Two more tax-credit-eligible Ford hybrids
Personal Finance Carnival #71

Tax thoughts from the Devil's Advocate

Officially, the tax thoughts come from the Internal Revenue Service's Taxpayer Advocate, Nina Olson.

Irs_logo_with_textBut in that role, as champion of individual filers like you and me, Olson regularly goes toe-to-toe with the federal agency that bedevils most of us at some point.

In a recent interview with the Tax Foundation, Olson offered her opinions, which in some cases are quite different from the official IRS position, on the complexity of the tax code, the tax gap and the agency's hiring of private firms to collect delinquent taxes.

It's that last issue that caught my eye, since I just posted about a recent Senate hearing in which the program was mentioned. Olson is one of those who has problems with the plan:

"I personally am opposed to using private debt collectors to actually collect the tax. I think that the IRS has the authority to do this, and although I think that the program as designed right now is legal, it's constitutionally permissible because the private debt collectors aren't really doing anything that requires discretion and judgment, which is reserved to government employees. That's the very problem with why this won't work. It's because it's premised on the concept that there are basic, simple tax cases, and I'm here to tell you, after having practiced outside the IRS for 27 years, and now being National Taxpayer Advocate for five years, that there is no such thing as a simple tax case."

Hallelujah! Someone in Washington who acknowledges -- out loud and for the record -- that for each and everyone of us, taxes are not always (usually ... ever ... insert your own modifier here) easy.

You can read the rest of Olson's observations on private tax debt collection here. Or go to this page, where you'll find a link to a PDF transcript of Olson's full conversation with the Tax Foundation's Scott Hodge. If you want to multitask and listen to Olson's comments while continuing to browse the rest of Don't Mess With Taxes, you'll also find a link to a Podcast version.

And you can learn more about Olson and the Taxpayer Advocate Service here.


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