What Good Is the National Taxpayer Advocate?
15 Pages Posted: 11 Mar 2010 Last revised: 2 Aug 2010
Date Written: March 8, 2010
This article examines the history and operation of the Taxpayer Advocate Service (TAS), a component of the Internal Revenue Service. Its thesis is that the TAS provides a necessary check on IRS operations, but not in the sense that the TAS reviews substantive decisions. Instead, the TAS serves to help taxpayers tripped up in a highly automated system.
The article first explains how important and often overlooked changes in tax administration since World War II have created a need for an office such as TAS. It then examines the structure of TAS operations, focusing on the reoganization mandated by Congress in the 1998 IRS Restructuring and Reform Act. Finally, it explores the key challenges that confront the TAS. The first challenge is balancing being part of the IRS with being independent from the IRS. Sometimes the TAS is too much the insider and sometimes it is not inside enough. The second challenge is balancing how the TAS exercises its power to help taxpayers in their interaction with the IRS without interfering with the substantive decisions other IRS components make about the imposition or collection of a particular tax against a particular taxpayer.
Keywords: tax administration, IRS history, tax history, taxation, bureaucracies, federal government, federal, ombudsmen, ombudsman, taxpayer advocate, inquisitorial, adversarial, mechanization, computerization, federal agencies, bureaucracy, public choice, agency administration, nina olson, oveson, caplin
JEL Classification: E62, H20, H26, H29, K40, K42
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation