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A Conversation With the Taxpayer Advocate: Filing Season

David Stewart: Welcome to the podcast. I’m David Stewart, Editor in Chief of Worldwide Tax Daily. This week: A word from the tax advocate, Part One. I'm joined in the studio by Tax Notes Today Senior Reporter William Hoffman. Bill, welcome back to The Podcast.

William Hoffman: Thank you.

David Stewart: So you recently sat down for an interview with National Taxpayer Advocate Nina Olson. For listeners who may not be familiar, what does the National Taxpayer Advocate do?

William Hoffman: Well, the Taxpayer Advocate Service is the taxpayer’s advocate inside the IRS. The keyword being there, “inside.” It's supposed to be the root of appeal, especially for low income or English as a second language, or other distressed taxpayers, although it does not limit its services to those people at all. It also acts as a policy advocate inside both the IRS, Treasury, and Congress.

David Stewart: All right, what did you talk about?

William Hoffman: A wide range of subjects. She started off talking about her impressions of the filing season, which I thought was especially interesting, given that a lot of people are engaging in rounds of applause over how well it went. And she’s kind of ringing the warning bell that it’s not over until it’s over. And by over, I think she meant like three or six months till the heavyweights like GAO and Congress have had a time to go into oversight and decide how things actually worked, and especially what was the damage from the federal government shutdown. She also talked about the Taxpayer First Act, and a catch in there that might not be very popular with some people in the low-income tax community that prevents the IRS from erecting its own free direct-to-IRS service that would be either in competition or substitute for the Free File Alliance of the public-private partnership of the tax preparation software industry with the IRS, which is the current status quo. She also talked about her impressions of the new IRS commissioner -- well, not quite new…six-month mark passed recently. And she seems, I would say, enthused, perhaps. She might not agree with that particular verb, but she definitely was looking forward to seeing what he had going, and made very favorable remarks about his mastery of the tax code. And her ability to communicate with him on a level that she hasn’t been able to communicate with other commissioners before.

David Stewart: Now, before we get to the interview, I should note for listeners that we recorded this in a conference room at the National Taxpayer Advocate’s office in IRS headquarters. And it was quite busy while we were there, so you may hear some stray noises in the background. Enjoy.

William Hoffman: Well, welcome, Madam Taxpayer Advocate.

Nina Olson: Thank you, I’m glad to be here.

William Hoffman: Thank you for joining us. It’s April 11th, four days before the end of filing season for most of us. The filing season began at the end of the longest federal government shutdown in history. This is the first filing season to fully implement provisions of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. There were widespread concerns about underwithholding, tax refund surprises, and fears of another tax administration meltdown like that on Tax Day 2018. None of that seems to have happened. How did the IRS pull off such a smooth filing season?

Nina Olson: Well, first of all, I think that the IRS knows how to deliver a filing season. I think we don’t know what the results are in terms of what is happening with taxpayers until we’ve really gotten through the full closure of the filing season. And even though April 15th is nominally the end of the filing season, for the IRS there is so much stuff that happens after April 15th, where we’ll really process the data, really be able to understand what went on. In terms of taxpayers being underwithheld, this would be the week that we would be seeing those returns coming in, because balance due folks tend to hold off until the very last minute. So we won’t really see the data until next week and week after. I think that what you see is that the IRS put all resources in delivering a good filing season. And it has faced that in the past, when there have been extenders that have been enacted during a filing season. And what is the hidden cost of that is what doesn’t get done in everything else the IRS has on its plate as it moves resources to deliver a challenging filing season. That is what you saw, and what you also see are very high increases in correspondence over age and in audit over age. The IRS thinks maybe it’ll have dug out of its 2017 audits by the summer, and it has adjusted what it’s able to do for audit starts for ‘18 in light of…it’s behind on its ‘17. As it deals with the phones during the filing season, it has to move people from correspondence to the phones, so that’s where you start see over-age correspondence. Which could be for current year, for the prior year, you don’t know what’s in there. And so it will have to move people back to the correspondence after it gets through this bulk of the phones. And there is some question about whether there will be allocated to the taxpayer service side -- because the phones and correspondents are classified as taxpayer service -- whether there will be enough funds to keep the seasonals on long enough to work through the back correspondence. Or at least to be able to let those permanent IRS employees work through correspondence while the seasonals continue to do other work. And so all of those things are moving pieces. And it’s so significant that we got through April 15th, but what my focus has always been is what happens the day after April 15th. What happens to taxpayers? Is there going to be somebody there answering the phone after April 15th? Is there going to be somebody there handling correspondence after April 15th? Are people going to have to wait another 12 months to have a conclusion of the audit? The longer that you -- farther away from the event -- that you do the audit, the less likely it is the taxpayer has the data, or things like that, the documentation to actually prove that they may be entitled to something, the refund that they asked for. And all of that has risk and burden on the taxpayer, so we’re not in any way out of the woods. The other thing I’d say is that the IRS, the senior leadership team, during the shutdown had talked about, first of all, reviewing the shutdown plans. Which is right, based on what we had experienced, and that’s going on right now. I mean, there’s no final product, but that review is going on and that’s right. So that’s going on on another track. And then the other track is to relook at your work plans. Each unit has its work plans. And so it’s like, how many audit starts are you going to be able to do in FY19, how many collections starts, cases are you going to be able to work in FY19? How many campaigns are you going to be able to do? All those things, and they’ve been agreed to as of the start of the year, those are the initiatives that the IRS is planning to do, and everyone is adjusting, is proposing altered work plans. And the question is whether those -- I mean those have be approved by Treasury and OMB. And it may very well be that they will say “no, we’re not going to approve them.” In which case, what happens is that the IRS will not deliver on the work plans. And you will see if that’s the case…one way or another, you will see the impact of the shutdown for the day after the filing season. You will see either that the work plans have been adjusted, and you could look at the work plans that were set for the beginning of the fiscal year, for the whole fiscal year before we had the shutdown, and then you can see what the IRS has adjusted them for, and that will show you the impact of the shutdown. Alternatively, you will not see adjusted work plans, but at the end of the fiscal year, you’ll see the IRS’s report on what it was able to do, and can compare it to the work plans that were approved at the beginning of the year and you will see the impact of the shutdown, but either way there will be an impact of the shutdown.

William Hoffman: Have there been any signals from your work in the Taxpayer Advocate Service about major areas of concern in the post-filing season environment?

Nina Olson: Well, the number one and number two issues of case receipts that we are getting, and this has been been true for last year as well, were the pre-refund wage verification cases where the IRS is questioning the W2 income or the W2 withholding and they can’t match it against the W2s that have come in from the employer. And that is by far our number one receipts, aand it’s increased something like 280 some-odd-percent last year over the year before, and we’re seeing a 30 percent increase over that amount this year to date which is very disturbing. But the second largest issue is the earned income credit audits. And that’s normally in our top five, but last year and this year it has been number two and that is very disturbing to me. And some of that is, again, that the IRS is behind on its 2017 audits. So taxpayers have had their refunds or they are being audited to claw back their refund for their 2017 return and it’s still not resolved. And particularly with that population, I have a great deal of concern because if you put too many obstacles and barriers in front of them, they just walk away. They disappear and they may be entitled to it but they’re not engaging with the IRS. And I think we will continue to see those cases increase as there is this over-age. So the IRS does seem to be doing better with -- even though it’s stopping cases where there’s a mismatch or they don’t have data…because they are this year quickly getting information daily from Social Security and they are uploading the W2s daily from Social Security, and so because of that, and then the process is that the returns are being reprocessed on a regular basis. So if you’ve got a mismatch today, maybe by the end of the week that W2 data might be in there, and your return is going through, and you’ll have a good match, and then you can be released and that’s a very positive thing. Last year, what happened was the returns just went into a black hole if there’s a mismatch. The data was being uploaded manually and, basically, weekly. And there was no systemic process for running that return through again. It had to be manually run through. And every time in the filing season you insert a manual process…I mean, who is gonna do it? Everybody’s working full tilt. So we’re really seeing the results of that this year that returns are maybe being initially frozen and then they are being systemically released as more data comes in. And so what we have said now, as we’ve looked at the information, some of the growth of the cases for us this year in this category has been that taxpayers are so desperate that they come to us. And in fact, the return is in the process, the refund is in the process of being released, but they are still coming to us because they’re nervous. So we’ve said, “Wait three weeks before you come to us because you may get a mismatch, but in that three week period the machine is just moving along and it will release it. We don’t need to be involved. If you’ve waited three weeks from when you first got your message saying we’re looking at your return, then come to us, because then it’s very likely that there’s something that we need to get involved in.” And we just put that policy in place, I think, last Monday, a week ago, and I haven’t seen what that’s done, but I think that will have an impact on some of the spillover to us.

William Hoffman: Switching to some public policy issues, the Taxpayer First Act, now pending in Congress, bars the IRS from implementing a free, direct-to-IRS tax return filing program to compete with or substitute for the Free File service of private tax return preparation software offerings at This has been an issue for you going back to the beginning of your service. But this time it seems as though there is more support in Congress for a free alternative to the relatively limited Free File offerings. How do you see this playing out, especially if the Taxpayer First Act prohibits a free IRS alternative?

Nina Olson: Well, I think the industry has responded to some of my concerns. What I had said since day one was there should be a way for anybody, regardless of their income, to file their income taxes free directly with the IRS, and I’ll come back to that word “directly.” And I really saw it as, and I laugh when I say this, a digital analogue to the paper return. That if I’m sitting there at my desk with a paper 1040 and the paper instructions and paper publications, and I’m trying to fill out my income tax return, there should be a digital version of that. It doesn’t have to have all the bells and whistles that the private sector has. Linking to my accounting software, all of that. The Free File group has responded to my criticism by creating free fillable forms, which is part of the Free File offerings. But it is a product that’s open to anyone and is a fillable PDF that you can electronically file for free with the IRS. And when it works right, it links to the instructions, it doesn’t link to publications, and it isn’t like if I’m filling out line seven on the return, that I’m linking to the instructions for line seven. I’m pulling up the whole 1040 instructions and paging down to find that. So there are improvements that need to be made to that, but they’re very close. And in the IT world where the IRS is to-date, if they wanted to create something themselves like that, filing directly with the IRS for free, electronically, they would have to contract it out anyway. So the fact that that has been created is very positive to me. I have written now every year about what I think needs to be improved. For example, I use the free fillable forms. There’s no way to save a PDF of your return to your laptop. It’s saved somewhere, there is a “save” button, but I have no idea where it is. So you really have to print it out, and this year I couldn’t print out the front page of the 1040.

William Hoffman: Well, so, I mean, to get back to the actual act, is it-

Nina Olson: That’s my concern.

William Hoffman: But is this an issue that you feel like you can work with free-file as existing, even if the Taxpayer First Act prohibits-

Nina Olson: Yeah-

William Hoffman: A free IRS alternative-

Nina Olson: Well-

William Hoffman: Or is this an either/or situation, where-

Nina Olson: Well-

William Hoffman: You go to Congress and say, the Taxpayer First Act needs to get rid of this particular provision?

Nina Olson: Well, see our point in the annual report this year was to say “look at Free File.” It’s supposed to cover 70 percent of the taxpayers and it covers 1.3 percent or whatever of the taxpayers -- 1.7 percent, 6 percent. So taxpayers are speaking with their feet. They don’t find it useful and then when you look at the taxpayers that use it one year, the majority of them don’t use it the next year. So I don’t know whether that’s they’ve earned out of it, or they haven’t liked the experience, or they themselves have moved into a situation where their situation is more complex and they wanna link to their software so they buy a product. This goes to my point. The IRS has no idea and so in our annual report this year what we said was, okay, you’ve got this Free File Alliance, and there’s this legislation out there saying “IRS you can’t create a product of your own.” So you need to focus on this product, why are people not using it? And you haven’t done any focus groups, you haven’t done any surveys to find out why people are behaving the way they are. You haven’t done any testing by yourself about the quality of these products up there. So we had done some testing a couple of years ago when the Affordable Care Act was passed, and we found that there were four or five products on Free File that did not have or any information about the exemptions from health insurance coverage, or had incorrect information, or did not prompt taxpayers to say “oh, I’m exempt” and therefore they would avoid the individual shared responsibility payment. So people were getting slammed with the individual shared responsibility payment because of the way the software was designed. And my thing to the IRS is you should be testing this stuff, it shouldn’t be me testing it. You should be also setting criteria for these participants. There’s nothing in that legislation that prohibits the IRS from saying if you wanna play within the Free File mailbox – you know, as part of the agreement -- we need you to definitely incorporate new provisions, provisions that are changed midyear in a whole series of things, and by the way, you need to give us your products in advance so we can test them to make sure that you do have the changes in the law, etc. We had gone back years ago when Katrina happened and tested scenarios where Congress had passed a whole bunch of positive pieces of legislation for victims of Katrina, and they were tax provisions. Well, we found that something like nine out of the 16 programs hadn’t incorporated them into their products. So how are the taxpayers, the very taxpayers who could really benefit from the free program, how are they going to be able to know that those provisions existed so that they could go on to another product that might have them? That’s the kind of thing that IRS has walked away from, not done its job, and so you have a product that doesn’t meet the needs of the taxpayer.

William Hoffman: But it seems that you’re saying then that Free File can be fixed.

Nina Olson: Well, what we said in the annual report was, this is what the IRS needs to do to fix Free File. If it doesn’t fix Free File, it should get rid of it and focus on free fillable forms. Now, it should focus on free fillable forms no matter what.

William Hoffman: But, that’s not going to happen if the Taxpayer First Act passes as is.

Nina Olson: Well, I don’t know whether that’s true or not, and that’s what I’ve been saying, is that the IRS -- right, if the IRS can’t walk away from Free File, if the Taxpayer First Act passes.

William Hoffman: That’s what it says.

Nina Olson: Right, I understand that. So that’s why I’ve been saying these are the failings of Free File and, IRS, you better get your act together. Otherwise, all we’ve done with the Taxpayer First Act is given the industry this great benefit and taxpayers have not gotten the benefit. Separate and apart from the tax, there’s nothing in the Taxpayer First Act that says that you can’t improve free fillable forms. And my thing about free fillable forms is everybody wants prepopulated returns. You don’t need to go down that rabbit hole that gets everybody insane about the government filling in information. You can, with free fillable forms -- now that we’ve got W-2s coming in -- you could if we can finally get 1099s for interest and dividends coming in early, you could get the equivalent of a prepopulated return just by downloading that information into free fillable forms, and then just hitting the button. And we had calculated several years ago that that was about 30 million people who are plain vanilla, no credits, no nothing, standard deduction, one person, W-2 information maybe a little bit of interest. And you can really reduce taxpayer burden in that way with free fillable forms. But there are things that you actually have to have a database that has that information that you can download. You can also download -- it will be great to have that database to download it into the software products or for a preparer to download. It eliminates missed W-2s, W-2s that got mailed to your old address. There’s just so many reasons to have that. The IRS is nowhere near being able to do that. It doesn’t have a database that’s a 360 database of the taxpayer. But it could get it.

William Hoffman: Well, switching gears a bit, your most recent report to Congress was critical of the IRS for avoiding disclosure of program manager technical advice (PMTA) through the use of email. Very few PMTAs have come out of the TCJA for instance, despite program managers asking Chief Counsel to, as you say in your report, make calls about new laws’ requirements. We understand that you were tasked by Commissioner Rettig to develop guidance and training on PMT disclosure and identification. Can you update us on that process?

Nina Olson: Well, that’s news to me, we weren’t tasked to develop guidance on that.

William Hoffman: All right.

Nina Olson: We said that they should, that was our recommendation. And my understanding…I’ve talked to the new chief counsel about this in depth, and he’s looking into it and I think they agree that training needs to be done and guidance needs to be done. And I’ve asked to review it. It’s on my short list for IRS stuff, to look at that. Also on my short list, and this does pertain to my office, one of the things that we were going to write about in the annual report was the fact that the NTA, that at one point Chief Counsel had taken the position that the National Taxpayer Advocate couldn’t ask for advice about a program that she did not own. So, if I had a question about how the IRS was issuing levies, I would have to convince SBSC commissioner to ask Chief Counsel for that advice. And that was a new position that Chief Counsel took in the summer, fall of last year, and we showed them, as we wrote in the annual report, that we had asked -- we had already had 27 opinions, PMTAs, that had been issued to me about programs that I did not have direct line authority over. But I touch every aspect, task touches every aspect of the IRS, and to say that I have to get permission from someone who may not want to know the answer is obstructing my mission and impeding my statutory responsibilities. We took a very strong position on that and we worked with the commissioner’s office, and they agreed that there needed to be guidance out about how all anyone asked for advice, including the National Taxpayer Advocate, and they agreed in principle that I would have the ability to ask for advice, and more importantly, also see what advice has been issued to the IRS. But I have not seen anything in writing, and that is on my short list for the Taxpayer Advocate Service, and if we don’t get something resolved before I leave, I will be writing about that in detail in the June report.

William Hoffman: Well, do you know if the new PMT guidelines will be made public once complete?

Nina Olson: I would be advocating very strongly that that guidance be made public. It seems to me it would be in the CCDM, it would be-

William Hoffman: CCDM?

Nina Olson: The Chief Counsel Directive Manual, it’s their IRM. I don’t see why they would say it’s official use only. And again, this is part of what we really criticize, was that we could not find anywhere that they were really giving instructions to staff to identify what would be PMTA guidance. And so if a person who’s writing it doesn’t identify it, then it doesn’t get into whatever process they do have to review it, and redact it, publish it, etc. And when they said they had plenty of training on it, we couldn’t identify any training module that was specific to that. And then the other thing was, it just seemed like they had disappeared the consent agreement between tax analysts and Chief Counsel. It’s was like it almost didn’t happen, and it’s like, no, there’s very clear guidance from that judge, from the rulings that the judge had had interim that resulted in this agreement and you can’t just think over the passage of time it goes away. And then if-

William Hoffman: Well-

Nina Olson: Yeah, go ahead.

William Hoffman: Speaking of that, I mean, do you know if the new guidance will be applied retroactively? Back to previous emails where disclosure was avoided?

Nina Olson: Well, I don’t know that, but I think that there’s-

William Hoffman: It’s something you would be in favor of?

Nina Olson: Yeah, well, and I encounter every single day in my work, when I talk to operating divisions, and same thing with my staff, where we go back to people saying, why are you doing this? It could be anything, just why are you doing this? And the answer we get back is “counsel told us we could.” And then the next question out of our mouths is, do you have that in writing? And then they say “yes, or we’ll go find it,” and I’m thinking is it some kind of opinion that’s a formal opinion? Nine times out of 10 it’s an email, and when you look at the email chain, the first thing is what the operating division asked is not what they’re doing. They’re asking some tiny little piece of it and counsels are pining on some…no, it’s not the formal guidance where you get a fuller picture of what’s actually being proposed. So often what we’re doing is going back to counsel with that email chain saying, do you know that the IRS is doing X right now? This is what they’re saying is justification for doing X and often counsel says “that’s not what -- if we’d known this we would have said something differently.” So some of that process when you start going into the emails, you’re gonna lift up little rocks and see creepy crawly things come out. And I don’t know whether the emails themselves need to be published because they may be retracted and then you will get something more formal. If TAS can’t see that kind of stuff, if the IRS is able to say “we don’t have to release it to you,” then I can’t do that kind of work. I can’t protect taxpayers in that way and that really is obstructing my mission.

William Hoffman: Okay, is the release of President Trump’s tax returns to the House Ways and Means Committee a Taxpayer Advocate issue?

Nina Olson: Well, no one’s brought me into that conversation, and I don’t see myself really having a role for that. I think it needs to play out. There are a lot of different players in there, and I don’t particularly at this point see what I could add to it?

William Hoffman: A privacy versus transparency issue, perhaps?

Nina Olson: I think that there are sufficient safeguards for the Ways and Means chair to get the returns. They’re under the statute there to be used for very limited…they cannot be willy nilly redisclosed. In the past they’ve been able to adhere to that, and if the returns are disclosed, or when the returns are disclosed to the chair, those restrictions are very powerful. There are criminal sanctions for not following those restrictions. So to me that part of the system is very strong.

William Hoffman: Following that though, would the release of the returns to the public be a Taxpayer Advocate issue?

Nina Olson: I would be very concerned that the privacy of any taxpayer was violated. In the Taxpayer First Act, there is a provision that we had advocated for a very long time, talking about redisclosure of returns, where if somebody has gotten a return for a legitimate reason, like a contractor or somebody or even a mortgage company or something, and then redisclosing it, and we had recommended -- I think in 2004, it might even have been earlier -- about really looking at the 6103 provisions about redisclosure and requiring that the taxpayers be told what the purpose is. And then if it’s used for another purpose then that puts you under all the sanctions that are available under 6103. And confidentiality is absolutely critical and is something that is a Taxpayer Advocate Service issue. So I’d be very concerned about the disclosure of those returns.

William Hoffman: Well, notwithstanding the taxpayer return privacy versus transparency issue, does the IRS and particularly Commissioner Rettig, with his ties with the Trump administration both personally and professionally, run a risk of undermining public confidence in tax law enforcement, if not tax administration for longer this drags out?

Nina Olson: I don’t know what those ties are that you’re referring to other than that he was nominated by the president and he was confirmed by the Senate.

William Hoffman: Owned condos in Trump properties out West and we still don’t have a complete history of this potential-

Nina Olson: I don’t have any personal knowledge of that, I honestly don’t, and I think people need to look at the man by his actions and what he is trying to do with the IRS, and give him a chance to do what he’s trying to do with the IRS. I think he cares very deeply that the IRS be viewed as an organization with integrity. And I think we need to be very careful not rushing to judgement about people because the stakes are so high. If you really taint the IRS, then you do taint the revenue generator for the government. And we already saw with the 501(c)(4) scandal that employees who had nothing to do with that were tainted. And the trust for whole parts of the IRS that had nothing to do with that benighted event were tainted. And I just think we need to be very careful about separating the politics of what’s going on from the day-to-day work and the integrity of the employees of the IRS in trying to go about their job. And it makes it harder for the IRS to hire really qualified and professional individuals and that’s not gonna help anybody. If all we get are people who can just barely pass the civil service exam and the people who are wanting to do some public service and bringing some private sector experience in, if what they’re gonna say is, “Hell no I’m not gonna do that, because look at what happens. If I come in then my career’s tainted, people will question where was I during all this.” All sorts of stuff like that. You won’t get the people that we need to turn the organization around and make it into a 21st century tax administration. So we really need to be careful about that. I just think we need to separate politics from what the IRS is doing on a day-to-day basis and what it’s trying to do in turning itself around, or what the commissioner is trying to do to turn it around.

William Hoffman: From the point of view of the Taxpayer Advocate Service-

Nina Olson: Yeah.

William Hoffman: How has Commissioner Rettig shaped up compared with previous commissioners that you’ve worked with?

Nina Olson: Well, I mean for me, what has been the biggest change and relief possible, and I said this for years, is that you have someone who knows tax administration. More than that, you know somebody who has represented taxpayers before the IRS. So I walk in there and I say I have this issue, this is what’s happening, and he gets it immediately. He understands the dynamics, he understands the culture of the IRS. He understands the dynamics, he understands what it means to a taxpayer that this is happening to them, he understands what the impact is of delay or not getting information. He has seen it and experienced it himself. And being able to talk for him about that then means that he understands when I walk into the commissioner and bring an issue, it’s because I haven’t been able to resolve it at the lower level. So I’m not bringing penny ante stuff to him, and he understands that. So I don’t get the delays that I’ve had, I don’t get what I often got from prior commissioners which was, “well, go work it out with so-and-so,” and I’m standing there like well I already worked it out with so-and-so that’s why I’m standing here raising it to you. And that’s just been incredibly important, and I do think that it does take time to get to know your leadership teams, assess their strengths and weaknesses, start laying some…not demands but some expectations to them, not to just accept things, and I think that’s very important. I think I’m seeing people responding a little differently. I think what is going to take -- the big challenge is getting that on the front lines. And what I have recommended that the commissioner do -- and he has been doing some of that to the extent that his schedule allows -- is that he get out among the frontline employees. They need to know that he knows their work. They need to know that he understands both what they’re facing, but that he has credibility to be able to talk to them about what the taxpayer’s experiencing. And even though they’re worried about just getting through their job and getting through their work, if they adopt that attitude it has an impact on the taxpayer, it’s not just pushing widgets. And he needs to talk them in that way about it. And not talk through management levels, but actually talk directly to them. I mean, he’s got a busy schedule so he’s been trying to do that. And that, again, takes time. I just know from myself for the first five years in my organization I was constantly getting emails from my people saying “you don’t know what you’re talking about, how could you say these things.” And I would just basically go right back out and respond to those emails, saying, well, let me tell you what I’m thinking and why I’m doing this. And I’d go out and do town halls, and people would send in questions, and I’d respond to every single question. And slowly but surely, you get people sort of understanding what you’re trying to get done. Now he has a term, so he’s got to limit what he thinks he can get done. And he’s thought about that deeply.

David Stewart: We’re gonna leave it there for this episode. Next time, we’ll pick back up with a look back at Nina Olson’s 18 years as the taxpayer advocate. And now, Coming Attractions. Each week we preview commentary that’ll be appearing in the next issue of the Tax Notes magazines. We’re joined by Executive Editor for Commentary Jasper Smith. Jasper, what will you have for us?

Jasper Smith: In Tax Notes, Robert Burke applies the principles of 704(c) to asset revaluations of upper-tier partnerships. While Ken Brewer and Albert Liguori argue that the TCJA’s international provisions haven’t made the United States more attractive for multinational corporations.

In State Tax Notes, John Bouman and Keith Staats offer opposing views on whether Illinois should introduce a graduated income tax. Also, Karl Frieden and Joseph Donovan discuss GILTI and section 965 repatriated income, arguing that states should allow foreign factor representation for apportionment. 

And in Tax Notes International, Walter Hellerstein, Jeffrey Owens, and Christina Dimitropoulou examine the lessons that the Wayfair decision might offer for the global debate on how to tax the digital economy. And Aleksandra Bal discusses how taxpayers can use robotic process automation and process mining to improve their indirect tax functions.

David Stewart: You can read all that and a lot more in the April 15th editions of Tax Notes, State Tax Notes, and Tax Notes International.

That’s it for this week. You can follow me on Twitter @Taxstew, that’s S-T-E-W. If you have any comments, questions, or suggestions for a future episode, you can email us at And as always, if you like what we’re doing here, please leave a rating or review wherever you download this podcast. We’ll be back next week with another episode of “Tax Notes Talk.”

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