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Taxpayer Advocate Service Clarifies Its Limitations

Common sense sayings often point to an undeniable deeper truth. Consider, for example, the well-worn phrase, "There's no such thing as a free lunch."

In the tax arena, it might seem at first glance that the Taxpayer Advocate Service is the exception that proves the rule. After all, the TAS provides a federally funded forum where ordinary people can get help with tax questions.

It's true that the TAS doesn't charge for this. But the service is far from free, considering that taxpayers are paying for it.

The more important point is the limits of the services that the TAS offers. Those services are no substitute for the advice of an experienced tax attorney.

The TAS has tried to clarify what types of help it is and isn't able to provide. For starters, the TAS says it role does not extend to addressing what it calls "pure processing errors." It also does not include issues raised by spouses who are not claiming "innocent spouse" status.

It is scarcely surprising that the TAS is trying to lower expectations about what it can really accomplish for taxpayers. Tax law contains many complicated issues, and millions of people may be seeking "free" help at any one time.

To say the number is in the millions is not an overstatement. The TAS itself puts the figure at from six million to twelve million taxpayers who may be experiencing issues at any given time.

Again, these issues can be complex. The specific issues vary from case to case, from foreign bank account reporting requirements to tax litigation, audits and appeals. Many of them are best resolved with the assistance of a dedicated tax attorney.

Source: "Taxpayer Advocate Service Can't Do It All," Accountingweb, Christina Camara, 9-14-12

Our firm handles situations similar to those discussed in this post. To learn more about our practice, please visit our IRS audits and appeals page.

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