts to resolve the problem with the IRS, the representative contacted TAS.
The TAS Case Advocate determined the employment taxes were assessed against the wrong taxpayer. In reality, the wages belonged to another business that had entered its Employer Identification Number (EIN) incorrectly—just one digit off. With the assistance of the Case Advocate, the two business accounts were corrected, the Notice of Federal Tax Lien the erroneously filed in the taxpayer’s EIN was removed, both levies were released, and all the levied funds were returned to the taxpayer.
When a husband and wife were billed for taxes resulting from an IRS assessment under the husband's Social Security number, they were shocked, because the taxpayers did not receive taxable income for that year and had not filed a tax return. When the taxpayers contacted the IRS, they were unable to secure an explanation of the assessment and were advised they had unreported income in subsequent tax years as well. After the taxpayers contacted TAS, the Case Advocate established that the taxpayers had not earned the income in question. In fact, it was earned by numerous other individuals who had been using the husband’s identity for multiple years. After an investigation, the individuals responsible for the identity theft were identified, and the accounts of all the parties were corrected.
The taxpayers attempted to renegotiate monthly payments of an installment agreement based on their actual expenses in a high cost of living area. The IRS would not allow these costs and demanded an unrealistic payment based on national standards. Working on the taxpayers’ behalf, TAS stepped in and successfully negotiated with the IRS. Thanks to TAS, the taxpayers are now making a lower payment and are able to meet necessary living and medical expenses.
TAS helped an organization in a low income neighborhood avoid seizure and levy action. Because the organization defaulted on a payment agreement, the IRS levied on its county support funds, making it impossible for the organization to pay its employees. However, the organization had defaulted only because the county failed to make several sizable monthly support payments. The county agency reported that it had not forwarded the payments because the organization had not renewed its application to operate.
To resolve the issue, TAS intervened and redirected the request to the appropriate county employee. After searching, the county employee discovered the organization filed its application to operate on time, and it had been misplaced at the county office.
The county immediately processed the application and paid the organization. Working with the IRS, TAS was able to have the levy released and determine a reasonable payment plan. Thanks to TAS’s help, the employees’ paychecks were honored.
A U.S. soldier in a combat zone needed to secure quick medical treatment for his child who was living in another country and was suffering from life-threatening health problems that could only be treated in the United States. To enter and remain in the United States during the treatment, the child and his mother needed visas, for which the State Department required signed paper copies of the soldier's last three tax returns. From overseas, the man had no access to these critical documents, and the IRS couldn’t provide them for a month or more, time the sick child probably didn't have. The local TAS office swiftly assembled a team of employees who worked non-stop to round up the documentation.
In a matter of days, the State Department accepted the computerized returns and issued the visas without delay, allowing the soldier's child to get the necessary medical treatment. “It felt really good” to help, said one of the TAS employees who worked on the case. “We were able to work around set procedures. We got some people to work outside the box.”
Due to a tax-filing error, a U.S. business was in danger of losing its assets to a foreign government. The company contacted its member of Congress, who immediately called TAS. The TAS case advocate learned the business had filed a form with the wrong IRS campus – a form the foreign government needed to verify the business was current with its U.S. taxes. As a result, the company had not received the required paperwork confirming that its taxes were up to date.
On the taxpayer's behalf, TAS contacted the foreign government’s embassy in Washington, D.C. and consular offices in several different U.S. cities, but none of them had a copy of the required foreign government form. Finally, with the assistance of an international accounting firm, the case advocate was able to get the form to the taxpayer overnight, appropriately notarized, and submitted to the foreign government with a cover letter declaring the completed form's authenticity, with appropriate seals and stamps. The result: the foreign government's deadline was met, and the U.S. company got to keep its assets.
A taxpayer’s acquaintance convinced her to sell a sizeable amount of stock in a mutual fund, and subsequently swindled the funds. The taxpayer failed to file a tax return for the money the stock sale generated, so the IRS filed a substitute return on her behalf, resulting in a large amount of tax due. The taxpayer had no income at the time, and although she worked with a tax professional to resolve this debt, the monthly payments quickly overwhelmed her and she turned to TAS.
The TAS case advocate gathered all information necessary to prepare an original return, and sent it to the taxpayer for her signature. With that information in hand, TAS negotiated with the IRS to reverse all previous penalty assessments relating to the “substitute” return and stock sale. “I felt so badly for her,” the TAS case advocate recalled, “to have been the victim of a crime and then have to pay tax on top of that.” It was just another work day… but a day that the advocate felt gratified to have been able to help someone who so clearly needed it.
When a financially troubled landlord's rents were levied, he was left with no way to maintain his building. TAS stepped in on his behalf, arguing that the levy prohibited the landlord from providing tenants with heat, electricity, and safety. The case advocate obtained a partial levy release, allowing the landlord to provide a safe environment for his tenants.
A taxpayer turned to TAS after exhausting every other option for resolving her tax problems. The taxpayer, who had earned a significant amount of income in previous years, had sizeable tax liabilities that she could no longer pay because her financial situation had deteriorated. After the IRS rejected her request for an offer in compromise (partial payment of her tax debt), she was at risk of losing her home.
When she contacted TAS, the case advocate helped her understand why her offer was rejected, and worked to process a new offer that accurately reflected her earning potential. The IRS accepted this offer and the taxpayer was able to keep her home.
A couple, anxiously awaiting a tax refund to pay medical expenses, became concerned when the refund was significantly delayed. When they contacted the IRS, they were told to wait 180 days. When this time passed and the refund had not yet arrived, they contacted TAS for assistance.
Their TAS case advocate discovered the refund was delayed because another person had stolen their identity, using the husband's Social Security number to file a tax return. TAS convinced the IRS the return filed by the couple was valid. They received their refund and were able to pay the medical bills.
A married couple filed their return claiming the $7,500 FTHBC that had to be paid back over time. They received a letter from the IRS stating they did not qualify for the credit but not explaining why not. The husband contacted the IRS several times but never received an accurate explanation and eventually turned to TAS for assistance. A Case Advocate discovered the FTHBC was rejected because the couple applied for the credit prior to the closing date on their home. The Case Advocate educated the taxpayers about the FTHBC rules that require them to complete the closing before claiming the credit.
However, based on their closing date, the taxpayers actually qualified for an $8,000 FTHBC that didn't have to be repaid. When all was said and done, TAS ended the taxpayers’ frustration and left them with $8,000 that they do NOT have to pay back!
A Power of Attorney (POA) contacted TAS for assistance in getting a Notice of Federal Tax Lien (NFTL) withdrawn. The IRS had previously denied the taxpayers’ withdrawal request. Because of the NFTL, the taxpayer was unable to secure a license that he needed to work. After thorough research, TAS determined that the IRS prematurely filed the NFTL. The Case Advocate worked with the IRS to have the NFTL withdrawn.
The IRS seized an unemployed taxpayer‘s vehicle, leaving the taxpayer unable to look for work. The taxpayer contacted TAS for assistance in getting the vehicle returned. TAS conducted research and found the taxpayer was living on unemployment benefits and help from relatives. The IRS planned to place the account into uncollectible status after selling the vehicle. TAS issued a Taxpayer Assistance Order (TAO) to the IRS for the return of the vehicle and reimbursement of towing and storage fees. The IRS complied and returned the vehicle.
A local TAS office received a frantic call from taxpayer who had just been notified the IRS had levied on his wages. The IRS told the taxpayer he needed to submit unfiled tax returns for two years before it would release the levy. TAS researched the account and discovered that if the IRS levied, the taxpayer would experience economic hardship, because he could not meet his basic reasonable living expenses.
TAS also learned the taxpayer had no income for one year and had filed an extension of time to file for the second year so the return wasn't due yet.
TAS asked the IRS to release the levy the same day the taxpayer called, citing the recent court case, Vinatieri v. Commissioner, for the proposition that if economic hardship is present, a levy must be released even if the taxpayer has not filed all required returns. By the end of that day, the IRS released the levy.
TAS Identifies Computer Programming Glitch Subjecting Some Indian Tribal Governments (ITG) to Levies
The Federal Levy Payment Program (FPLP) allows for continuous levies on federal payments. Although the law does not exclude Indian Tribal Governments (ITG) from this program, IRS policy exempts ITGs from "systemic" FPLP levies. TAS discovered six ITG entities that the IRS had subjected to systemically generated FPLP levies. Working with the IRS, TAS learned that a computer programming error caused the automatic exclusion to malfunction. TAS asked the IRS for a programming fix and sweep of all ITG entities to see if any others might be systemically subjected to FPLP levies. The IRS discovered and blocked systemic levies on 48 additional entities. TAS also recommended that the IRS release any outstanding FPLP levies against the tribes and refund any levy proceeds received in error. The IRS agreed to release all levies and consider returning the proceeds on an individual basis.
A taxpayer had a levy on wages due to multiple trust fund recovery penalty assessments dating back over many years. The taxpayer, who was very young at the time, worked part time for a family-owned business but did not take part in substantive business decisions. The taxpayer had responded during the trust fund recovery penalty investigation but did not fully understand how to present his case to the IRS.
TAS provided guidance on developing the case and secured the required Form 843, Claim for Refund and Request for Abatement, so the TP could challenge the trust fund recovery penalty assessments appropriately. TAS worked with IRS Technical Services to secure all of the documentation needed to support the taxpayer’s position. The IRS subsequently determined the taxpayer was not liable for any of the trust fund recovery penalties, removed them from the taxpayer's account, and refunded all of the levy payments and refunds previously applied to the liabilities.