Popular search terms:

MSP #5: TAXPAYER BILL OF RIGHTS (TBOR)

The IRS Must Do More To Incorporate the TBOR into Its Operations

TAS Recommendations and IRS Responses

1
1.

TAS RECOMMENDATION #5-1

Issue guidance at a servicewide level and an operating division-wide level to employees who author training materials, internal guidance, and correspondence with detailed instructions regarding how to incorporate the TBOR into those materials.

IRS RESPONSE TO RECOMMENDATION: HCO will draft Interim Guidance and revise IRM 6.410.1 to add TBOR as required Front Matter in IRS courses incorporate TBOR link into New Manager Orientation and update leadership training front matter to include TBOR as resources and funding are available.

IRS employees have an extensive suite of IRM guidance, tools, job aids and automated systems to ensure they provide complete, accurate and consistent service to customers. Taxpayer Rights are embedded into these various tools.  We currently consider and incorporate the TBOR when we update or draft IRMs, training materials, other internal guidance and correspondence procedures.  The IRM update process is subject to TAS reviews and TBOR considerations are continually evaluated.  In addition, OTC works closely with functional business owners, Chief Counsel, TAS and other stakeholders to improve the technical content and clarity of correspondence products to ensure taxpayers clearly understand their obligations and their rights.

For example, Collection authors worked with TAS employees to revise the IRM 5.11.2.3.1.4 on Releasing levies and economic hardship.  Paragraph (6) of that section of the IRM discusses the taxpayer right to appeal the Revenue Officer’s determination that the financial analysis does not support a full release of the levy and it also refers the employee to the IRM provision on referrals to TAS.  SB/SE Examination Field and Campus Policy is revising IRM 4.10.1, Overview and Basic Examiner Responsibilities, to include enhanced content related to taxpayer rights under the TBOR, as well as the IRS Restructuring and Reform Act of 1998, the Internal Revenue Code, and IRS policies.

Likewise, Appeals has notified its IRM authors of the need to incorporate TBOR and include in IRM 8.1.1.1, Accomplishing the Appeals Mission, additional guidance for considering protested cases, holding conferences and negotiating settlements in a manner which ensures Appeals employees act in accord with the TBOR, as identified in Pub 5170, Taxpayer Bill of Rights. The guidance in IRM 8.1.1.1 provides Appeals IRM authors with an example of how to incorporate TBOR in other IRM sections as appropriate.

Of note, the rights encapsulated in TBOR have been a cornerstone in the development of the LB&I campaign process.  Fairness and integrity are built into the foundation of the campaign process and how LB&I administers the enforcement process to all taxpayers.   The campaign process will ensure a quality, fair and just tax system for taxpayers, as well as meeting the taxpayer’s right to be informed, by virtue of the campaign process’ “integrated feedback loop” where LB&I can receive feedback from front-line examiners and practitioners as campaigns are evaluated.  In addition, LB&I intends to make every campaign public provided that doing so does not impair tax administration.

Update: In response to this recommendation, HCO issued interim guidance (attached) in April 2018, which fulfilled the TAS MSP recommendation 5-1 (Issue guidance at a Servicewide level and an operating division-wide level to employees who author training materials, internal guidance, and correspondence with detailed instructions regarding how to incorporate the TBOR into those materials.). Shortly after this interim guidance was issued, we provided a copy of the guidance to the Servicewide Learning & Education community. The IRM 6.410.1, which incorporates the guidance, is in the final packaging stages for review and approval by the Human Capital Officer.

CORRECTIVE ACTION: HCO will draft Interim Guidance and revise IRM 6.410.1 to add TBOR as required Front Matter in IRS courses incorporate TBOR link into New Manager Orientation and update leadership training front matter to include TBOR as resources and funding are available.

IMPLEMENTATION DATE:

  • Interim Guidance – January 2018
  • IRM revision – December 2018
  • New Manager Orientation – added TBOR as a link –  December 2016
  • Leading Teams – adding TBOR Front Matter to redesigned course materials – March 2017
  • Implementing additional changes going forward as Leadership curriculums are updated or redesigned – Ongoing

Update: The IRM 6.410.1, which incorporates the guidance, is in the final packaging stages for review and approval by the Human Capital Officer.

TAS RESPONSE: 

The National Taxpayer Advocate is pleased to be working with HCO on adding required TBOR front matter to all IRS courses. Incorporating the TBOR link into New Manager Orientation and updating training to include TBOR front matter will also help inform employees about the TBOR.

The National Taxpayer Advocate disagrees that the IRS already considers the TBOR when it drafts the IRM and other materials. As discussed in the Most Serious Problem, TAS made more than 400 recommendations for IRMs and other materials to include taxpayer rights information, and the IRS accepted less than half of these.

Although it is encouraging that Appeals is instructing its IRM authors to consider the TBOR when drafting IRMs, the IRS needs to ensure that all employees who draft training or internal guidance receive training on how to incorporate the TBOR. It is also positive that Large Business & International (LB&I) is considering taxpayer rights in its campaign process, but this portion of the response does not address the recommendation, which is about providing guidance to the authors of IRS training and guidance materials.

Although not mentioned in the IRS’s response, TAS is pleased to be collaborating with HCO in order to create and deliver a training course on incorporating taxpayer rights into IRMs, IRS training materials, and correspondence. TAS will work with HCO and other IRS offices to ensure all employees who create such materials are advised to take this training.

ADOPTED, PARTIALLY ADOPTED or NOT ADOPTED: Partially Adopted

OPEN or CLOSED: Closed

DUE DATE FOR ACTION (if left open): N/A

2
2.

TAS RECOMMENDATION #5-2

Collaborate with TAS to create an annual mandatory briefing on the TBOR, which should be designated as mandatory for all employees by the IRS’s Human Capital Office.

IRS RESPONSE TO RECOMMENDATION: NTA recommendation not adopted as written, but IRS actions taken to address issues raised by the NTA. IRS employees have an extensive suite of IRM guidance, tools, job aids and automated systems to ensure they provide complete, accurate and consistent service to customers. Taxpayer Rights are embedded into these various tools.  We currently consider and incorporate the TBOR when we update or draft IRMs, training materials, other internal guidance and correspondence procedures.  The IRM update process is subject to TAS reviews and TBOR considerations are continually evaluated.

The TBOR represents a compilation of pre-existing taxpayer rights, that IRS has had a long-standing responsibility of ensuring, protecting and promoting in the execution of our tax administration duties. IRS employees have been trained to make it a personal responsibility to observe these rights in daily interactions with taxpayers. More generally, adherence to protection of these rights forms the basis of rules, procedures and policies that govern the agency’s actions in all facets of tax administration.

Training for employees regarding taxpayer rights has been designed to provide a meaningful explanation of how the taxpayer rights apply to the specific skills of the job. The definition of the right to quality service may not change, but the elements of the right to quality service will be more or less pronounced depending on the nature of the employee’s work. For example, compare the work of a revenue agent to that of an employee helping process paper returns. Revenue agents work to maintain fair and equitable treatment of taxpayers, while submission processing employees are tasked with timely and efficient processing of returns. A revenue agent must be timely in interactions with taxpayers as well, but agents also have other elements to consider: they must use communication techniques that are appropriate for the listener’s level of understanding, conduct oral and written communications with taxpayers that are professional, courteous and accurate, listen to and consider the taxpayer’s point of view, and advise the taxpayers of the full personal impact, such as interest and penalty accumulation, when taxpayers advise they cannot pay their liability in full.

The IRS has tailored its training for employees regarding taxpayer rights in an effort to ensure that the learning objectives are relevant and applicable to the employee’s particular job function. For example, several training courses already developed and delivered include modules on taxpayer rights customized for the duties of the job. For the Automated Underreporter Program (AUR), employees received training designed to explain the 10 fundamental taxpayer rights, in addition to explaining how to apply those rights when working AUR cases.  As part of that training, AUR employees were reminded to direct taxpayers to the AUR Notice websites to view Publication 5181, Tax Return Reviews by Mail and to Publication 1, Your Rights as a Taxpayer.

Similarly, the employees who serve as contact representatives for the IRS Automated Collection System (ACS) receive customized training on how to uphold taxpayer rights. In continuing education courses for FY 2016, ACS employees were reminded about the responsibility to explain the Appeals process to a taxpayer or Power of Attorney, recognizing that taxpayers should be advised of their appeal rights whenever they indicate disagreement with a proposed or planned action by ACS. This ACS training course was designed to ensure employees could successfully identify, address, and resolve issues regarding the appeals process as outlined in IRM 5.19.8, Collection Appeal Rights.

Also, in the Appeals sphere, Appeals has a long history of ensuring that taxpayers are aware of their access to Appeals and they continue to engage in a number of external communication efforts. The publicly-available Appeals Policy FAQs have been revised and are posted on irs.gov. Publication 5 is being revised to include the Bill of Rights.  Also, on irs.gov, there is a link titled “What Can You Expect from Appeals?” that explains our commitments, taxpayer responsibilities and general timeframes.  Appeals has updated videos explaining collection alternatives and delivered presentations at the 2016 Nationwide Tax Forums to help practitioners understand what is needed for a successful appeal.

Training on taxpayer rights is also being incorporated in courses for IRS leadership. The Human Capital Office has begun a major revision of all of the IRS leadership training programs and is considering how to incorporate the TBOR into training materials. In summary, it is the responsibility of IRS to observe taxpayer rights and the IRS will continue to ensure these rights are protected by training employees to understand the application of those rights in the context of their specific job.

CORRECTIVE ACTION: N/A

TAS RESPONSE: Similar to the IRS’s response to the previous question, the IRS fails to mention its progress and collaboration with TAS in working towards achieving this recommendation. TAS has been working with HCO during early 2017 to plan for a mandatory briefing for all IRS employees on TBOR, to be provided for the FY 2018 training cycle. It is unclear why the IRS would not categorize this recommendation as adopted because the IRS and TAS are currently working towards completion of it.

The IRS’s response focuses on tailored taxpayer rights training for different employee positions and programs. The National Taxpayer Advocate agrees that such tailored training is valuable and is pleased to learn about how the IRS has updated its training in this regard. The need for tailored taxpayer rights training does not, however, remove the need for a mandatory briefing for all employees. The Literature Review associated with this Most Serious Problem found that a requirement for success is making the TBOR part of the IRS’s culture and way of doing things. The forthcoming annual briefing will remind employees about the TBOR and their responsibility to uphold it. This will help create a shared mindset among employees and reinforce the TBOR as a key part of tax administration. Implementing a mandatory briefing on the TBOR will also assist the IRS in meeting its statutory mandate to ensure employees are familiar with and act in accord with the TBOR.

ADOPTED, PARTIALLY ADOPTED or NOT ADOPTED: Adopted

OPEN or CLOSED: Closed

DUE DATE FOR ACTION (if left open): N/A

3
3.

TAS RECOMMENDATION #5-3

Create an award to be given by the Commissioner of Internal Revenue to recognize special achievements in supporting taxpayer rights and the TBOR.

IRS RESPONSE TO RECOMMENDATION: The current IRS Commissioner Award which encompasses “individuals, team leaders, and team members who embody the IRS Values, who demonstrated commitment to the Strategic Objectives and whose accomplishments had a major impact on tax administration” already provides an avenue to recognize IRS employees for special achievements in supporting taxpayer rights and the Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TBOR).  As we review and modify this and other existing awards across IRS, we will make any necessary changes to ensure that we are recognizing special achievements in the area of taxpayer service.

CORRECTIVE ACTION: N/A

TAS RESPONSE: Although the current award structure allows for awards to employees who protect taxpayer rights, the IRS Commissioner Award appears to be more focused on meeting strategic objectives and having an impact, as opposed to protecting taxpayer rights. In some situations, an award could be given to an employee who had a significant fiscal impact for the agency, yet took an action that infringed on taxpayer rights. Having an award exclusively devoted to taxpayer rights sends a message to employees that the IRS values it commitment to the TBOR. The IRS’s response seems to equate taxpayer rights with taxpayer service. Although the right to quality service is one of the ten taxpayer rights, it certainly does not encompass the TBOR. Awards should recognize a broad array of achievements related to the ten rights, not just taxpayer service.

ADOPTED, PARTIALLY ADOPTED or NOT ADOPTED: Not Adopted

OPEN or CLOSED: Closed

DUE DATE FOR ACTION (if left open): N/A

4
4.

TAS RECOMMENDATION #5-4

Require operating divisions and functions to report the results of their performance measurements and quality measurements according to the relevant TBOR rights associated with each measure.

IRS RESPONSE TO RECOMMENDATION: ​Respecting taxpayer rights has been a top priority for IRS and the rights included in the TBOR are reflected in current processes and programs. For example, the National Quality Review System (NQRS) and the Embedded Quality Review System (EQRS) document employee performance. Quality measures are aligned with numerous attributes that relate directly to TP Rights such as disclosure, privacy, third party representation, collection processes, exam procedures, penalties/interest, statutes and appeal rights with the overarching expectation that customers receive courteous, professional, timely, accurate, as well as complete and consistent responses. Furthermore, each quality attribute is aligned with a specific Critical Job Elements (CJEs) to ensure managerial reviews (EQRS) are incorporated into employee performance evaluations. Quality results are regularly shared with management internally to identify successes and improvement opportunities. Executive level summaries, such as the Business Performance Review (BPR), identify quality improvement initiatives and actions that specifically relate to the TBOR.

Moreover, TBOR is inherently linked to quality measures in both Collection and Exam.  For instance, SBSE Exam’s quality measures (attributes) provide our employees with organizational expectations that cover all phases of the examination process – from planning to closure.  TBOR is an essential component of each phase and those rights are incorporated into the quality attributes.  As an example, the Taxpayer Right to “Challenge the IRS’s Position and Be Heard” is covered across multiple aspects of the examination process – from the expectation that the examiner will consider and evaluate the taxpayer’s position and address the merits during case development (Interpreted/Applied Law Correctly quality attribute) to the taxpayer’s receiving prompt responses (covered within the Time span quality attribute) and be apprised of any delays in the examination process (Taxpayer Rights quality attribute).  Finally, the rights encapsulated in TBOR have been a cornerstone in the development of the LB&I campaign process.  Fairness and integrity are built into the foundation of the campaign process and how LB&I administers the enforcement process to all taxpayers.   LB&I employees are expected to interact with each taxpayer and tax practitioner in a professional manner.  This professionalism is a key component of LB&I’s Customer Satisfaction performance measure.  The campaign process will ensure a quality, fair and just tax system for taxpayers, as well as meeting the taxpayer’s right to be informed, by virtue of the campaign process’ “integrated feedback loop” where LB&I can receive feedback from front-line examiners and practitioners as campaigns are evaluated.  In addition, LB&I intends to make every campaign public provided that doing so does not impair tax administration.  By communicating, analyzing feedback, providing quality service, and utilizing objective standards in workload selection, LB&I will address the Customer Satisfaction performance measures.

CORRECTIVE ACTION: N/A

TAS RESPONSE: The IRS’s response details how various IRS measures relate to specific taxpayer rights, which is the first step towards implementing this recommendation. As explained in the Most Serious Problem, the exercise of aligning various attributes or measures with taxpayer rights is valuable for understanding how the measures support specific rights. The IRS should take this one step further and report its performance and quality results in a way that links a desired employee action to a particular right. This practice would increase employee awareness of the TBOR and make employees accountable for observing the TBOR when interacting with taxpayers or working on a taxpayer’s case. Without linking the measures and reporting the results according to the relevant rights, the IRS misses an opportunity to measure whether it is truly complying with IRC § 7803(a) (3), which requires the Commissioner to ensure employees are familiar with and act in accord with taxpayer rights

ADOPTED, PARTIALLY ADOPTED or NOT ADOPTED: Not Adopted

OPEN or CLOSED: Closed

DUE DATE FOR ACTION (if left open): N/A

5
5.

TAS RECOMMENDATION #5-5

Update the IRS’s guidance for developing CJEs to instruct employees to incorporate the TBOR into the CJEs for all positions.

IRS RESPONSE TO RECOMMENDATION: There is no need to update IRS guidance for developing Critical Job Elements to incorporate TBOR because this requirement is currently covered in the IRS Retention Standard which applies to all employees. The standard reads as follows: “The Fair and Equitable Treatment of Taxpayers Retention Standard Rating – Consistent with the incumbent’s official responsibilities, administers tax laws fairly and equitably, protects taxpayer rights, and treats them ethically with honesty, integrity, and respect.”

Where applicable, the TBOR may be included in the aspects of an employee’s CJEs.

CORRECTIVE ACTION: The IRS continues exploring ways to improve the False Detection Rate (FDR), which TAS refers to as the False Positive Rate (FPR). We seek input from stakeholders within the IRS, outside vendors, partners in state governments, and the tax preparation industry. The IRS seeks to strike a balance between protecting revenue and improving the taxpayer experience, and will continue to work with and develop both internal and external partnerships.

TAS RESPONSE: Although the Fair and Equitable Treatment of Taxpayers Retention Standard considers the protection of taxpayer rights, a single, catch-all standard is inadequate to measure how employees are taking actions in accordance with the TBOR. There may be situations where an employee consistently takes an action to protect one right, for example, the employee protects the right to confidentiality by authenticating the taxpayer when calling. However, the employee could also consistently infringe on another right, for example, the right to challenge the IRS’s position and be heard by not considering documentation in an examination. A single CJE that measures adherence to all taxpayer rights, among other items, is not sufficient. Incorporating the TBOR throughout the CJEs would allow employees and managers to understand how specific actions relate to specific taxpayer rights. It would also better allow the IRS to measure its success in ensuring employees are familiar with and act in accord with taxpayer rights. Managers would be able to see which rights were being upheld and areas of improvement for their employees to recognize other rights. Without providing guidance to incorporate the TBOR into CJEs, the IRS may only include the TBOR in a piecemeal fashion, with some CJEs lacking TBOR information altogether.

ADOPTED, PARTIALLY ADOPTED or NOT ADOPTED: Not Adopted

OPEN or CLOSED: Closed

DUE DATE FOR ACTION (if left open): N/A

6
6.

TAS RECOMMENDATION #5-6

Provide instructions from senior leadership to all Future State teams to consider the TBOR in developing Future State plans and to document how Future State plans affect taxpayer rights.

IRS RESPONSE TO RECOMMENDATION: TBOR along with laws, regulations, and policies are among the criteria that the Future State workgroups are directed to consider in developing plans and related business cases. The criteria is modeled on the OMB E-300 guidance for all agency investments, with TBOR specified as being unique to IRS and the taxpayers we serve.

Established and distributed criteria for business case development that takes into account TBOR considerations.  Implemented (February 2017).

CORRECTIVE ACTION: N/A

TAS RESPONSE: Although the TBOR is included in the criteria to consider when developing plans and related business cases, it is not evident that the IRS has adequately considered the TBOR in developing its plans. For this reason, it is necessary to document how “Future State” plans affect taxpayer rights. First, this documentation will hold the IRS accountable by demonstrating how the IRS actually considered taxpayer rights. Second, it will provide a valuable record for IRS policy makers who later revisit and reevaluate “Future State” plans. Understanding how the initial decisions had a positive or negative impact on taxpayer rights will help these policy makers evaluate whether and how to make changes. As discussed in multiple places in the Literature Review related to the Most Serious Problem, it is necessary for leadership to show its commitment to a taxpayer charter and ensure employees are informed about it. Here, the IRS could accomplish this by providing guidance from senior leadership to all “Future State” teams about the importance of considering the TBOR and including taxpayer rights information in “Future State” plans.

ADOPTED, PARTIALLY ADOPTED or NOT ADOPTED: Not Adopted

OPEN or CLOSED: Closed

DUE DATE FOR ACTION (if left open): N/A

en English
X