Tax returns

IRS Taxpayer Advocate Service - 2/05/09

Kim: It's only February, but it's time to start thinking about taxes and the IRS. What do you do if you are dealing with the IRS regarding a tax problem and can't seem to get any help? Well, a government department called the Taxpayer Advocate Service will help you. Here to tell us about the Taxpayer Advocate Service is attorney Michael Solomon.

Kim: The phrase, "I'm from the government and I'm here to help you." always makes me suspicious. What is the Taxpayer Advocate Service and how will they help?

Mike: The Taxpayer Advocate Service is an independent department inside the IRS designed to help individuals and businesses resolve their problems with the IRS. Basically, the Taxpayer Advocate Service is available if you have tried to work out your problems with the IRS and you are still experiencing delays or are facing economic harm.

Economic harm. Economic harm means, for example, that, unless you can solve your problem with the IRS, you might lose your home or lose your job. The IRS manual even says that hardship could be demonstrated by the taxpayer crying. So, bring your tissues with you.
If you are a business owner, hardships could be if the IRS action may cause you to miss payroll or be unable to buy inventory.

Delays. Also, if the IRS has delayed a response for more than 30 days or fails to follow their promised response date, you can contact the Taxpayer Advocate Service.

Kim: Let's say I contact the Taxpayer Advocate Service; won't they just turn everything over to the IRS?

Mike: No. The Taxpayer Advocate Service has the right to keep everything you tell them confidential. However, they will need to deal with the IRS if you want them to help you.

The Taxpayer Advocate Service will, at a minimum, review your situation again and tell you their opinion of the tax issue and work with the IRS if it is a problem that can be solved. They have the authority, if they think you may be right, to issue what is called a Taxpayer Assistance Order to stop certain IRS actions, like tax levies, while they take a look at the situation.

Kim: Mike, give me an example of how I could use the Taxpayer Advocate.

Mike: Let's say you had some tax problems in the past and the IRS put a tax lien on your house. You paid the IRS back but can't seem to get them to remove the lien. You have a buyer, the IRS is moving too slowly to get the lien off, and it's going to blow your sale. The taxpayer advocate could move this along, get the lien off, and move quickly so you can sell the house.

However, the Taxpayer Advocate cannot change the laws even if it causes you a hardship. For example, if you are owed a refund from the IRS but waited too long to claim it, even though you need the money, you are out of luck.

There is a local Taxpayer Advocate office in downtown Cleveland. The local number is: 216-522-7134 or complete an IRS Form 911 and send it in.

Kim: Thanks, Mike, for this practical information in dealing with the IRS.