Democrats call for appointment of permanent IRS watchdog

Two top Democrats on the House’s tax-writing committee are pressing the Trump administration to promptly appoint a new permanent national taxpayer advocate ahead of the opening of the tax-filing season.

“This will be the first filing season the IRS will start without a permanent National Taxpayer Advocate in place in nearly 20 years,” House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard NealRichard Edmund NealOn The Money: USMCA vote held up as committees review deal | Trump legislation added .7T to debt: watchdog | 97 percent of CFOs expect downturn | Trump says ‘phase two’ China deal could come after election Democrats call for appointment of permanent IRS watchdog Democrats press IRS to expedite refunds for nonprofits after change to Trump tax law MORE (D-Mass.) and Ways and Means Oversight Subcommittee Chairman John LewisJohn LewisOn The Money: USMCA vote held up as committees review deal | Trump legislation added .7T to debt: watchdog | 97 percent of CFOs expect downturn | Trump says ‘phase two’ China deal could come after election Democrats call for appointment of permanent IRS watchdog Democrats press IRS to expedite refunds for nonprofits after change to Trump tax law MORE (D-Ga.) said in a statement on Thursday.

“The Taxpayer Advocate is a lifeline for frustrated or financially distressed taxpayers who cannot resolve their problems through normal IRS channels,” Neal and Lewis added. “This official plays a critical role advocating for the needs of everyday taxpayers facing challenges navigating our nation’s tax system.”

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The national taxpayer advocate leads the Taxpayer Advocate Service, an independent organization within the IRS that helps taxpayers resolve problems with the agency. The taxpayer advocate serves as the IRS’s internal watchdog and makes recommendations to Congress about how the IRS could be improved so that it better serves taxpayers.

The previous permanent taxpayer advocate, Nina Olson, held the position from 2001 until July of last year, when she retired. Olson frequently testified before Congress and was widely admired from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.

It is up to Treasury Secretary Steven MnuchinSteven Terner MnuchinDemocrats call for appointment of permanent IRS watchdog Mnuchin aims to wait until end of 2020 to disclose Secret Service costs for Trump’s travel: report Hillicon Valley: Lawmakers say Facebook deepfake ban falls short | House passes bills to win 5G race | Feds sound alarm on cyberthreat from Iran | Ivanka Trump appearance at tech show sparks backlash MORE to appoint a new taxpayer advocate, in consultation with IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig. The IRS put out a solicitation for applicants and interviewed several candidates last year, but no appointment has been announced.

The IRS said in a statement Thursday that it “continues to work with the Treasury Department on the selection of a permanent National Taxpayer Advocate for this important position.”

“We hope to have a selection in the near future,” the agency said.

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Neal and Lewis said on Thursday that they “expect the new appointee to meet the standards the position demands – the individual must be non-partisan, knowledgeable about the complexities of our tax system, and committed to fighting for and serving all taxpayers.”

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Their statement comes less than one month before the Jan. 27 start date for the tax-filing season. This year’s filing season is only the second time that people are filing their taxes under President TrumpDonald John TrumpProfessor fired for Facebook post suggesting Iran should tweet out list of American cultural sites to threaten NY judge denies Trump request to dismiss lawsuit by E. Jean Carroll Rep. Omar: ‘War trauma never leaves you’ MORE‘s 2017 tax-cut law, and tax preparers reported seeing heightened levels of anxiety from their clients last year because they were uncertain about how they were impacted by the law. 

Neal and Lewis’s statement also comes one day after acting National Taxpayer Advocate Bridget Roberts issued a report to Congress in which she pressed for the appointment of a permanent taxpayer advocate. Roberts said that acting leaders lack the authority to make major changes and often aren’t taken as seriously as permanent leaders.

“Given the current crossroads at which the IRS finds itself, it is critical that a permanent National Taxpayer Advocate be appointed as quickly as possible to help ensure the IRS protects taxpayer rights and meets its obligations to taxpayers,” Roberts wrote.

— Updated at 3:41 p.m.

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