A Wrong Step in the Right Direction: The National Taxpayer Advocate and the 1998 IRS Restructuring and Reform Act

By Conoboy, Heather B. | William and Mary Law Review, April 2000 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

A Wrong Step in the Right Direction: The National Taxpayer Advocate and the 1998 IRS Restructuring and Reform Act

Conoboy, Heather B., William and Mary Law Review

One of the most controversial areas in recent years has been the rights of taxpayers amid charges of abuse by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).(1) Taxpayers have been plagued by everything from rude IRS employees to erroneous assessments.(2) The horror stories taxpayers have recounted before the House of Representatives and the Senate Finance Committee occupied much of the news for weeks and were televised nationally as Congress wrestled with ways to restructure an organization plagued by delay, inefficiency, and abuse.(3)

This problem is not novel.(4) Stories of problems with the IRS have been around for decades.(5) The trend toward reform began in the 1970s when the Problem Resolution Program (PRP) was established.(6) Ten years later, the debate began anew.(7)

Three major bills passed in the last decade have attempted to address these problems. In 1988, Congress passed the first such bill, entitled the Omnibus Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TBOR).(8) Among its other provisions, TBOR strengthened the authority of the taxpayer ombudsman, the precursor to the Taxpayer Advocate.(9) In July 1996, President Clinton signed the second major bill, known as the Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TBOR2).(10) TBOR2 improved a number of procedural rights of taxpayers in dealing with the IRS.(11) In addition, this bill established the national taxpayer advocate (NTA).(12) The final major bill, the 1998 IRS Restructuring and Reform Act (1998 Act),(13) includes a new Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TBOR3)(14) that strengthens the NTA and enables the advocate to bring about substantial reform within the IRS.(15)

Although the establishment of the NTA is an understandable step, the potential for the NTA to foment real change within the agency is limited. As currently established, the NTA is an unnecessary waste of valuable resources and faces a serious conflict between the goals of the office and the desires of the IRS. The main problems with the office are the procedural problem resolution provisions (taxpayer representation) and the substantive reform provisions requiring a report to Congress on the top ten litigation problems per category of taxpayer.

This Note examines these problems in four sections. The first section discusses the history of the NTA and the programs leading up to its creation, including the necessity for some form of taxpayer advocate and an independent reviewing authority for disputes between taxpayers and the IRS. The second section of this Note sets out the current provisions of the 1998 Act dealing with the establishment of the NTA, specifically those new provisions in the 1998 Act that strengthen the office. The third section analyzes the duties of the Taxpayer Advocate, the problems that Congress has yet to address, and advocates a different focus for dealing with taxpayer complaints from a more practical point of view. Finally, this Note concludes that the NTA should be viewed solely as an interim measure and should be charged primarily with the restructuring of the IRS and the retraining of its employees.


In cases involving substantive interpretations of law, the place for a taxpayer to be is in the judicial system.(16) In the case of procedural disputes, however, courts are not the proper place to work out the details.(17) Because no method existed to resolve procedural disputes between the United States taxpayer and the IRS, short of full-blown litigation, many taxpayers were without recourse prior to 1976.(18)

In response to this concern, Congress established the PRP in 1976 to serve as a neutral body within the IRS to investigate problems and complaints, and mediate or recommend solutions.(19) The implementing guidelines of PRP instructed the district directors to set up Program Resolution Offices to be run by a Program Resolution Officer (PRO).(20) PROs lacked the authority to impose final solutions, but they could request that IRS actions be stopped to allow time to investigate the unresolved problems of the taxpayers and recommend possible ways to work out procedural details with the complaining taxpayer.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Cite this article

Cited article

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

A Wrong Step in the Right Direction: The National Taxpayer Advocate and the 1998 IRS Restructuring and Reform Act


Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?