Taxpayer Advocate Rides Again

It’s always amusing at about this time of year to review the annual report to Congress which is required of the National Taxpayer Advocate.  The latest version was issued last week, containing more of the same sorts of complaints found in each year’s report, regarding the IRS’ performance – or lack thereof.

We hear that “The overriding challenge facing the IRS is that its workload has grown significantly in recent years, while its funding is being cut,” notes the Advocate.

Poor babies.

“This is causing the IRS to resort to shortcuts that undermine fundamental taxpayer rights and harm taxpayers.”

So where are the tears to be shed for woebegone taxpayers, who find the annual compliance burden increasingly tough to deal with, who typically get no (zero) mercy from the Revenooers (in the form of penalty relief) when they screw up?  The Advocate notes that there were approximately 4,430 changes to the tax code from 2001 through 2010, an average of more than one a day, including an estimated 579 changes in 2010 alone!

Advocate Nina Olson goes on to point out that IRS is increasingly relying on automated data – matching procedures to identify potentially inaccurate claims and adjust tax liabilities.  However, automated processes are inherently imperfect, she notes, so the taxpayer’s return position often turns out to be correct.

Truer words were never spoken!  “In light of the IRS’s indiscriminate use of automation to avoid personal contact with taxpayers and the sheer volume of work to be accomplished,” says Olson, ” the IRS is increasingly in danger of judging taxpayers as noncompliant when in fact they are not.”  And to continue that thought….and causing those taxpayers to expend needlessly their time and money to show the IRS the errors of their ways!

“The decline in these key measures is deeply disturbing.  Telephone calls and correspondence are the two main ways taxpayers communicate with the IRS.   Few government agencies or businesses would be satisfied if their customer service departments were unable to answer three out of every ten calls, nor would they be content when nearly half of all correspondence takes more than 6-1/2 weeks to answer.”

Amen.

We can hardly wait for next year’s annual report, which inevitably will contain more of the same.

Sigh…

Now here’s a thought which just might help out the pitiful IRS:  the suggestion by Richard Conn Henry and Steve Hanke (Johns Hopkins University professors) that a “permanent calendar” be adopted, in which each 12 month period is exactly as the year before.  The extra days created by the earth’s 365.242 day orbit around the sun would be accounted for by a “leap week” every few years.

Wouldn’t the IRS’ job be just a little bit easier if everybody knew what day of the week April 15 landed on every year – as opposed to the annual circus (notably this year) in which that date comes on a Sunday, and because of some obscure Federal holiday on Monday the 16th, tax filing day isn’t until Tuesday, April 17!?  Not to mention Hanke’s estimate that such a change could save “roughly $130 billion” merely by decreasing the chance of interest calculation errors (and probably more than a few penalty calculation errors imposed by IRS!) resulting from incorrectly counting the number of days in a given month!

Maybe the Advocate can jump on this bandwagon!

CONSULT YOUR TAX ADVISOR – This article contains general information about various tax matters.  You should consult your CPA regarding the implications to your own particular situation.

Jeff Quinn, the author of this article, is a shareholder in Ashley Quinn, CPAs and Consultants, Ltd., with offices in Incline Village and Reno.  He can be reached at 831-7288, welcomes comments at jquinn@ashleyquinncpas.com, and invites readers to consider his other commentary at http://blog.nolo.com/taxes.

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