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National Taxpayer Advocate 2021 Purple Book

Compilation of Legislative Recommendations to strengthen taxpayer rights and improve tax administration

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If this year’s Most Serious Problems are read in combination, one overriding theme emerges: To improve taxpayer service, the IRS needs more resources to hire employees and more resources to modernize its information technology (IT) systems.


Erin M. Collins, National Taxpayer Advocate

Most Serious Problems Encountered by Taxpayers

Each year’s Annual Report to Congress identifies the ten most serious problems facing taxpayers and offers recommendations to fix them. These issues can affect taxpayers’ basic rights and the ways they pay taxes or receive refunds, even if they’re not involved in a dispute with the IRS. As your voice at the IRS, the National Taxpayer Advocate uses the Annual Report to elevate these problems and recommend solutions to Congress and the highest levels of the IRS.

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TAS Advocacy Successes

To improve transparency regarding TAS’s advocacy activities, we are including a new section entitled “Highlights of TAS Successes on Our Journey of Taxpayer Advocacy Throughout the Past Year” in this report to highlight some of TAS’s accomplishments.

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Supplemental Review of the 2020 Filing Season

Due to disruptions caused by COVID-19, the filing season was extended by three months. Therefore, TAS could not capture full filing season data prior to the publication of the FY 2021 Objectives Report to Congress. We’ve provided a supplemental analysis of the IRS’s filing season performance with data through the end of the extended 2020 filing season. 

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TAS Case Advocacy

The TAS Case Advocacy function is primarily responsible for direct contact with all types of taxpayers (including individuals, businesses, and tax exempt entities), their representatives, and congressional staff to resolve specific problems taxpayers are experiencing with the IRS. Information from these contacts and case results are vital to TAS’s statutory mission to propose changes in the IRS’s administrative practices to alleviate taxpayers’ problems and identify potential legislative changes to relieve such problems. This section of the report discusses how TAS fulfills its mission to assist taxpayers with their specific issues and concerns involving IRS systems and procedures.

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Research Study

The IRS Can Systemically Identify Taxpayers at Risk of Economic Hardship and Screen Them Before They Enter Into Installment Agreements They Cannot Afford.

The majority of IRS installment agreements (IAs) with individual taxpayers are streamlined agreements, meaning that verification of a taxpayer’s financial circumstances is not required when the liability does not exceed a certain amount and can be paid within a specified number of years. To reduce taxpayer burden and minimize IRS resources when agreeing to an IA, the IRS has eased the requirements for entering into a streamlined IA. While streamlined IAs do not require the taxpayer to provide verification of his or her financial circumstances, unfortunately, these agreements place many taxpayers in a position where they cannot afford basic living expenses while meeting the payment required by the IA.

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