Taxpayer Advocacy Feed

I've dealt with bill collectors over the years. Fortunately for me, it's been on behalf of a couple of relatives who found themselves in over their heads financially. Fortunately for my family members, after much — way too much — and often contentious back and forth, we were able to come to a satisfactory resolution. That's why I tend to share former Taxpayer Advocate Nina Olson's skepticism about the way that private collection agencies, or PCAs in tax-acronymese, interact with folks who owe taxes. But despite my, Olson's and many others' lingering distrust of these operations, private debt collect is... Read more →


National Taxpayer Advocated Nina E. Olson today departs the Internal Revenue Service watchdog office she's held since 2001. An acting advocate, Bridget Roberts, has been named until the position is filled full-time. National Taxpayer Advocate Nina E. Olson makes a point, here expressing her concerns about private tax debt collection (you can watch her full testimony at the official video), during one of her many Capitol Hill appearances during her almost two decades as an IRS watchdog. Goodbye and thanks to Nina E. Olson. Today, July 31, is her last as National Taxpayer Advocate (NTA). She is retiring from government... Read more →


In one tax world case, it does appear that the third time really is a charm. A recent Internal Revenue Service report says that its latest use of private bill collectors to bring in old unpaid taxes is working. In fact, this latest iteration has produced enough additional money to allow the IRS to hire new in-house employees. Third time's a collection charm: The use of private collection agencies, or PCAs as they are known in tax acronymese, was restarted in 2017 after being mandated as part of a 2015 transportation law. It's the third attempt after two previous PCA... Read more →


The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) was created more than 40 years ago as a way to give lower-earning workers a tax break. But from the get-go, the EITC has been problematic. Now, just weeks before the National Taxpayer Advocate retires, her office has offered Congress some suggestions on how to improve the tax credit, as well as how it can be more effectively administered. Some tax credit history: The way we got to today's EITC is almost as complicated and intricate as the tax break itself. When created in 1975, the EITC was supposed to be a temporary tax... Read more →


Washington, D.C., subway car awaiting Red Line passengers. (Photo by Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority) Moving from West Texas to Washington, D.C., was a revelation for many reasons. One of the key differences was transportation. The hubby and I came from a part of the country where cars (OK, trucks) were, and still are, the predominant way to get around. Suddenly, as the "On the Town" opening song goes, we were riding in a hole in the ground. We quickly fell in love with the D.C. Metro, even though when we arrived there in 1981, its routes were somewhat limited.... Read more →


National Taxpayer Advocate Nina E. Olson, shown here in a screen shot from an earlier C-SPAN appearance, takes parting shot at 'woefully inadequate' IRS customer service in her final report to Congress before she retires in July. Nina E. Olson is nothing if not consistent. The problem for taxpayers with this trait is that it means much of the change to and improvement of the Internal Revenue Service that Olson has championed for almost two decades remains unfinished. Olson is the National Taxpayer Advocate (NTA), at least for another few weeks. She was appointed to the IRS oversight post in... Read more →


The White House's fiscal year 2020 budget proposal was delivered to Capitol Hill today. (Screenshot from AP video via USA Today) The Trump White House today released its fiscal 2020 budget request. The annual fiscal request for money is a month later than usual this year because of the 35-day government shutdown. In his latest budget proposal, Donald J. Trump asks for $8.6 billion for the border wall. He's also calling for spending cuts of $2.7 trillion, the largest proposed reduction ever by an administration. The math involved also is monumental. The budget forecasts trillion-dollar deficits for four straight years,... Read more →


The National Taxpayer Advocate this year selected 21 major problems that taxpayers encounter in their dealings with the Internal Revenue Service. I found five of those issues particularly troublesome. Every year, the National Taxpayer Advocate issue a report to Congress. The 2018 version released this week included a look at, not surprising, how the recent government shutdown affected not only Internal Revenue Service operations, but also the taxpayers who, particularly at this time of year, are relying on IRS services. Part of that annual report also includes at least 20 tax matters that the Taxpayer Advocate identifies as the most... Read more →


Open-close sign via Giphy.com The drama continues in Washington, D.C., as far as keeping the federal government open. It looked like, despite some grumbling from all sides, that a bipartisan, bicameral deal reached this week would keep all of the federal government open past Feb. 15. We all need to keep our fingers (and toes) crossed that it happens, especially those of us — which mean most Americans — who deal with the Internal Revenue Service. The IRS obviously among those pushing for a resolution that will get the agency through the 2019 tax filing season. The agency is still... Read more →


The red light has changed to green for the IRS now that the longest federal government shutdown in U.S. history is over. (Photo by Kari Bluff via Flickr) The Internal Revenue Service should be fully staffed as we official start the 2019 tax filing season on Monday, Jan. 28. Holdover shutdown issues, however, still could cause delays, which many taxpayers and tax professionals already have experienced. Donald J. Trump signed into law late Friday, Jan. 25, a bill to end the longest federal government shutdown in U.S. history. That same day, the White House Office of Management and Budget notified... Read more →


Internal Revenue Service offices nationwide, like this one in New York City, are closed due to the ongoing federal government shutdown. (Photo by Matthew Bisanz via Wikipedia Commons) Most of us don't have personal interactions with the Internal Revenue Service. We simply do our taxes every year, send them to the federal tax collector and move on with our lives. It's a different story in many places across the country. Those places have physical IRS offices where friends and family usually go each weekday to do their jobs. They want the government shutdown shut down so they can get back... Read more →


The tax collection efforts of four private debt collectors are paying off, bringing in $56.6 million in previously uncollected tax revenue in the first 14 months they've been on the job. However, it cost the tax bill collectors $55.3 million to do that job, netting Uncle Sam only $1.3 million. That's the word from an Internal Revenue Service report on the most-recent iteration of the private tax debt collection program. "Contrary to critics' claims and despite its slow-roll out, the IRS private debt collection program is already demonstrating that it can more than pay for itself with revenues returned to... Read more →


Owing the Internal Revenue Service is bad. Having the IRS come after you for that money is worse. Dealing with private debt collectors who've been given your overdue tax account is worst. That's the perspective of many when it comes to the federal tax collection process. But not all. And now an online war of words has erupted between the National Taxpayer Advocate and a new group created to advocate for private collection of tax debt. Pro private tax debt collection: The Partnership for Tax Compliance (PTC) debuted on June 26. The goals of the 501(c)6 nonprofit (that's the tax... Read more →


Rep. Lynn Jenkins (R-Kansas) and fellow Ways and Means member Rep. John Lewis (D-Georgia) have offered a bill to revamp the IRS. Remember the kinder, gentler Internal Revenue Service? That was the goal of the IRS Restructuring and Reform Act of 1998, which sought to ease up on the tax agency's aggressive collection actions back then. Now two Ways and Means Committee members are looking to remake the IRS into a modern, more efficient agency that provides taxpayers a better experience. I'm pretty sure that modernizing and refining processes for better efficiency can eventually be accomplished. As for the improved... Read more →


Have a problem with the Internal Revenue Service that you just can't solve? The Taxpayer Advocate Service (TAS) might be able to help. And for some folks, that help will be in person. Generally, TAS can assist taxpayers — at no cost — if: Your problem is causing financial difficulties for you, your family or your business. You or your business are facing an immediate threat of adverse action. You've tried repeatedly to contact the IRS but no one has responded or the IRS hasn't responded by the date promised. You believe an IRS system or procedure isn't working as... Read more →


National Taxpayer Advocate Nina E. Olson makes a point about private tax debt collection during a May 23 House Appropriations subcommittee hearing. (Click image to watch the official video.) National Taxpayer Advocate Nina E. Olson has long been an opponent of turning over taxpayer accounts to collection agencies. That's still the case, according to her mid-year report presented today to Congress. The latest private tax debt collection effort tops the list of 13 priorities that the Taxpayer Advocate's Service will focus on during the coming 2018 fiscal year that begins Oct. 1. Specifically, Olson says she and her staff are... Read more →


Many professional tax preparers say that giving the Internal Revenue Service added regulatory ability over their jobs isn't warranted. The tax agency and Trump Administration disagree. (Photo by Sebastiaan ter Burg via Flickr CC) The Trump Administration has continued the current trend of cutting the Internal Revenue Service's annual operating funds, but a provision in the new White House's fiscal year 2018 budget also could solve a new IRS problem. On June 1, the Internal Revenue Service got the bad news from the United States District Court for the District of Columbia that the tax agency can't collect fees from... Read more →


The National Taxpayer Advocate is not giving up on her quest to ensure that digital enhancements to Internal Revenue Service efforts are just that and not replacements for current, lower-tech taxpayer service offerings. National Taxpayer Advocate Nina E. Olson discussed IRS customer service in March in advance of the April filing deadline. Click image to watch the full video at C-SPAN. Nina E. Olson has previously raised questions about increased computerization of IRS customer service options. She's concerned that those not comfortable with conducting business on a computer or other digital device will be inconvenienced or worse. Those with limited... Read more →


Early in my career of writing about taxes my shelves and desk and file cabinets and office floor were covered in tax-related magazines, books, brochures and Internal Revenue Service issued tax booklets and forms. Now it's my email box that's overflowing. The world, including the tax world, has gone more digital. Although, as that photo at left shows, I still have plenty of actual tax and finance books (including -- shameless plug alert -- my "Truth About Paying Fewer Taxes" and the "Future Millionaires' Guidebook" that some of my Bankrate colleagues and I wrote) in my office. One group, however,... Read more →


Tax crooks just never stop. Now they're invoking the Taxpayer Advocacy Panel (TAP) in a phishing scam. Real Taxpayer Advocacy Panel members at work. From left, TAP member Eileen Kelly, TAP Analyst Patti Robb, Local Taxpayer Advocate Barbara Johnson, and TAP members Jack Dell and Jackie Granger meet in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, to discuss ways to improve the IRS. (Photo courtesy TAP 2012 Annual Report; click image for links to recent TAP reports) TAP, on which I had the honor to serve, is a group of around 75+/- volunteers who work to help improve IRS customer service and responsiveness to taxpayer... Read more →