IRS assistance for taxpayers.
From The Tax Adviser:
The IRS Problem Resolution Program
O ne of IRSs major, well-publicized initiatives has been to make the service much more customer-service-oriented by reducing taxpayer burdens (to the extent possible) and improving quality and customer satisfaction. To that end, several programs addressing taxpayer problems have been implemented.
PROBLEM RESOLUTION PROGRAM
The problem resolution program (PRP) was created in 1977 to help taxpayers when regular contact with the IRS failed to resolve their problems. Although the program has been around for more than two decades, it is only in the last few yearswith the passage of Taxpayer Bill of Rights 1 and 2that it has become effective.
Objectives. The PRP is not meant to be a substitute for the formal IRS appeals process or to resolve legal or technical tax questions. Rather, the program was designed to achieve three specific goals:
- To ensure that taxpayer rights are protected and that problems not resolved through normal channels are handled promptly.
- To identify the areas where taxpayers have problems with the service and bring them to IRS management attention.
- To serve as an advocate for taxpayers within the IRS, representing their interests and concerns in the services decision-making processes.
Referral to PRP. As noted, not every taxpayer problem or issue is appropriate to be handled through the PRP. Therefore, the IRS developed criteria to determine when a problem should be referred:
- Second contact, same issue. Any contact indicating the taxpayer has not received a response at least 30 days (60 days if the issue involves filing an original or an amended return or claim) after the taxpayers initial inquiry or complaint.
- No response by date promised. Any contact indicating the taxpayer has not received a response by the date promised (including commitment dates on IRS forms).
- System failure or best interests. Any contact indicating that established systems failed to resolve the taxpayers problems or when it is in the best interests of the taxpayer or the IRS that the case be resolved in the PRP.
When a taxpayer is suffering (or is about to suffer) a significant hardship as a result of the manner in which the tax laws are administered, the IRS may issue a taxpayer assistance order (TAO). (This occurs, for example, when a taxpayer needs the refund to relieve a severe hardship, when there are delays in reissuing a refund check the IRS sent to a wrong address or if the service takes an enforcement action but the taxpayer had no notice of a tax deficiency and is not afforded an opportunity to obtain an administrative review of its validity.) TAOs cover a specific time period during which they must be followed. If the IRS issues a TAO, the taxpayer advocate will review the circumstances of the taxpayers case, during which time the IRS will suspend any enforcement action.
To apply for a TAO, taxpayers should file Form 911, Application for Taxpayer Assistance Order to Relieve Hardship, copies of which are available in IRS offices or by calling 800-TAX-FORM (800-829-3676). Applications also can be made by letter or by phone at 800-TAX-1040 (800-829-1040).
Another program the IRS offers is problem-solving days. Under this new program, each of the 33 IRS districts sets up days during nontraditional business hours (Saturdays, for example) when service personnel are available to try to resolve taxpayer problems.
REACHING THE PRP
If a taxpayers situation meets the proper criteria, he or she can call 800-829-1040 or get a direct number from the IRS Internet home page ( www.irs.ustreas.gov ). A taxpayer also can find a list of PRP offices and telephone numbers nationwide on the IRS Web page by selecting Taxpayer Advocate and PRP Directory.
For further discussion of this program, see the Tax Practice & Procedures column, edited by Mark Ely, in the July 1998 issue of The Tax Adviser.
Nicholas Fiore, editor
The Tax Adviser