Congress created the Taxpayer Advocate Service (TAS) to help individual and business taxpayers resolve problems that haven’t been resolved through normal IRS channels. We also address large-scale, systemic issues that affect groups of taxpayers.
1979 – The IRS created the Office of the Taxpayer Ombudsman to serve as the primary advocate within the IRS for taxpayers.
1988 - Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TBOR 1), part of the Technical and Miscellaneous Revenue Act of 1988, codified the Office of the Taxpayer Ombudsman.
The law added Internal Revenue Code (IRC) section 7811, which granted the Ombudsman the statutory authority to issue Taxpayer Assistance Orders (TAOs) when taxpayers were suffering or about to suffer significant hardships because of the way the Internal Revenue laws administers laws. The law also directed the Ombudsman and the IRS Assistant Commissioner (Taxpayer Services) to provide an annual report to Congress about the quality of the IRS’s taxpayer services.
1996 - Taxpayer Bill of Rights 2 (TBOR 2) brought about the Office of the Taxpayer Advocate.
TBOR 2 replaced the Office of the Taxpayer Ombudsman with the Office of the Taxpayer Advocate and brought the Taxpayer Advocate to the level of the IRS’s Chief Counsel. It gave the Advocate the authority and responsibility to make Congress aware of recurring, unresolved problems and difficulties taxpayers encounter in dealing with the IRS.
TBOR 2 described the functions of the Office of the Taxpayer Advocate:
- To assist taxpayers in resolving problems with the IRS;
- To identify areas in which taxpayers have problems in dealings with the IRS;
- To the extent possible, propose changes in administrative practices of the IRS to mitigate those identified problems; and
- To identify potential legislative changes that may help mitigate such problems.
The bill also replaced the original joint Assistant Commissioner/Taxpayer Advocate Report to Congress with two annual reports to Congress, issued directly and independently by the Taxpayer Advocate.
The first report, due by June 30, contains the objectives of the Taxpayer Advocate for the coming fiscal year (starting October 1). The second one, due by December 31, reports on activities of the Taxpayer Advocate during the fiscal year, including his or her initiatives to improve taxpayer services and IRS responsiveness, and a summary of at least 20 of the Most Serious Problems facing taxpayers.
TBOR 2 also amended IRC section 7811 to extend the scope of a Taxpayer Assistance Order by providing the Taxpayer Advocate with broader authority to take action and by setting a deadline for the IRS to act on the order.
1997 - Commission identified the Taxpayer Advocate as the “voice of the taxpayer.”
The National Commission on Restructuring the Internal Revenue Service stated that the Taxpayer Advocate should be viewed as independent within the IRS. It noted the Taxpayer Advocate’s important and essential role in the protection of taxpayer rights and in the promotion of taxpayer confidence in the integrity and the accountability of the IRS.
1998 - The IRS Restructuring and Reform Act of 1998 (RRA 98) mandated Local Taxpayer Advocates in every state and expanded the definition of “significant hardship.”
The Local Taxpayer Advocates (LTAs) located in each state would report directly to the National Taxpayer Advocate. RRA98 also required LTAs to advise taxpayers at their first meeting that “the taxpayer advocate offices operate independently of any other Internal Revenue Service office and report directly to Congress through the National Taxpayer Advocate.”
The law expanded “significant hardship,” the situations when the Local Taxpayer Advocate can issue a Taxpayer Assistance Order, to include four specific circumstances, though it also stated this is a non-exclusive list:
- An immediate threat of adverse action.
- A delay of more than 30 days in resolving taxpayer account problems.
- The incurring by the taxpayer of significant costs (including fees for professional representation) if relief is not granted.
- Irreparable injury to, or a long-term adverse impact on, the taxpayer if relief is not granted.
Congress also granted the LTAs discretion to not disclose to the IRS the fact that the taxpayer contacted the Office of the Taxpayer Advocate or any information provided by the taxpayer to that office.
2011 – The IRS published final regulations under Internal Revenue Code § 7811 so that the regulations contained a definition of “significant hardship” consistent with existing law and practice.
Since assuming her position in 2001, National Taxpayer Advocate Nina E. Olson has emphasized the protection of taxpayer rights in tax administration. In her 2007 Annual Report to Congress, and in later reports, she proposed a new Taxpayer Bill of Rights. On June 10, 2014, the IRS formally adopted the National Taxpayer Advocate’s proposal, to renew the focus on protecting the rights of taxpayers in all of their dealings with the IRS.
This document groups the dozens of existing rights in the Internal Revenue Code into ten fundamental rights, and makes these rights clear, understandable, and accessible for taxpayers and IRS employees alike.