Resolving Tax Problems May Be Easier Than You Think

Elizabeth Rosen
by Elizabeth Rosen, Contributor

If there’s anything as disconcerting as having the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) call you about a tax problem, it’s having to call them. Dealing with the IRS is anxiety-inducing for many taxpayers, who are already have their plates full with work and family responsibilities. Fortunately, however, the IRS has a process to help make resolving tax disputes with them easier.

The Taxpayer Advocate Service (TAS)

If you are involved in a tax dispute with the IRS, you can contact the Taxpayer Advocate Service (TAS) to speak with an advocate who can assist you with your problem. TAS offices are located in every state, as well as Washington D.C. and Puerto Rico.

A tax dispute can be addressed using a Taxpayer Advocate if it falls into any of the following categories: 1) you have tried repeatedly and unsuccessfully to contact the IRS to resolve the problem; 2) the agency did not respond to your call by the date it promised; 3) the routine IRS channels of communication failed you for any reason; or 4) it’s in your best interest, or that of the IRS, to use the program. The Taxpayer Advocate Service generally caters to taxpayers who are experiencing substantial hardship and financial problems due to tax laws, and have not been able to resolve their issue through standard channels.

READ: 4 great tax tips for this year's return

Becky’s Experience

For example, Becky Stewart used the Taxpayer Advocate Service. She got her tax refund in the mail, only to discover the check was hundreds of dollars short — and she could pretty much guess the reason for the problem. Becky suspected that the IRS had failed to allow a tax deduction for the purchase of a personal computer that her employer required her to obtain for her home use as a telecommuter.

A phone conversation with a helpful representative — called a “local taxpayer advocate” — of the TAS program confirmed Becky’s suspicions. A letter from Becky’s employer, documenting that the equipment was required as a condition of employment, had somehow become separated from her income tax return. So Becky re-sent a copy of the letter to the IRS verifying her eligibility for the home office tax deduction. Now, with the agency’s agreement, expects to receive a check for the additional refund amount within several weeks.

What to Expect If You Call the Taxpayer Advocate Service

Your particular situation may be more or less complicated than Becky’s problem above, and therefore it may take more or less time to resolve. Regardless, the IRS says that every taxpayer can expect polite handling of their tax dispute, a timely follow-up after the initial call, an estimate of how long it will take to settle their case, and a quick resolution.

SLIDESHOW: Is it worth it: To spend or not to spend

If you decide to call the Taxpayer Advocate Service for help, make sure you are prepared to provide the following information:

  • Your Social Security Number (SSN) or Employer Identification Number (EIN)
  • The tax year(s) and type(s) of tax return(s) involved
  • A detailed description of your dispute
  • Information about your previous attempts to resolve the problem

The local taxpayer advocate who you speak with will identify himself or herself by name and their IRS number. You will want to write down this information for your own records, in case you need to call back or follow-up later.

For More Information

To learn more about the Taxpayer Advocate Service (TAS), visit the IRS website here. You may also call the toll-free number for the IRS: 1-877-777-4778.

To contact your local taxpayer advocate representative or office, their phone number and address is listed in your phone book.

To read more information about resolving tax disputes and the Taxpayer Advocate Service (TAS), please refer to IRS Publication 1546 (Taxpayer Advocate Service – Your Voice at the IRS).

To make a request for tax help, you can fill out IRS Tax Form 911 (Request for Taxpayer Advocate Service Assistance, and Application for Taxpayer Assistance Order) and file it with the IRS. Furthermore, you can even ask an IRS employee to complete a 911 Form for you.

Conclusion

Most of us could probably live very happy and fulfilled lives without ever having direct interaction with the IRS. However, if you do have an unresolved tax problem there’s no need to panic or avoid it unnecessarily. You can get courteous, speedy, and professional service with just a call to your local taxpayer advocate.