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Improve the IRS by joining the Taxpayer Advocacy Panel

TAP member at IRS Forum
Taxpayer Advocacy Panel members provide information on how to improve the IRS at the agency's annual Tax Forums. (Photo courtesy TAP News)

That old saying about everybody talks about the weather, but nobody does anything about it applies to most things. If you substitute "complains" for "talks," then it definitely applies to taxes.

But with taxes, unlike the weather, there is a possibility for change. Really.

The Internal Revenue Service is looking for volunteers to serve on the Taxpayer Advocacy Panel (TAP). The TAP is a federal advisory committee whose members look for ways the IRS can improve services and taxpayer satisfaction.

National representation: Ideally, TAP members are from all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, as well as one member to represent U.S. citizens living and working abroad.

Each member is appointed to represent the interests of taxpayers in their geographic location as well as taxpayers overall.

If you think you can't contribute because you're not a tax professional, think again. In fact, the IRS encourages non-tax professionals, as well as under-represented groups, to apply in order to get diverse and wide-ranging perspectives on where improvements are needed.

Where volunteers are needed: Currently, the IRS is specifically seeking TAP volunteers from the 32 states and 1 territory listed below.

Alabama

Massachusetts

Ohio

Arkansas

Maine

Oklahoma

Arizona

Missouri

Oregon

California

Mississippi

Puerto Rico

Colorado

Montana

Rhode Island

Florida

North Carolina

South Carolina

Iowa

North Dakota

South Dakota

Idaho

New Hampshire

Texas

Illinois

New Mexico

Vermont

Indiana

Nevada

Wisconsin

Kentucky

New York

West Virginia

The deadline if April 8. That's also this weekend's By the Numbers figure.

If you don't live in one of the states with a TAP vacancy, but are interested, go ahead and apply. Members sometimes have to surrender their posts, and you could get tapped (yeah, pun intended) to fill a vacancy.

And you do have some time to plan how your TAP hours will fit into your regular life. Individuals who become new TAP members will serve a three-year term starting in December 2022. Applicants chosen as alternate members will be considered to fill any vacancies in their areas during the next three years.

TAP's tasks, recent successes: Each year, the TAP submits dozens of recommendations to the IRS. While panel members themselves can contribute suggestions, many of the recommendations makes come from taxpayers.

The TAP gets this public input by phone and online submissions, as well, when practical — and when COVID-19 pandemic precautions are followed — from meetings with taxpayers.

Last year, the TAP made 193 recommendations to the IRS, many of which have already been implemented. Because of the TAP's recommendations in 2021, the IRS has improved many of its tax forms, instructions and publications, and clarified the information in several frequently-used IRS letters.

"If we look at the past and all that TAP has accomplished, it's truly amazing. We still have a lot of work to do, especially in the area of taxpayers understanding what we do and how we can help them," said Martha J. Lewis, 2022 National TAP Chair.

You also can get a look at what TAP accomplished in 2020 in its annual report for that year (and earlier ones, too).

Requirements of applicants: Feeling motivated to, as the TAP motto says, Improve the IRS? Here's how you can apply.

All TAP applicants must be U.S. citizens who are current with their federal tax obligations.

TAP members must also pass a Federal Bureau of Investigation criminal background check. I was honored to serve as a TAP member in the mid-2000s, and I still remember getting fingerprinted the old-fashioned ink way as part of the clearance protocol back then.

Tax practitioner applicants must be in good standing with the IRS. This means not currently under suspension or disbarred.

And you must be willing and able to commit 200 to 300 volunteer hours during the year. This time includes, again where possible, in person meetings, but mostly lots of conference (or now, Zoom) calls.

There also are some TAP member prohibitions.

Members cannot be federally registered lobbyists.

Current Department of the Treasury or IRS employees cannot serve on the panel. Former Treasury or IRS employees and former TAP members can be considered, but only after three years from the end of their government jobs or previous TAP service.

More application information: For additional information about the TAP and to start the application process, visit www.improveirs.org.

If you prefer to call, dial toll-free (888) 912-1227 and select prompt number five. Callers outside the United States may call (214) 413-6423 (sorry, that's not a toll-free line) or email the TAP staff at tap.recruitment@irs.gov.

IRS TAP video screenshot

You also can check out the TAP video. That's a screen shot from it above.

My personal 2¢: As I mentioned, I am a former TAP member. It was a great experience.

I have such great memories of working with others from across the country who want to make all things tax better. That includes the TAP staff from various IRS offices who were incredibly helpful and supportive.

TAP is one of those groups that gives me hope and confidence that the IRS can indeed be improved.

Good luck to all who apply for TAP. And many thanks for wanting to serve and to all who are lucky enough to join this great group of volunteers.

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