Ana M. Cruz probably knows more about the IRS than the average citizen; after all, she worked for the IRS for five years. But Cruz's training in accounting and her expertise in tax did not guarantee her a position on the IRS's first citizen advocacy panel (CAP). To qualify, all she needed was to be a concerned taxpayer with a desire to serve her community.
A CPA and associate professor of accounting and tax at Miami-Dade Community College, Cruz is one of eleven individuals to sit on the Miami IRS citizen advocacy panel.
CAP is an independent group of volunteers selected by the IRS to be a link between taxpayers and the agency. The panel, the first of several throughout the country, provides a forum for citizens to voice their concerns on tax matters and helps them resolve specific tax questions and complaints.
"Basically the panel was formed to improve customer service," said Cruz, one of two CPAs on the Miami IRS panel. "My main thought was to give something back to my community and to help the community in resolving its tax problems."
The Miami CAP is a diverse group, composed of members of different ethnic and racial backgrounds, ages and occupations. The panel includes business people, teachers, retirees and a policeman as well as the two CPAs and a tax attorney. Selected for a two-year term, the panelists volunteer approximately 100 hours each year.
As part of the CAP program, the IRS staffed an office in Sunrise, Florida, to handle taxpayer inquiries. Taxpayers can call the office for help at 888-912-1227.
The Miami panel, which began meeting in June, oversees the IRS CAP office and receives monthly reports detailing how that office resolved all telephone inquiries.
Beginning in November, the panel will hold public meetings at which taxpayers will have a chance to explain their tax situations. They will also get the opportunity to offer suggestions on how to improve IRS services.