You Have an Advocate Within the IRS


By Elizabeth Rosen

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

The Taxpayer Advocate Service

If you are involved in a tax dispute with the IRS, you can contact the Taxpayer Advocate Service to speak with an advocate who can help 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: you have tried repeatedly and unsuccessfully to contact the IRS to resolve the problem; the agency did not respond to your call by the date it promised; the routine IRS channels of communication failed you for any reason; or 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

Becky Stewart used the service when 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 get 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 sent a new copy of the letter to the IRS verifying her eligibility for the home office tax deduction. Now, with the agency’s agreement, she expects to get a check for the additional refund amount within several weeks.

What to expect if you call the 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 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.

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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 or Employer Identification Number
• 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 you speak with will identify himself or herself by name and their IRS number. You will want to write this down for your own records, in case you need to call back or follow up later.

To learn more about the Taxpayer Advocate Service, visit the IRS website. You may also call the toll-free number for the IRS: 1-877-777-4778 or refer to IRS Publication 1546 (Taxpayer Advocate Service — Your Voice at the IRS).

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

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