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2022 Year in Review- Taxpayer Rights

Posted on Dec. 28, 2022

Procedurally Taxing serves many purposes, but importantly it is a forum to share ideas and advocate for change. In 2022, before the news emerged that the IRS would receive $80 billion in additional funding, we began to research, reimagine, and recommend improvements to allow the IRS and Tax Court to better serve taxpayers and protect and advance taxpayer rights.

At the beginning of the year, we took stock in the way that things were being done in an effort suggest meaningful change. A look at the number of cases settled by Counsel instead of Appeals inspired the idea that Appeals Officers might benefit from tracking the ultimate disposition of the cases they handle (here). A model utilized by the Veterans Court of Appeals was suggested to reduce the number of Tax Court cases that get dismissed each year (here).

Six months prior to the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act and the $80 billion dollar news, posts in February (here and here) examined how IRS could better utilize the resources it already has to better serve taxpayers and protect taxpayer rights, including implementing 2-D barcoding to increase the processing time of paper returns. PT also covered the IRS’s plans (here) to utilize technology to create a fully digital CAF, improve phone service, and use artificial intelligence to enhance the taxpayer experience.

There were suggestions about how the IRS and Tax Court can improve transparency and access, such as that OIC unit should make accepted offers available to review online and the Tax Court should make more documents available online while also providing a process for pro se taxpayers to safeguard information when necessary.

Other ideas to assist the Court, included that they reevaluate the requirement that the IRS file Answers in small tax cases, or adopt a more simplified model, or expect more (here, here and here) from Counsel’s Office when it comes to Answers. The Court could help taxpayers by consistently scheduling pre-trial conferences or requesting status reports related to settlement efforts early on to speed up the settlement process; invite amicus briefs in precedential opinions involving pro se taxpayers, and explore ways to reach dispositions more quickly.

Ideas for how the IRS could communicate more clearly and effectively with taxpayers included recommendations that Exam use virtual office audits; using plain language, tailored, and helpful audit notices; and assigning the audit to one specific person at the IRS. Stepping back to look at the big picture, the Center for Taxpayer Rights researched, workshopped, and reimagined the IRS’s role in the administration of social programs, as shared in posts here, here, here and here in August.

PT chronicled the frustrations caused by robocalling services and reported on findings and recommendations from TIGTA (that the IRS stop lien foreclosure on principal residences; and better publicize PPIAs) and the GAO (that the IRS modernize and improve customer service and adopt additional free file options).

State taxpayer rights have historically been ignored or just accepted for what they are. The Center for Taxpayer Rights developed a survey to begin examining them more closely, which revealed the significant need to protect such rights as posted about here and here.

Now that the year is coming to a close, we reflect on some of the improvements made: the IRS has begun to roll out new technology, including measures to prevent robocalling services from clogging up the phone lines; and the Tax Court is taking steps to protect taxpayers’ sensitive information in certain cases. I hope additional improvements come more rapidly as we enter the new year.

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