IRS Taxpayer Advocate

It is so common to hear grumblings about the IRS and all of its downfalls, but did you know that there is a Taxpayer Advocate? The duties and responsibilities of the advocate are to address concerns of taxpayers and improve the service that we as taxpayers receive.

So, exactly what does this Taxpayer Advocate do?  Well, first of all, there is an annual report to Congress (who oversees the IRS and sets the budget for the IRS) and the 2021 Annual Report was released in January.  Here are some highlights of the report that I thought I would share so that you would have some insight into the Taxpayer Advocate and the reporting done from that office:

  • During 2021, 77 percent of individual taxpayers received refunds.
  • The 478 million Economic Impact Payments made totaling $812 billion and the Advance Child Tax Credit payments to over 36 million families totaling over $93 billion implemented by Congress were handled by the IRS.
  • Since 2010, the IRS workforce has decreased by 17 percent, while its workload has increased by 19 percent. 
  • These statistics help to explain why, as of late December, 2021, the IRS had paper filing backlogs of 6 million unprocessed original individual income tax returns, 2.3 million unprocessed amended individual income tax returns and more than 2 million employer quarterly tax returns.  Add to that about 5 million pieces of taxpayer correspondence.  That’s a lot of work to be accomplished.
  • E-filed returns were affected due to discrepancies between amounts claimed on the returns and the amount in the IRS records.  This resulted in more than 11 million math error notices being sent to taxpayers.
  • It was noted that the IRS “Where’s My Refund?” tool was not always able to answer questions due to unprocessed returns and does not provide for information on delays.
  • Telephone service was the worst it has ever been with a record 282 million calls being made to the IRS and only 11 percent of those calls were able to be answered.

These are but a few issues encountered within the IRS.  And, having recognized these mind-blowing numbers, the Taxpayer Advocate Service has made recommendations to correct the problems, including, but not limited to:

  • Utilization of scanning technology and reducing barriers to e-filing. 
  • Deployment of “customer callback” technology on all telephone lines so that callers do not have to wait on hold and can receive a return call.  This is not the end-all and be-all solution, but it could very well help.
  • Improvement of online taxpayer accounts and allowing taxpayers to communicate by secure email.
  • Providing the public with periodic information about delays on IRS.gov. 

In addition, the National Taxpayer Advocate Service made 68 legislative recommendations for consideration by Congress.  A few of them are:

  • Providing sufficient funding for improvements to taxpayer service and modernized information technology systems.
  • Authorizing the IRS to establish minimum standards for paid tax return preparers.
  • Expanding the U.S. Tax Court’s jurisdiction to hear refund cases.

If you are interested in reading more about the annual report prepared by the Taxpayer Advocate, visit taxpayeradvocate.irs.gov/AnnualReport2021. 

Fingers are pointed at the IRS but we must remember, the IRS can only do what Congress gives them the ability to do.

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About the Author

Kay Sowa is a paralegal in the Trusts and Estates Group at Capehart & Scatchard, P.A. She is an IRS Enrolled Agent, an Accredited Estate Planner®, and a Certified Trust and Fiduciary Advisor. She oversees the trust and estate administration practice for the firm. She is an accomplished author and lecturer who has frequently spoken on behalf of a number of organizations including the National Business Institute and the Institute of Paralegal Education.

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