National Taxpayer Advocate Nina Olson sits down with C-SPAN’s “Your Money” series to discuss the 2017 Tax Season

April 13, 2017

As tax day approaches, many taxpayers experience challenges in preparing and filing their tax returns. As part of a broadcast by C-SPAN Washington Journal’s “Your Money” series, National Taxpayer Advocate Nina Olson sat down with host John McArdle on April 10th for nearly an hour to discuss some of the hurdles taxpayers face and explain how the Taxpayer Advocate Service can help taxpayers overcome some of those challenges. With tax day approaching, Mr. McArdle presented a graphic showing data the Office of the Taxpayer Advocate has computed regarding the costs and complexity of the U.S. tax code, including that:

  • Individuals and businesses spend roughly 6 billion hours and $195 billion on income tax preparation each year;
  • More than 5,800 changes have been made to the U.S. tax code since 2001 – an average of more than one change every single day; and
  • The U.S. tax code consists of nearly 4 million words.

Ms. Olson called on Congress to undertake a comprehensive provision-by-provision review of the tax code and reminded viewers that she has made recommendations to revamp the code’s child care, education, and retirement provisions– all with the aim of simplifying the tax code for taxpayers and addressing taxpayers’ legitimate sense that the tax code sometimes feels random and capricious.

Ms. Olson spent most of the hour fielding viewer questions and discussing a wide variety of topics raised by callers, including stolen identity refund fraud, amended tax returns, and concerns about unlicensed tax return preparers.   Olson also described the administrative responsibilities of the Taxpayer Advocate Service, including how case and intake advocates handle taxpayer cases and elevate them through IRS management channels if a taxpayer is not receiving the assistance he or she should.

Ms. Olson noted that of all individual audits undertaken by the IRS, roughly 80% are conducted by correspondence – which means that taxpayers don’t have the opportunity to work with a single IRS employee during the audit. If back-and-forth is required, the taxpayer must re-educate a new IRS employee with each contact, and no IRS employee is accountable for the correct and prompt resolution of the case.  The need for more personal taxpayer service was a major emphasis of Ms. Olson during the interview.

Ms. Olson emphasized the importance of high quality taxpayer service and pointed out that the Taxpayer Advocate Service is truly the voice of the taxpayer within the IRS.  She encouraged taxpayers experiencing problems with the IRS to visit the Taxpayer Toolkit at www.TaxpayerAdvocate.irs.gov for more information. 

Watch the video at C-SPAN: