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What Does a Taxpayer Advocate Do?

Sam Lipscomb

Taxpayer Advocate

A taxpayer advocate is an employee of the Office of the Taxpayer Advocate, also known as the Taxpayer Advocate Service (TAS). Working closely with, but independent of, the IRS, a taxpayer advocate can help you resolve tax disputes you might have with the IRS. While there’s no guarantee that you’ll see the result you want, working with a taxpayer advocate is the first step towards working out a tax issue. Best of all, the service is free if they agree to take on your case.

A CPA or tax attorney can also be a big help in dealing with tax issues. If you’d like to take a more holistic view of your financial plan and long-term tax planning, consider working with a financial advisor.

What Is the Taxpayer Advocate Service (TAS)?

Taxpayer Advocate

Created in 1996, the Taxpayer Advocate Service (TAS) exists to help taxpayers who haven’t resolved their disputes via normal IRS proceedings. The TAS also presents an annual report to Congress about large scale issues that taxpayers face. The most recent report presented an analysis of at least 20 of the most serious issues facing taxpayers. The TAS uses the report to recommend changes to the IRS and the nation’s tax laws.

The current “National Taxpayer Advocate,” which is the head of the TAS, is Bridget T. Roberts. The TAS has offices in all 50 states, plus Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico.

When Should You Contact a Taxpayer Advocate?

You can get in touch with a taxpayer advocate by reaching out to your local TAS branch either over the phone or in person. Taxpayer advocates help individuals resolve a number of tax-related issues, but most cases fall under one of four categories:

  • TAS can help out when a taxpayer is facing financial difficulty and needs to resolve an IRS issue immediately to avoid additional financial hardship (such as a levy or a lien).
  • If an IRS plan of action has many parties involved, the TAS can help speed things up. Your advocate will act as a mediator to make sure that things move swiftly and properly.
  • If a taxpayer has tried to resolve an issue with the IRS via the typical channels, but isn’t getting any traction, a taxpayer advocate can get the ball rolling.
  • Another situation where an advocate is useful is when a taxpayer is presenting information that warrants a more unique approach, but the IRS insists upon using traditional methods.

The TAS is generally helpful for coordinating with the IRS as you seek to resolve issues. For example, if you owe the IRS money, but you’re expecting a tax return of greater value than what you owe the IRS, your taxpayer advocate can help coordinate with the IRS so that you’re not marked as still owing money.

Note there is no charge for using a taxpayer advocate.

Contact a taxpayer advocate if you want their help resolving your tax issues. However, remember that you’re not guaranteed to be eligible for their aid. The TAS website contains guides and information that anyone can access, so read up on those before vying for their attention.

How Can I Get Help From a Taxpayer Advocate?

Taxpayer Advocate

You can call or visit your nearest TAS office if you think you’re eligible for assistance. If approved, you’ll be matched with a personal taxpayer advocate. They’ll take some time to familiarize themselves with your case, review any related laws and negotiate with the IRS on your behalf.

In general, the TAS prefers to work with people who are in immediate trouble or whose taxpayer rights have been violated. You’re unlikely to receive help from the TAS if there isn’t an emergency or if the IRS is treating your case correctly. In other words, if you’re worried about how long your refund is taking to arrive, don’t expect any help.

Bottom Line

Working with a taxpayer advocate is a great option to resolve tax disputes. While there’s no guarantee you’ll be eligible for their services, you’ve got a good shot if you’re dealing with a significant and time-sensitive tax issue. The TAS works closely with the IRS, so you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone better suited to help.

Note that your personal taxpayer advocate is intended only to help with pressing issues you’re having with the IRS. If you need help with larger, long-term tax-planning issues, consider bringing a financial advisor into the loop. Many advisors specialize in incorporating tax planning into your investing, retirement planning and general financial plans.

Tips for Avoiding Tax Disputes

  • Although taxpayer advocates are a great resource for many Americans, you’ll ideally never need one. Instead, taking a long-term approach to planning your taxes can help you avoid any tax disputes preemptively.
  • One way to avoid such tax disputes is to work with financial professionals, including a tax prep professional and a financial advisor. Finding the right financial advisor that fits your needs doesn’t have to be hard. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with financial advisors in your area in 5 minutes. If you’re ready to be matched with local advisors that will help you achieve your financial goals, get started now.

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