The IRS needs to remember that its mission is to serve taxpayers, and should not eliminate personal service in favor of dealing with taxpayers en masse, warns the National Taxpayer Advocate (NTA) in its Annual Report to Congress released today.

The IRS needs to remember that “taxpayers are not returns — they are people,” the report states.

The report warns that in the future, if a taxpayer has any kind of problem or needs specific tax information, the system will break down. If a taxpayer needs to talk to an IRS employee about a problem “he will be pretty much out of luck.” Taxpayers will then have no choice but to undertake “self service” or seek costly third party assistance. As the report states:

“If the taxpayer has a problem or needs some particular information, that’s where the system (and the vision) breaks down. That taxpayer in the future will have to undertake “self-service” or obtain “for-fee” third-party assistance.”

NTA fears that complying with the tax system may become a two-tiered system. Those who do not have the expertise or means to comply with the code “will be up a creek,” and will unknowingly forgo “significant due process protections.” As the report states:

“But for those who have neither the expertise, the time, nor the resources to navigate these options — they will be up a creek. They will make mistakes with self-help; they will agree to assessments and adjustments they never should; and they will forfeit significant due process protections like the right to go to the United States Tax Court or have a Collection Due Process hearing — all because they can’t talk with an IRS employee about their situation or because they can’t afford to pay someone to help them.”

While the report raises concerns about the absence of personal interaction with IRS employees for compliance, this is not the case after taxpayers fail to comply with the code. As the report notes, taxpayers will still have personal interaction with IRS employees over enforcement actions. 

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