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Thursday, January 15, 2015

National Taxpayer Advocate 2014 Annual Report to Congress

The National Taxpayer Advocate has issued her annual report. This report highlights areas of tax law and IRS administration that are not in compliance with law or that require improvement. While Congress and the IRS will review the report, they are not bound to address any of the problems or implement any of the recommendations.

There are a lot of items in the report. A good way to quickly absorb the report is to review the table of contents – so I have copied and reformatted it below, for your viewing pleasure. Read the whole report here.

THE MOST SERIOUS PROBLEMS ENCOUNTERED BY TAXPAYERS

The Right to Quality Service

TAXPAYER SERVICE: Taxpayer Service Has Reached Unacceptably Low Levels and Is Getting Worse, Creating Compliance Barriers and Significant Inconvenience for Millions of Taxpayers

TAXPAYER SERVICE: Due to the Delayed Completion of the Service Priorities Initiative, the IRS Currently Lacks a Clear Rationale for Taxpayer Service Budgetary Allocation Decisions

IRS LOCAL PRESENCE: The Lack of a Cross-Functional Geographic Footprint Impedes the IRS’s Ability to Improve Voluntary Compliance and Effectively Address Noncompliance

APPEALS: The IRS Lacks a Permanent Appeals Presence in 12 States and Puerto Rico, Thereby Making It Difficult for Some Taxpayers to Obtain Timely and Equitable Face-to-Face Hearings with an Appeals Officer or Settlement Officer in Each State

VITA/TCE FUNDING: Volunteer Tax Assistance Programs Are Too Restrictive and the Design Grant Structure Is Not Adequately Based on Specific Needs of Served Taxpayer Populations

The Right to a Fair and Just Tax System: Complexity

HEALTH CARE IMPLEMENTATION: Implementation of the Affordable Care Act May Unnecessarily Burden Taxpayers

OFFSHORE VOLUNTARY DISCLOSURE (OVD): The OVD Programs Initially Undermined the Law and Still Violate Taxpayer Rights

PENALTY STUDIES: The IRS Does Not Ensure Penalties Promote Voluntary Compliance, as Recommended by Congress and Others

COMPLEXITY: The IRS Does Not Report on Tax Complexity as Required by Law

COMPLEXITY: The IRS Has No Process to Ensure Front-Line Technical Experts Discuss Legislation with the Tax Writing Committees, as Requested by Congress

WORKLOAD SELECTION: The IRS Does Not Sufficiently Incorporate the Findings of Applied and Behavioral Research into Audit Selection Processes as Part of an Overall Compliance Strategy

The Right to Be Informed: Access to the IRS

ACCESS TO THE IRS: Taxpayers Are Unable to Navigate the IRS and Reach the Right Person to Resolve Their Tax Issues

CORRESPONDENCE EXAMINATION: The IRS Has Overlooked the Congressional Mandate to Assign a Specific Employee to Correspondence Examination Cases, Thereby Harming Taxpayers

AUDIT NOTICES: The IRS’s Failure to Include Employee Contact Information on Audit Notices Impedes Case Resolution and Erodes Employee Accountability

VIRTUAL SERVICE DELIVERY: Despite a Congressional Directive, the IRS Has Not Maximized the Appropriate Use of Videoconferencing and Similar Technologies to Enhance Taxpayer Services

The Right to Be Informed: Adequate Explanations

MATH ERROR NOTICES: The IRS Does Not Clearly Explain Math Error Adjustments, Making it Difficult for Taxpayers to Understand and Exercise Their Rights

NOTICES: Refund Disallowance Notices Do Not Provide Adequate Explanations

The Rights to Privacy and to a Fair and Just Tax System

COLLECTION DUE PROCESS: The IRS Needs Specific Procedures for Performing the Collection Due Process Balancing Test to Enhance Taxpayer Protections

FEDERAL PAYMENT LEVY PROGRAM: Despite Some Planned Improvements, Taxpayers Experiencing Economic Hardship Continue to Be Harmed by the Federal Payment Levy Program

OFFERS IN COMPROMISE: Despite Congressional Actions, the IRS Has Failed to Realize the Potential of Offers in Compromise

OFFERS IN COMPROMISE: The IRS Does Not Comply with the Law Regarding Victims of Payroll Service Provider Failure

MANAGERIAL APPROVAL FOR LIENS: The IRS’s Administrative Approval Process for Notices of Federal Tax Lien Circumvents Key Taxpayer Protections in RRA 98

STATUTORY NOTICES OF DEFICIENCY: Statutory Notices of Deficiency Do Not Include Local Taxpayer Advocate Office Contact Information on the Face of the Notices

LEGISLATIVE RECOMMENDATIONS

Taxpayer Bill of Rights

TAXPAYER RIGHTS: Codify the Taxpayer Bill of Rights and Enact Legislation that Provides Specific Taxpayer Protections

The Right to Quality Service

ACCESS TO APPEALS: Require that Appeals Have At Least One Appeals Officer and Settlement Officer Located and Permanently Available within Every State, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico

RETURN PREPARATION: Require the IRS to Provide Return Preparation to Taxpayers in Taxpayer Assistance Centers and Via Virtual Service Delivery

VIRTUAL SERVICE DELIVERY (VSD): Establish Targets and Deadlines for the Development and Implementation of VSD in Brick & Mortar Locations, in Mobile Tax Assistance Units, and Over the Internet

The Right to a Fair and Just Tax System: Complexity

SECTION 501(c)4) POLITICAL CAMPAIGN ACTIVITY: Enact an Optional “Safe Harbor” Election That Would Allow IRC § 501(c)(4) Organizations to Ensure They Do Not Engage in Excessive Political Campaign Activity

FOREIGN ACCOUNT REPORTING: Legislative Recommendations to Reduce the Burden of Filing a Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts (FBAR) and Improve the Civil Penalty Structure

PENALTIES: Improve the Proportionality of the Civil FBAR Penalty

PENALTIES: Require the Government to Prove Actual Willfulness Before Imposing the Penalty for Willful FBAR Violations

CLOSING AGREEMENTS: Authorize the IRS to Modify Closing Agreements to Treat Taxpayers Who Correct Violations Early the Same As (or Better Than) Those Who Correct Them Later

FBAR FORMS: Reduce the Burden of Foreign Account Reporting

FILING STATUS: Clarify the Definition of “Separate Return” in IRC § 6013 and Allow Taxpayers Who Petition the Tax Court to Change Their Filing Status to Married Filing Jointly in Accordance with the Tax Court’s Rules of Practice and Procedure

ERRONEOUS REFUND PENALTY: Amend Section 6676 to Permit “Reasonable Cause” Relief

The Right to Be Informed: Access to the IRS

ACCESS TO THE IRS: Require the IRS to Publish a Public Phone Directory and Report on Implementing an Operator System Similar to “311” Lines

IRS CORRESPONDENCE: Codify § 3705(a)(1) of RRA 98, Define “Manually Generated,” and Require Contact Information on Certain Notices in All Cases

The Right to Be Informed: Adequate Explanation

ANNUAL NOTICES: Require the IRS to Provide More Detailed Information on Certain Annual Notices it Sends to Taxpayers

The Rights to Appeal and to Challenge the IRS’s Position and Be Heard

EO JUDICIAL AND ADMINISTRATIVE REVIEW: Allow IRC § 501(C)(4), (C)(5), or (C)(6) Organizations to Seek a Declaratory Judgment to Resolve Disputes About Exempt Status and Require the IRS to Provide Administrative Review of Automatic Revocations of Exempt Status

STANDARD OF REVIEW: Amend IRC § 6330(d) to Provide for a De Novo Standard of Review of Whether the Collection Statute Expiration Date Is Properly Calculated by the IRS

APPELLATE VENUE IN NON-LIABILITY CDP CASES: Amend IRC § 7482 to Provide That the Proper Venue to Seek Review of a Tax Court Decision in Collection Due Process Cases Lies with the Federal Court of Appeals for the Circuit in Which the Taxpayer Resides

The Rights to Privacy and to a Fair and Just Tax System

OFFERS IN COMPROMISE: Authorize the National Taxpayer Advocate to Determine Whether an Offer in Compromise Submitted by a Victim of Payroll Service Provider Fraud Is “Fair and Equitable”

MANAGERIAL APPROVAL FOR LIENS: Require Managerial Approval Prior to Filing a Notice of Federal Tax Lien in Certain Situations

MANAGERIAL APPROVAL: Amend IRC § 6751(b) to Require IRS Employees to Seek Managerial Approval Before Assessing the Accuracy Related Penalty Attributable to Negligence under IRC § 6662(b)(1)

CONTACT INFORMATION ON STATUTORY NOTICES OF DEFICIENCY: Revise IRC § 6212 to Require the IRS to Place Taxpayer Advocate Service Contact

Information on the Face of the Statutory Notice of Deficiency and Include Low Income Taxpayer Clinic Information with Notices Impacting that Population

LATE-FILED RETURNS: Clarify the Bankruptcy Law Relating to Obtaining a Discharge

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