2019 TAP News

New Free File agreement signed to strengthen
program, help taxpayers

The Internal Revenue Service announced today an agreement (PDF) with Free File, Inc. (FFI) designed to bring more clarity for taxpayers choosing to use free online software during the 2020 filing season. The agreement reached will help make the Free File program more taxpayer-friendly while strengthening consumer protections in several key areas.
"This updated agreement is part of a larger effort by the IRS to help taxpayers meet their tax obligations," said IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig. "It continues to show the partnership we enjoy with the Free File partners and the commitment we both share in helping taxpayers since the program's creation 18 years ago. The improved process will make Free File stronger and give taxpayers another reason to consider this valuable software option."
"The IRS and FFI will also continue to work together to identify and explore ways to better help low- to moderate-income taxpayers and to pursue meaningful opportunities to enhance taxpayer awareness and use of the Free File Program beyond the 2020 filing season," Rettig added.
Each year, Free File partners, acting through FFI, offer their software free to eligible taxpayers. Any taxpayer earning $69,000 or less can find one or more free commercial software products available by visiting IRS.gov/freefile. Some providers offer both free federal and free state tax preparation. Active duty military personnel with incomes of $69,000 or less may use a Free File software product of their choice without regard to other criteria.
The program also offers Free File Fillable Forms, a fillable version of IRS' printed forms best suited for taxpayers experienced in preparing returns by hand and who need limited assistance. The Fillable Forms program, which is available to anyone regardless of income, will be available again in the 2020 tax season for people completing their tax year 2019 returns.
Highlights of the new agreement reached on the Free File program include several features designed to make the program more taxpayer friendly. Among the features in the new agreement, FFI members:
  • Will not exclude their Free File Landing page from an organic internet search.
  • Will ensure a link on their sites is available to return taxpayers to the IRS Free File website at the earliest feasible point in the preparation process if they do not qualify for the Member's Free File offer, and
  • Will regularly survey taxpayers who successfully e-filed a tax return through the Free File program, reporting their results quarterly to the IRS.
"These steps will help further protect taxpayers and make important improvements to the program," Rettig said. "The IRS is committed to improving the Free File program and providing a great option for taxpayers to consider when preparing their taxes."

Get Ready for Taxes: Get ready today to file 2019 federal
income tax returns

The Internal Revenue Service today urged taxpayers to act now to avoid a tax-time surprise and ensure smooth processing of their 2019 federal tax return.
This is the first in a series of reminders to help taxpayers get ready for the upcoming tax filing season. To that end, a special page, newly updated and available on IRS.gov, outlines things taxpayers can do now to prepare for the 2020 tax season ahead.
Adjust withholding; Make estimated or additional tax payments
The IRS urges everyone to use the Tax Withholding Estimator to perform a paycheck or pension income checkup. This is even more important for those who received a smaller refund than expected or owed an unexpected tax bill last year.
It's also a good idea for anyone who had a key life event, such as getting married, getting divorced, having or adopting a child, retiring, buying a home or starting college.
If the Tax Withholding Estimator recommends a change, an employee can then submit a new Form W-4, Employee's Withholding Allowance Certificate, to their employer. Don't send this form to the IRS.
Similarly, recipients of pension or annuity income can use the results from the estimator to complete a Form W-4P, Withholding Certificate for Pension or Annuity Payments, and give it to their payer.
Taxpayers who receive a substantial amount of non-wage income should make quarterly estimated tax payments. This can include self-employment income, investment income (including gain from the sale, exchange or other disposition of virtual currency), taxable Social Security benefits and in some instances, pension and annuity income. Making estimated tax payments can also help a wage-earner cover an unexpected withholding shortfall.
Estimated tax payments are due quarterly, with the last payment for 2019 due on Jan. 15, 2020. Form 1040-ES, Estimated Tax for Individuals, has a worksheet to help figure these payments. Payment options can be found at IRS.gov/payments.
Workers and retirees who receive self-employment income or income from the gig economy, including payments in the form of virtual currency, should make sure to take these amounts into account when they fill out the Tax Withholding Estimator. Payments received in virtual currency by independent contractors and other service providers are taxable, and self-employment tax rules generally apply. Normally, payers must issue Form 1099-MISC. Similarly, wages paid using virtual currency are taxable to the employee, subject to withholding, and must be reported by the employer on a Form W-2.
People with more complex tax situations should use the instructions in Publication 505, Tax Withholding and Estimated Tax. This includes those who owe alternative minimum tax or various other taxes, and people with long-term capital gains or qualified dividends.
Gather documents and organize tax records
The IRS urges all taxpayers to develop a recordkeeping system − electronic or paper − that keeps important information in one place. Keep copies of filed tax returns and all supporting documents for at least three years. This includes year-end Forms W-2 from employers, Forms 1099 from banks and other payers, other income documents, records documenting all virtual currency transactions, and Forms 1095-A for those claiming the Premium Tax Credit. Add tax records to the files as they are received. Having complete and timely records can help any taxpayer file a complete and accurate return.
Taxpayers should confirm that each employer, bank or other payer has a current mailing address or email address. Typically, year-end forms start arriving by mail – or are available online – in January. Review them carefully and, if any of the information shown is inaccurate, contact the payer right away for a correction.
To avoid refund delays, be sure to gather all year-end income documents before filing a 2019 return. Filing too early, before receiving a key document, often means a taxpayer must file an amended return to report additional income or claim a refund. It can take up to 16 weeks to get an amended return refund.
Anyone using a software product for the first time may need the Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) amount shown on Line 7 of their 2018 return to file their 2019 return electronically. Consult the taxpayer's copy of last year's return, or alternatively, visit the View Your Tax Account link on IRS.gov. Learn more about verifying identity and electronically signing a return at Validating Your Electronically Filed Tax Return.
Notify the IRS of address changes and notify the Social Security Administration of a legal name change to avoid refund delays.
Renew expiring tax ID numbers
Taxpayers with expiring Individual Taxpayer Identification Numbers can get their ITINs renewed more quickly and avoid refund delays next year by submitting their renewal application soon.
An ITIN is a tax ID number used by any taxpayer who doesn't qualify to get a Social Security number. Any ITIN with middle digits 83, 84, 85, 86 or 87 will expire at the end of this year. In addition, any ITIN not used on a tax return in the past three years will expire. ITINs with middle digits 70 through 82 that expired in 2016, 2017 or 2018 can also be renewed.
The IRS urges anyone affected to file a complete renewal application, Form W-7, Application for IRS Individual Taxpayer Identification Number, as soon as possible. Be sure to include all required ID and residency documents. Failure to do so will delay processing until the IRS receives these documents.
Once a completed form is filed, it typically takes about seven weeks to receive an ITIN assignment letter from the IRS. But it can take longer — nine to 11 weeks — if an applicant waits until the peak of the filing season to submit this form or sends it from overseas.
Taxpayers who fail to renew an ITIN before filing a tax return next year could face a delayed refund and may be ineligible for certain tax credits. With nearly 2 million taxpayer households impacted, applying now will help avoid the rush as well as refund and processing delays in 2020. For more information, visit the ITIN information page on IRS.gov.
Be prepared to file electronically; Use Direct Deposit for refunds
Filing electronically is easy, safe and the most accurate way to file taxes. There are a variety of free electronic filing options for most taxpayers including using IRS Free File for taxpayers with income below $66,000, or Fillable Forms for taxpayers who earn more. Taxpayers who generally earn $56,000 or less can have their return prepared at a Volunteer Income Tax Assistance site. Tax Counseling for the Elderly sites offer free tax help for all taxpayers, particularly those who are 60 years of age and older.
Combining Direct Deposit with electronic filing is the fastest way to get a refund. With Direct Deposit, a refund goes directly into the taxpayer's bank account. No need to worry about a lost, stolen or undeliverable refund check. This is the same electronic transfer system used to deposit nearly 98% of all Social Security and Veterans Affairs benefits. Nearly four out of five federal tax refunds are deposited directly.
Direct Deposit is easy to use. Taxpayers select it as their refund method through tax software or let their tax preparer know they want direct deposit. Taxpayers can even choose Direct Deposit on a paper return. Be sure to have bank account and routing numbers handy and double check entries to avoid errors.
Direct Deposit also saves taxpayer dollars. It costs the nation's taxpayers more than $1 for every paper refund check issued but only a dime for each Direct Deposit.
By law, the IRS cannot issue refunds for people claiming the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) or Additional Child Tax Credit (ACTC) before mid-February. The law requires the IRS to hold the entire refund − even the portion not associated with EITC or ACTC. This law change, which took effect in 2017, helps ensure that taxpayers receive the refund they're due by giving the IRS more time to detect and prevent fraud.
The IRS cautions taxpayers not to rely on receiving a refund by a certain date, especially when making major purchases or paying bills. Some returns may require additional review and may take longer. For example, the IRS, along with its partners in the tax industry, continue to strengthen security reviews to help protect against identity theft and refund fraud.
Start with IRS.gov for help that includes tools, filing options and other services and resources. Taxpayers increasingly use IRS.gov as their first resource for tax matters. Information in languages other than English is available under the "Language" tab on IRS.gov.
The Let Us Help You page on IRS.gov features links to information and resources on a wide range of topics.

IRS celebrates military families during National Work and
Family Month

As part of National Work and Family Month, the Internal Revenue Service reminds military families that they often qualify for specific tax rules and benefits.
National Work and Family Month was established in 2003 by a Senate resolution. October was chosen to help communicate and celebrate progress towards creating more flexible work environments and helping individuals better balance their work-life commitments.
Members of the military and their families often qualify for tax benefits that could lower the tax they owe or allow them more time to file and pay their federal taxes. One of the key sources of information for military families is Publication 3, Armed Forces' Tax Guide. It is available on IRS.gov in English and Spanish.
Some military family tax benefits include:
  • Combat pay exclusion. Taxpayers may be able to exclude pay for service in a combat zone. But, they can choose to have their nontaxable combat pay included in their earned income for Earned Income Tax Credit purposes. Including nontaxable combat pay as earned income may decrease the amount of tax owed and may mean a larger refund. Taxpayers should calculate their taxes with the combat pay as earned income and without to find out what's best for them.
  • Deadline extensions for combat zones and contingency operations. The various extensions granted to combat zone participants to file returns or pay taxes now also apply to military members serving in contingency operations outside the U.S. There are also deadline extensions available to military families living outside the United States. For more details see Publication 3.
  • Deduction of overnight travel expenses. Members of reserve components (including the National Guard) who stay overnight more than 100 miles from home while in service (for drill or other official duties) may deduct unreimbursed travel expenses.
  • Moving expenses may be tax deductible. If a member of the military moves because of a permanent change of station, they can deduct the reasonable unreimbursed expenses of moving for themselves and members of their household.
  • Sale of principal residence. Members of the military may not have to pay tax on all or part of any gain from the sale of their main home. This benefit depends on how long the taxpayer owns and lives in the home. However, those time rules can be suspended for military members on qualified official extended duty.
  • Dependent care assistance programs. Dependent care assistance programs for military personnel are generally not incuded in their income.
  • Military academy attendees. Generally, there is a 10% tax on payments from a Qualified Tuition Program or Coverdell Education Savings Account that are not used for educational expenses. However, the tax does not apply to attendees of the U.S. Military, Naval, Air Force, Coast Guard or Merchant Marine Academies, to the extent the payments do not exceed the costs of advanced education.
  • Get free tax help during the tax filing season. The IRS offers free tax help to members of the military and their families through the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program. A VITA site is easy to find on or off base — even overseas. Use the IRS VITA/TCE Locator tool or contact your installation's legal office.
As part of National Work and Family month, the IRS also reminds military families about opportunities available within the agency. The IRS Veterans' Employment Program Office is designed to provide quality training and work experience to wounded warriors and veterans.
The program helps veterans who qualify for special hiring authority seek employment at the IRS and also offers them non-paid internship opportunities. The program also helps veterans develop their resumes, better understand the federal hiring process and search for employment within the IRS or other federal agencies.

New IRS Tax Withholding Estimator helps workers with
self-employment income

The Internal Revenue Service said today that the new Tax Withholding Estimator tool includes a feature designed to make it easier for employees who also receive self-employment income to accurately estimate the right amount of tax to have taken out of their pay.
The estimator is an expanded, mobile-friendly online tool that replaced the Withholding Calculator, which since 2001 had offered workers an online method for checking their withholding. The old calculator lacked features geared to self-employed individuals; the new estimator made changes to address this important group.
Among other things, the estimator allows a user to enter any self-employment income, including income from side gigs or the sharing economy, in addition to wages or pensions. The user is then alerted that they may qualify for several special tax benefits, including the self-employment health insurance deduction or the deduction for contributions to a Simplified Employee Pension (SEP), Savings Incentive Match Plans for Employees (SIMPLE) or other qualified retirement plan. The estimator automatically calculates the self-employment tax and the self-employment tax deduction and incorporates these into its overall tax liability estimate.
The enhancement for self-employed people is just one of many new features offered by the Tax Withholding Estimator. Others include:
  • Plain language throughout to improve taxpayer understanding.
  • The ability to target either a tax due amount close to zero or a refund amount.
  • A new progress tracker to help a user know how much more information they need to enter.
  • The ability to go back and forth through the steps, correct previous entries and skip questions that don't apply.
  • Tips and links to help the user quickly determine if they qualify for various tax credits and deductions.
  • Automatic calculation of the taxable portion of any Social Security benefits.

The new estimator also makes it easier to enter wages and withholding for each job held as well as jobs held by a spouse. Users can separately enter pensions and other sources of income. At the end of the process, the tool makes specific withholding recommendations for each job and spouse's job, including incorporating any self-employment income entered into the estimator.

The estimator then automatically links to the appropriate withholding form. For employees, the link goes to Form W-4, Employee's Withholding Allowance Certificate (PDF), which they can then fill out and submit to their employer. Similarly, for pension recipients, the link is to Form W-4P, Withholding Certificate for Pension or Annuity Payments, which is submitted to the pension payor. Remember, don't send these forms to the IRS.

The new tool can help anyone, including self-employed people, doing tax planning for the last few months of the year. The IRS urges everyone to do a Paycheck Checkup and review their withholding for 2019. This is especially important for anyone who faced an unexpected tax bill or a penalty when they filed earlier this year. It's also a critical step for those who made withholding adjustments in 2018 or had a major life change, such as marriage, childbirth, adoption or buying a home.

Those most at risk of having too little tax withheld include those who itemized in the past but now take the increased standard deduction, as well as two wage earner households, employees with non-wage sources of income and those with complex tax situations.

Anyone who changes their withholding in the middle or latter part of this year should do another Paycheck Checkup in January of 2020. That will help ensure that they have the right amount of tax withheld, on a full-year basis, for all of 2020.

The IRS sponsors a free two-hour webinar on the Tax Withholding Estimator. The webinar will take place on Thursday, September 19 at 2 p.m. Eastern time. To sign up, visit the webinars page on IRS.gov.


TAS assistance offered at local Problem Solving Days

The Taxpayer Advocate Service (TAS) will conduct Problem Solving Day events in communities throughout the country in the coming months. During these events, TAS employees from a local office will be available to assist taxpayers in person with tax problems they have not been able to resolve with the IRS. Generally, TAS can assist taxpayers whose problems with the IRS are causing financial difficulties, who’ve tried but haven’t been able to resolve their problems with the IRS, or believe an IRS system or procedure isn’t working as it should. The service is free.
Upcoming TAS Problem Solving Days

NTA Nina Olson releases comprehensive report intended
to improve EITC administration; publishes 'subway
map' of taxpayer's journey through the tax system

National Taxpayer Advocate Nina E. Olson today released a special report on the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), which makes recommendations designed to increase the participation rate of eligible taxpayers and reduce overclaims by ineligible taxpayers. Also today, the Taxpayer Advocate Service (TAS) published a subway map that depicts a taxpayer’s “journey” through the tax system to help taxpayers and policymakers better understand the tax administration process.
Special Report on Earned Income Tax Credit
The EITC report, Earned Income Tax Credit: Making the EITC Work for Taxpayers and the Government, presents a detailed examination of the strengths and weaknesses of the EITC as currently structured and administered, and makes legislative and administrative recommendations to improve it. The report runs more than 100 pages – roughly half text and half appendices consisting of EITC data tables (page 49) and a comprehensive literature review (page 82).
“But this report is not just a research document,” Olson wrote in her preface. “It is a call to action. As we show throughout this report, the way the EITC is structured and the way the IRS is administering it often harms the very taxpayers it is intended to serve. We have made specific, common sense recommendations to mitigate that harm and reform the administration of the EITC. All our recommendations are actionable and supported by data and research.”
The report makes both general, conceptual recommendations and specific recommendations. Among the general recommendations:
  • The IRS, which views itself primarily as a tax collection agency, should more explicitly acknowledge that it has a second mission – that of administering benefits programs like the EITC. Benefits administration requires a different approach from tax collection, including hiring employees with different skill sets and creating a separate set of practices and processes to carry out this second mission. While preventing improper payments is an important part of its job, the IRS should also strive to ensure that low income working taxpayers receive the benefits for which they are eligible and are treated with respect and fairness. The report points out that eligible taxpayers often lose out on benefits to which they are entitled either because they don’t claim them or because they aren’t able to navigate the IRS’s audit process.
  • Congress should consider the administrability of tax provisions, especially family and child-related provisions whose eligibility criteria may be difficult if not impossible for the IRS to verify. When a tax provision is difficult for the IRS to administer, the provision is more susceptible to improper payments and may cause some taxpayers to be subjected to additional scrutiny. This additional scrutiny can be particularly burdensome for low income taxpayers, causing some to give up because they don’t have the knowledge or ability to substantiate their claims.
  • Congress should conduct regular oversight hearings of the IRS on a permanent basis. These hearings would provide an opportunity for the IRS to identify successes and challenges with the laws it administers. In the case of low income tax benefits, these hearings would also provide a forum for Congress to hear directly from outside experts, including Low Income Taxpayer Clinics, return preparers, and others with insights into the challenges facing low income taxpayers and their families.
Among the report’s specific recommendations:
  • Congress should consider redesigning the EITC to reduce fraud by separating the worker component from the family-size component of the credit and by revising the definition of a “qualifying child” to better reflect existing family relationships.
  • Congress should authorize the IRS to establish minimum standards for tax return preparers and software providers to protect taxpayers and improve the accuracy of EITC claims.
  • Congress and the IRS should take steps to ensure EITC compliance procedures are consistent with due process norms and fundamental taxpayer rights. These steps should include limiting the use of summary assessment authority (also known as “math error” authority) to appropriate cases based on clear criteria, updating and modernizing the summary assessment process, developing a structure for ban determinations that protects taxpayer rights, and clarifying and improving the procedures authorizing Tax Court review of ban determinations.
The report was written by a team of EITC experts with “real world” experience representing taxpayers.  The project was led by Professor Leslie Book of the Villanova University School of Law, who served as a “professor in residence” with TAS, and Margot Crandall-Hollick, an EITC expert with the Congressional Research Service who was detailed to TAS for a three-month period. They collaborated with a team of TAS attorney-advisors, research and technical analysts, and a Local Taxpayer Advocate. Several team members had worked at Low Income Taxpayer Clinics, where they represented taxpayers in EITC audits and Tax Court cases. The team conducted extensive interviews with internal and external stakeholders, and it compiled and reviewed reams of documents, studies, and data about the EITC as well as other benefit programs and tax credits in other countries.
On a personal note, Olson pointed out that the EITC was enacted in 1975 – the same year she began her career as a tax return preparer and that she has extensive experience with the program. “[A]s a young, newly divorced mother struggling to pay bills, I myself received the EITC,” she wrote. Professionally, Olson represented EITC claimants through a Low Income Taxpayer Clinic she founded and has worked extensively on EITC issues as the National Taxpayer Advocate.
“The EITC and I have been sisters-in-arms throughout my entire career in tax,” she wrote. “It is fitting, then, in my last Report to Congress before I retire as National Taxpayer Advocate on July 31, 2019, that we should publish this extraordinary document.”
TAS Releases Detailed ‘Subway Map’ Illustrating A Taxpayer’s Journey Through the Tax System
TAS is releasing a “subway map” that illustrates, at a very high level, the stages of a taxpayer’s journey through the tax system – from getting answers to tax law questions through audits, appeals, collection and litigation. The map makes clear the complexity of tax administration, with its many connections, overlaps, and repetitions between stages. Notably, it shows why the road to tax compliance isn’t always easy to navigate.
The National Taxpayer Advocate’s 2018 Annual Report to Congress included a series of “roadmaps” depicting a taxpayer’s “journey” through the tax system. The roadmaps were divided into seven stages: (i) tax return preparation; (ii) tax return processing; (iii) notices; (iv) examinations; (v) appeals; (vi) collection; and (vii) litigation. The purpose of the roadmaps was to help taxpayers and policymakers gain a better understanding of the tax administration process.
The subway map expands on the earlier roadmaps by providing a visually clear depiction of the taxpayer’s journey. The subway map is now available to view online and will be available in hard copy as a print map next month. To place an order call 800-829-3676 beginning July 12 and request Publication 5341.
“Anyone looking at this map will understand that we have an incredibly complex tax system that is almost impossible for the average taxpayer to navigate,” Olson said. “I personally have spent dozens of hours designing and preparing this map, as have many members of my staff.”
View a video introduction to the subway map. 
Because of the complexity and number of steps at each stage, the original roadmaps simplified certain processes by omitting multiple sub-steps and detours that in some situations can be significant. To provide a more complete picture, TAS will be working to develop a fully interactive version of the subway map in the coming year. When the interactive map is completed, a taxpayer or representative will be able to enter into it at any step and learn more about that step and the surrounding steps. TAS envisions that a taxpayer or representative will be able to input the number of an IRS letter or notice and generate a pop-up window that provides key relevant information, including where in the process the taxpayer is and what the next steps will be.
“This digital roadmap will be the culmination of many years of work and research by TAS into human cognition and learning, notice clarity, and taxpayer empowerment,” Olson said. “It is my firm belief that taxpayers must have knowledge about their rights within a bureaucracy as complex as the IRS. If only taxpayers who are represented by tax professionals have access to that knowledge, then we do not have a fair and just tax system. Thus, the digital roadmap will be a powerful tool to improve access to justice.”

NTA Nina Olson delivers her final report to Congress;
identifies priority challenges facing the IRS and TAS

National Taxpayer Advocate Nina E. Olson today released her 37th and final report to Congress in advance of her previously announced retirement on July 31. In the preface, Olson reflects on her 18 years in the job and provides her assessment of the key challenges facing the IRS and the Taxpayer Advocate Service (TAS) in the coming years. The report also presents a review of the 2019 filling season.

“I am enormously grateful for the opportunity I have had to advocate on behalf of our nation’s taxpayers,” Olson wrote. “Amazingly, despite the challenges of complying with our multi-million-word tax code, more than 150 million individual taxpayers and more than 10 million business entities do their civic duty every year by filing income tax returns with the IRS. That is an extraordinary achievement and one we should not take for granted.”

Olson continued: “But even as the system works for most taxpayers most of the time, it doesn’t work for millions of others. Taxpayer service is woefully inadequate. . . . IRS audit notices are often unclear, leading some taxpayers to ‘agree’ to assessments by default – even when they don’t owe the tax. And the IRS doesn’t screen for ability to pay before it takes collection actions, thereby causing or worsening financial hardships for financially vulnerable taxpayers. Advocating for taxpayers affected by problems like these, both individually and collectively, has been and will continue to be the work of TAS.”


Note from the TAP Chair

A new TAP year opens before us with a tremendous amount of potential for a very successful year. Given the enhanced complexity of the tax law resulting from recent major tax legislation, we welcome the opportunity to reach out to every taxpayer and tax professional to get their input on making all relevant forms, publications and guidance as clear and helpful as possible, and then, act on that input together with a talented and dedicated group of IRS tax professionals to improve our tax system. Our new members are full of enthusiasm and our returning members are totally on board and ready to get things done. I look forward to a year full of accomplishment and I hope all our members come away feeling a sense of satisfaction and an understanding of just how important their work was to the taxpayer. We are here to get things done and I will do my best to smooth the way to make that reality occur.
Always, the first thought I have, is to build and broaden our outreach. We come from a variety of backgrounds and we can use the connections we have made in our lives to reach out to others who haven’t heard about TAP and explain what we do. Outreach leads to referrals, which ultimately leads to more work for us and more things that can be improved for the taxpayer. Everyone must think about outreach, even in areas and places that are not full of tax professionals since some of our best ideas for change have come from a taxpayer just having a problem.
In addition, we need to update the improveirs.org webpage to simplify taxpayer reporting and make the whole reporting procedure more visible. Taxpayers need an easy way to make comments or suggestions as well as give the taxpayer more information about our group and what we do. This is of vital importance since this is where a taxpayer can report an issue/problem. We must make it easier for them to find us and understand how to easily report a difficulty. Webpages have become less cluttered and more professional since the TAP webpage was designed. A redesign will be one of my top priorities so that referrals can come in seamlessly in the future.
Finally, I want all six committees actively engaged and accomplishing tasks that truly change the way things are done. I will interact with all our committees to make sure they have the resources they need to get the end results they seek. I want every TAP member to feel free to let me know their concerns and suggestions so we can have a successful year. I look forward to working with all TAP members and TAP staff to create the most successful year in TAP history. Our work is very important. Our success is the taxpayer’s success, which works for the betterment of the more than 320 million people who call America home.
Heidi Hirschfeld
2019 National TAP Chair


IRS now seeking volunteers for Taxpayer Advocacy Panel

The Internal Revenue Service today announced it seeks civic-minded volunteers to serve on the Taxpayer Advocacy Panel (TAP). The TAP is a federal advisory committee that listens to taxpayers, identifies major taxpayer concerns and makes recommendations for improving IRS service and customer satisfaction.
Taxpayers interested in serving on the panel may apply through May 3, 2019.

To the extent possible, the TAP includes members from all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and one international member who represents U.S. taxpayers working, living or doing business abroad or in a U.S. territory. Each member is appointed to represent the interests of taxpayers in their geographic location as well as taxpayers overall.

“In trying to comply with an increasingly complex tax system, taxpayers may find they need different services than the IRS is currently providing,” said Nina E. Olson, the National Taxpayer Advocate. “The TAP is vital because it provides the IRS with the taxpayers’ perspective as well as recommendations for improvement. This helps the IRS deliver the best possible service to assist taxpayers in meeting their tax obligations.”

The TAP reports annually to the Secretary of the Treasury, the IRS Commissioner and the National Taxpayer Advocate. The Office of the Taxpayer Advocate is an independent organization within the IRS that provides support for and oversight of the TAP.

To be a member of the TAP, a person must be a U.S. citizen, be current with his or her federal tax obligations, be able to commit 200 to 300 volunteer hours during the year and pass a Federal Bureau of Investigation criminal background check. Members cannot be federally-registered lobbyists. In addition, current Department of the Treasury or IRS employees cannot serve on the panel, and former Department of the Treasury or IRS employees and former TAP members must have a three-year separation from their service to be considered for appointment. Tax practitioner applicants must be in good standing with the IRS (meaning not currently under suspension or disbarment).

New TAP members will serve a three-year term starting in December 2019. Applicants chosen as alternate members will be considered to fill any vacancies that open in their areas during the next three years.

The TAP is seeking members in the following locations: Alaska, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Vermont, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming.

The panel is seeking alternates in the following locations: Alaska, Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Idaho, Kansas, Maine, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Vermont and Wyoming.

Federal advisory committees are required to have a balanced membership in terms of the points of view represented. As such, applicants from under-represented groups, like Native Americans and non-tax professionals, are encouraged to apply. All timely applications, however, will be given consideration.

The IRS is pleased to announce 25 new members were selected for 2019. The new members join the returning members to round out the 59-member panel for 2019.

Applications for the TAP will be accepted between April 8, 2019, and May 3, 2019. Apply online. For additional information about the TAP or the application process, visit www.improveirs.org or call 888-912-1227 (a toll-free call) and select prompt number five. Callers who are outside of the U.S. may call 214-413-6523 (not a toll-free call). Or contact the TAP staff at taxpayeradvocacypanel@irs.gov for assistance.


Twenty-Five New Members Join the 2019 Taxpayer
Advocacy Panel

We are pleased to announce the selection of the 25 new members who will serve on the 2019 Taxpayer Advocacy Panel. IRS recommended, and the Department of the Treasury approved the members to a three-year term. This diverse group of individuals represents the interests of taxpayers in their geographic location as well as taxpayers overall. The new members will join 34 returning members to round out the panel of 59 volunteers for 2019. A list of the new TAP members by location is included below:
First Name Last Name City State/Territory
Leonard Smith Sherwood AR
Al Lin China Lake CA
Anthony Whitmarsh San Marcos CA
Terrill Flakes Waynesboro GA
Licia Haynie Kailua HI
Laura Snyder Le Mesnil le Roi International
Patrick Townsend Prairie Village KS
Emmanuel Smith Lexington KY
Lacy Rice Radcliff KY
Matthew Groff Beverly MA
Bradford Folta Gardiner ME
Hodari Brown Redford MI
Felecia Dixson Rolla MO
Robert Moretti Great Falls MT
Ronald Fitzherbert Fairacres NM
Michael Gati Laughlin NV
Paul Berlage Cincinnati OH
Andrea Price Sylvania OH
Gina Gray Nichols Hills OK
Courtney Brooks Portland OR
Shani Bowser Harrisburg PA
Kathryn Hauer Aiken SC
John Hughes Memphis TN
Patricia Anthony Garland TX
Cynthia Pinkney Tyler TX


Individuals interested in volunteering to serve on the TAP for 2020 may apply online at usajobs.gov between April 8, 2019, and May 3, 2019. For additional information about the TAP or the application process, you may call 888-912-1227 (a toll-free call) and select prompt number 5. Callers who are outside of the U.S. may call 214-413-6523 (not a toll-free call) or contact the TAP staff at taxpayeradvocacypanel@irs.gov for assistance.


International Conference on Taxpayer Rights: May 23-24, 2019

The National Taxpayer Advocate is convening the fourth International Conference on Taxpayer Rights on May 23-24, 2019, in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The conference is hosted by the University of Minnesota School of Law and sponsored by Tax Analysts, with technical assistance by IBFD. Tax leaders, practitioners, scholars, government officials and other interested members of the tax professional community join in global discussions exploring taxpayer rights and how they serve as the foundation for effective tax administration. Registration is now open for the 2019 conference which will explore the role of taxpayer rights in the digital age, and the implications of the expanding digital environment for transparency, certainty, and privacy in tax administration.

Panel discussions will focus on the following and more:
  • Taxpayer bills of rights around the world, and the foundation of taxpayer rights in human rights;
  • Taxpayer rights and establishing global common standards;
  • Big data, privacy and tax administration;
  • Impact of administrative guidance on taxpayers; and
  • The role of “whistleblowers” in tax administration.

View the full agenda here.

For information about the 4th International Taxpayer Rights conference, visit TaxpayerRightsConference.com. Questions about the International Taxpayer Rights Conference may be submitted to tprightsconference@irs.gov. We hope you can participate by attending this important event.


TAS assistance offered at local Problem Solving Days

The Taxpayer Advocate Service (TAS) will conduct Problem Solving Day events in communities throughout the country in the coming months and year. During these events, TAS employees from a local office will be available to assist taxpayers in person with tax problems they have not been able to resolve with the IRS. Generally, TAS can assist taxpayers whose problems with the IRS are causing financial difficulties, who’ve tried but haven’t been able to resolve their problems with the IRS, or believe an IRS system or procedure isn’t working as it should. The service is free.

National Taxpayer Advocate Delivers Annual Report
to Congress Addressing Impact of Shutdown

National Taxpayer Advocate Nina E. Olson today released her 2018 Annual Report to Congress, describing challenges the IRS is facing as a result of the recent government shutdown and urging more funding for modernizing its 1960s-era information technology (IT) systems. The largest section of the report is titled, “The Taxpayer’s Journey,” and is organized sequentially to track a taxpayer’s interactions with the tax system from start to finish. It contains “road maps” – pictorial representations of the steps in the process – to help readers understand the complexity of the taxpayer journey.



Other TAP News

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