The Taxpayer Advocate Service is an independent unit within the IRS that is charged with the mission to “strive that every taxpayer is treated fairly and knows and understands their rights.”   Most taxpayers and many preparers aren’t even aware that the TAS exists or what it does.  Like with most IRS agencies, their resources are limited, but they have been able to intercede on taxpayer’s behalf in complicated situations, especially in cases of substantial financial hardships.

Founded in 1996, the TAS has offices in all 50 states.  Where most IRS communications are impersonal, distant, and confusing, this office can provide personalized and professional services for those that qualify.  For practitioners, the TAS also produces an annual report to congress each year about the ten most pressing problems in tax administration, as seen from the taxpayer’s viewpoint.  This report is illuminating and recommended reading for anybody in the tax field.

The 2022 report to congress is depressing but informative, and points to Covid and IRS budget problems as the main culprits for the current tax administration mess.

“Calendar year 2021 was surely the most challenging year taxpayers and tax professionals have ever experienced – long processing and refund delays, difficulty reaching the IRS by phone, correspondence that went unprocessed for many months, collection notices issued while taxpayer correspondence was awaiting processing, limited or no information on the Where’s My Refund? tool for delayed returns, and – for full disclosure – difficulty obtaining timely assistance from TAS.”

The Taxpayer Advocate goes on to say that the IRS “performed well under the circumstances.”  Since 2010, the IRS budget declined 20% in real dollars, its workforce shrunk by 17%, and the number of taxpayers and tax returns rose by nearly the same amount in that time period. And this was all while the agency was working through a pandemic and administering a slew of new laws and programs meant to address that pandemic.

Anybody dealing with IRS letters, notices, forms, or questions would be well served to learn more about the TAS and its annual report at

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Written by Dan Connors