Academic journal article Journal of Accountancy

IRS Reinvents National Advocate Organization

Academic journal article Journal of Accountancy

IRS Reinvents National Advocate Organization

Article excerpt

No doubt W. Val Oveson is sighing with relief as 1999 comes to a close. As National Taxpayer Advocate-the voice for taxpayers within the IRS--he is putting some finishing touches on a reorganization that has already brought sweeping changes to his office.

"The plan for 2000 is to get better at what we're doing and be more effective in helping taxpayers," Oveson said.

The remodeled Office of the Taxpayer Advocate now has increased independence from local IRS offices and improved local representation for taxpayers. It features 74 local advocates--at least one in each state. An advocate also will serve taxpayers in each of the IRS's new service centers.

The reorganization of the advocate's office was designed to comply with provisions in the IRS Restructuring and Reform Act of 1998 that called for a stronger role for the national advocate's office and for an advocate in each state. The job of realizing those changes fell on the shoulders of Oveson, a CPA and former tax commissioner for Utah. The modernized organization will meet the requirements of the statute, and advocates will have a more defined rote and mission, Oveson said.

"With all that has been going on, we've still been out there servicing taxpayers, handling their concerns and complaints," he added. However, according to figures from the IRS, the advocate's office processed significantly fewer cases this year. It opened approximately 283,000 cases in 1999: The comparable figure from 1998 was 348,000 cases. Oveson said the drop in cases probably resulted from the decreased number of IRS taxpayer audits in 1999.

In the past, taxpayer advocates outside Washington, D.C., reported to the heads of local IRS offices. Now each taxpayer advocate reports directly to the National Taxpayer Advocate. In keeping with its dual mission (see the new mission statement below) of helping taxpayers directly and lobbying Congress to improve tax policies and processes at the IRS, the organization has been divided into two units:

* The casework unit, which is organized geographically, is responsible for assisting taxpayers with their problems. …

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