What Does the Taxpayer Advocate Service Do?

The Taxpayer Advocate Service is there when all else fails

Serious-looking woman speaks on the phone while holding tax documents
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Nobody wants to have a problem with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). It feels a little like being a mouse trying to defend yourself against a lion. Getting a real, live agent on the phone to discuss your problem can be a long and sometimes fruitless process, and you can still run into trouble even if you hire a professional to prepare your taxes.

The IRS set up an organization to address this issue. It helps taxpayers with significant problems that they’ve been unable to resolve through direct contact with the agency.

Key Takeaways

  • The IRS created the Taxpayer Advocate Service (TAS) in 1996 to provide help for taxpayers who are experiencing serious problems with the IRS.
  • TAS is an independent organization within the IRS.
  • Assistance is free, but it’s limited to certain circumstances, such as that your problem with the IRS is causing you financial harm.
  • You can reach out to TAS by phone at 877-777-4778, or you can fax or mail Form 911 to request assistance. 


What Is the Taxpayer Advocate Service?

The Taxpayer Advocate Service (TAS) is an independent part of the IRS. It was formed to help individuals and businesses alike when they’ve been getting nowhere through normal routes of contact.

TAS also tackles big issues that affect taxpayers as a whole. It calls them “systemic” or “big picture” issues. It may propose legislative and administrative changes to address them.

TAS has at least one office in every state, as well as in Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia. 

Residents of Pacific U.S. territories, such as Guam and American Samoa, should contact the TAS office in Hawaii.

Assistance is restricted to those who have been trying but have been unable to resolve issues directly with the IRS and who are experiencing “economic harm” or “significant cost” as a result. The IRS has indicated that “economic harm” can include situations in which the cost of professional representation is simply beyond one's means.

TAS assigns an advocate to address your problem if you're accepted. Help is free of charge. The advocate reviews information, researches the situation, and interacts with the IRS on your behalf. This can involve arguing or mediating your case for you. It will include submitting any paperwork or forms that the IRS requires to resolve the problem.

Taxpayers might also receive a bit of advice regarding how to avoid future problems. All information you provide to your advocate is protected by confidentiality rules.

Who Qualifies for Taxpayer Advocate Service Assistance?

TAS will take on your case if you're facing an economic or systematic burden. It will help if it believes that your rights and guarantees of equitable treatment are being jeopardized. You don’t have to be a low-income taxpayer to qualify for TAS assistance. Anyone can qualify, including a business or charity.

The criteria for receiving help from TAS are different from those for receiving help from the Low Income Taxpayer Clinic (LITC), which assists low-income taxpayers earning no more than 250% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines amount. TAS imposes no such restrictions. There might be a small fee for LITC assistance, depending on your income.

The ultimate decision of whether or not to help will be made by someone within TAS. Here are some examples of when the TAS is likely to do so:

  • Your problem is time-sensitive within the context of financial harm: You could qualify for TAS assistance if you're facing an immediate threat of actions that will have a negative impact on you.
  • The IRS isn't accurately communicating with you about the details of your case: TAS might get involved if you were promised a response to an issue by a certain date, and the IRS failed to respond by that time.
  • There’s a breakdown in the usual IRS problem-solving methods: TAS is more likely to take your case when there's a breakdown in the systems or procedures at the IRS.
  • Your circumstances are unique: TAS might get involved to propose legislative or administrative changes to resolve the issue if you have a unique situation that isn't appropriately addressed by federal tax law.

TAS Reporting of Systemic Issues

The head of TAS presents two reports to Congress every year, including an annual report that outlines at least 10 of the most serious problems for taxpayers. The 2020 report outlined issues regarding lack of IRS resources to hire employees, due in part to the impact of COVID-19.

Frequently Asked Questions

How can I contact TAS?

You can call the TAS national number, 877-777-4778. You can also mail or fax your completed Form 911. This is the form that officially requests TAS assistance.

Is TAS open in 2022?

TAS continues to experience some interruption of services in 2022 due to COVID-19. In-person offices remained closed as of February 2022, but you can still contact TAS by phone, fax, or mail. The service continues to stand by to help.

Article Sources

  1. IRS. "Local Taxpayer Advocate."

  2. Taxpayer Advocate Service. "Who May Use the Taxpayer Advocate Service?"

  3. IRS. "Taxpayer Advocate Service (TAS) Case Criteria."

  4. Taxpayer Advocate Service. "Can TAS Help Me With My Tax Issue?"

  5. Taxpayer Advocate Service, "Reports to Congress."

  6. Taxpayer Advocate Service. "2020 Annual Report to Congress."