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Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration

Press Release

July 21, 2011
TIGTA - 2011-39
Contact: Karen Kraushaar
(202) 622-6500

TIGTA: The Taxpayer Advocate Service Could Improve Its Methods For Selecting Systemic Advocacy Projects

WASHINGTON -- Within the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), the Taxpayer Advocate Service (TAS) is an independent organization whose mission is to help taxpayers resolve problems with the IRS. However, TAS can improve the process it uses to identify potential systemic issues for consideration as Systemic Advocacy Projects, according to a new report issued publicly today by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA).

To help fulfill its mission, TAS is required to identify areas in which groups of taxpayers are experiencing problems with the IRS and recommend solutions. TAS management primarily relies on IRS employees and its external stakeholders to submit such issues for consideration as potential Systemic Advocacy Projects. However, TIGTA found that research TAS performs during the screening process could be improved to better identify systemic problems affecting multiple taxpayers.

Specifically, TIGTA sampled 25 of the 134 projects TAS closed in Fiscal Year 2009 and determined that documentation for 13 projects did not support the issue’s characterization as a systemic problem. In addition, TIGTA believes TAS management should use existing information captured in its Case Advocacy Program, which addresses problems faced by individual or business taxpayers, to identify potentially systemic issues warranting further review in a Systemic Advocacy Project. Further, TIGTA believes current performance measures do not provide management with enough information to assess whether its Projects have positively benefited tax administration.

“The Taxpayer Advocate Service serves an important mission of identifying solutions for systemic IRS issues affecting multiple taxpayers,” said J. Russell George, Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration. “Nonetheless, our report found that improvements can be made to make it more effective. In particular, improving the screening process it uses to identify systemic issues will assist TAS management in identifying and resolving broad-based taxpayer problems, thereby preventing or reducing similar problems in the future.”

TIGTA made three recommendations in its report. TAS management agreed with two, disagreeing only with one recommendation by arguing that it is already being done.

Read the report, including the scope, methodology, and full TAS response.


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