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The Trial – How the Great Literary Work Lives on in the Offer in Compromise Unit

Posted on Apr. 23, 2018

As a college student I read this book by Franz Kafka. Working for Chief Counsel, IRS for over 30 years I did my best to avoid having the taxpayers I encountered feel as if they were getting the same treatment as Joseph K. Not everyone I encountered would give me passing marks on that goal but it seems like a basic government function.

Someone at the Brookhaven office of the IRS OIC unit has either not read the book and so does not appreciate the frustration a stone wall creates or read the book and enjoys bringing the fictionalized Joseph K to life through their system. I try not to make the blog a place to air grievances with the IRS but this post is a long complaint. Do not read further if you tire of this type of piece.  At the end, I adopt a suggestion from Les and offer our first poll.

Last fall I submitted an OIC on behalf of a client who has already suffered much at the hands of the tax system and her spouse. She owes a very substantial liability as a result of her husband’s actions which have landed him in prison. I mention his status because it becomes relevant later in the story. For reasons I will not detail here, she was unable to obtain innocent spouse status though I believe she should qualify. After the final failure in the effort to obtain innocent spouse status, the tax clinic at Harvard, which began helping her at the tail end of her adventure to obtain innocent spouse status, filed the OIC mentioned above.

On January 17, 2018 Employee # 0182126679 of the OIC unit in Brookhaven wrote a letter informing the clinic and the client that he was closing the OIC case because:

“An Offer in Compromise cannot be considered that includes liabilities for which criminal restitution was ordered payable to the IRS. Only the district court that entered the restitution order can modify it.”

The statement is correct as it applies to the liabilities of the husband; however, he did not submit an offer. The statement has no applicability to my client. Her assessment did not result from a criminal restitution order. She was not convicted of any crimes and was assessed via the “regular” assessment process.

The letter from Employee # 0182126679 contains a phone number (844) 805-4980. It does not contain a fax number or any other means of reaching Employee # 0182126679 except his address. Upon receipt of the letter I responded to Employee # 0182126679 by letter and informed him that the criminal restitution exception barring offers does not apply to my client since her assessment did not result from a restitution order. I asked that he reopen the case and I asked that he contact me. I also provided him with the contact information of the Appeals employee handling this case since the offer was submitted in the context of a Collection Due Process case.

Although my letter to Employee # 0182126679 was sent on January 24, 2018, I have yet to hear from Employee # 0182126679. I have called the number listed above on several occasions and have listened to the “soothing” IRS hold music for over two hours on some of the calls. I am listening to it now as I write this post. We are on the 22nd minute of the current call. I have concluded that the number provided is a “dead letter box” that no one at the IRS picks up. The correspondence from Employee # 0182126679 is not the only correspondence from OIC examiners working in Brookhaven that has provided this number. Some examiners provide this number while others offer a number that rings on their desk. I cannot discern a reason for the difference but I know what a difference it makes.

I asked the Appeals employee handling the CDP case to provide me a direct contact number for Employee # 0182126679. He has not. His response was that his coordinator in Appeals who handles OICs made in CDP cases has not informed him of any action taken on the offer. That’s nice but I informed him of the return of the offer and provided him with a copy of the letter from the OIC unit. I would have hoped that would have mattered. It apparently did not. I could write another blog post on my encounters with this Appeals employee but one complaining post is enough.

I asked another employee of the OIC unit to provide me with a working phone number for Employee # 0182126679 as the general number for the OIC unit is not one that gets picked up by anyone. The employee with whom I last spoke would not provide me with a direct dial number for Employee # 0182126679 but said she would give him a message. He has not called in response to whatever message was provided to him.

The good news is that my client is spared from receiving collection correspondence while her offer sits in purgatory but I wonder how many others are out there trying to communicate with an office that gives a phone number no one answers and which refuses to respond to letters or to provide a working number. I would love to know the amount of traffic on this number and to know how many others have tried unsuccessfully to reach the OIC unit at the number it provides but does not answer. I am also curious whether the two year rule regarding offers and acceptance was stopped by the letter saying the offer was being returned or was not stopped since it was a CDP case or starting running again when I informed the OIC unit of the mistake. There are lots of things to think about when on terminal hold.

I had some interruptions in completing this post. It’s now the 57th minute of the call and the music is going strong with occasional interruptions telling me to stay on the call and the first available operator will assist me. I think the first available operator will answer the phone long after I have stopped working this case. Joseph K lives on.

The poll suggested by Les requests that you comment on this post to let us know which taxpayer rights you think are violated from the following choices:

The Right to Be Informed
The Right to Quality Service
The Right to Pay No More than the Correct Amount of Tax
The Right to Challenge the IRS’s Position and Be Heard
The Right to Appeal an IRS Decision in an Independent Forum
The Right to Finality
The Right to a Fair and Just Tax System

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