WASHINGTON (AP) -- If trying to resolve a tax problem with IRS has brought you nothing but high blood pressure, there's a place that will help: IRS.
Within the Internal Revenue Service is the Taxpayer Advocate Service. Its job is to help taxpayers who haven't been able to resolve tax disputes through the regular IRS process.
Call the advocate if you have an ongoing problem with IRS that is taking more than 30 days to resolve, don't like the way tax laws have been applied to you or don't think you've gotten a fair hearing. Also call if you would suffer a hardship -- economic or otherwise -- as a result of IRS actions like garnisheeing your wages to pay a tax debt.
The tax advocate is supposed to represent your interests by cutting through red tape and putting things on hold until it can do an independent evaluation of your case. But you have to go through the regular IRS channels first.
''We are not a substitute for the normal administrative processes of IRS,'' says Nina Olson, a former private tax attorney who heads the advocacy service. ''Absent an economic hardship where something has to be done immediately, they need to work through the system.''
There are taxpayer advocate offices in every state and IRS service center.
To reach the taxpayer advocate, call 1 (877) 777-4778. You may also file form 911, ''Application for Taxpayer Assistance Order,'' or request that an IRS employee fill out a form on your behalf. A list of local advocate offices is found in Publication 1546, ''The Taxpayer Advocate Service,'' which may be downloaded from http://www.irs.gov or ordered by calling the IRS form order number, 1 (800) 829-3676.
As a taxpayer, you're entitled to certain rights when dealing with IRS: privacy, courteous treatment, legal or other representation if you are summoned to an IRS interview, help with unresolved tax problems, an appeal of IRS judgments and the waiver of any tax penalty or interest that is the result of IRS errors or delays.
According to the National Taxpayer Advocate's 2001 report to Congress, the most serious problems taxpayers face are:
- Being unable to reach IRS on its toll-free lines, especially during the tax filing season;
- Confusion over the rules by which children qualify as dependents or for the earned income tax credit;
- Difficulties understanding estimated tax payments;
- Unclear math error notifications from IRS;
- Refund delays; and
- Difficulties computing capital gains tax.
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