The Taxpayer Advocate Service (TAS) changed its criteria for accepting individual taxpayer cases for assistance, reducing the instances in which it will accept cases. The TAS said it took this action so that it can focus on cases “where we can add the most value.”
In a notice to taxpayers and tax professionals on its website, the TAS described exceptions to a case acceptance policy it adopted last year. Generally, the TAS said, it accepts four types of cases:
- Where the IRS needs to move more quickly than its normal procedures allow to prevent financial harm to the taxpayer by financial difficulty, emergency, or hardship, such as in removing a levy or releasing a lien.
- Where the TAS can help coordinate action among many different IRS units and steps.
- Where channels for resolving a problem with the IRS have broken down.
- Where the IRS does not recognize a taxpayer’s unique facts or issues or its need for new guidance to address them.
In 2011, the TAS decided it would no longer accept issues involving the IRS’s processing of original and amended returns, rejected and unpostable returns, and “injured spouse” claims for relief from application (offset) of an overpayment on a joint return to a past-due tax or other obligation allocable to the other spouse. The TAS said these are issues “in which the IRS seemed to get the right answer (though slowly).” The TAS said it will still accept cases involving “innocent spouse” claims for relief from joint and several liability for underpayments.
The clarification, dated June 2012, states that the TAS will make exceptions to this policy in cases where the taxpayer suffers an economic burden and in cases where there are multiple issues. It gave as an example of a case it would accept one where a taxpayer’s amended return with an anticipated refund had been filed four months earlier (beyond the normal processing time of eight to 12 weeks) and the taxpayer has an earlier outstanding balance and is receiving collection notices for it, even though the refund would more than satisfy the balance due. However, a four-month wait for processing of an amended return and refund, without a taxpayer economic burden or audit or collection issue, would not be accepted and would be referred to the appropriate IRS unit.
The TAS said it also would accept cases referred by a congressional office or those where “the taxpayer specifically requests and insists” it do so.
—Paul Bonner (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a JofA senior editor.