Congress approves IRS reform legislation.

Author:Nevius, Alistair M.

The law revamps the appeals process, requests for innocent spouse claims, and private debt collection rules, among other revisions.

The Taxpayer First Act of 2019, P.L. 116-25, became law on July 1, reconfiguring IRS Appeals and changing other administrative practices and procedures.

The act establishes an "Independent Office of Appeals" within the IRS, with a new Chief of Appeals reporting directly to the IRS commissioner. The purpose of the new office, as described in new Sec. 7803(e)(3), is to resolve federal tax controversies without litigation on a basis that "(A) is fair and impartial to both the Government and the taxpayer, (B) promotes consistent application and interpretation of, and voluntary compliance with, the Federal tax laws, and (C) enhances public confidence in the integrity and efficiency" of the IRS. The resolution process afforded by the Independent Office of Appeals is generally available to all taxpayers, and, if an appeal request is denied, the IRS must provide a written notice explaining why.

The act requires the IRS to develop a comprehensive customer service strategy, to be submitted to Congress within one year of enactment. The IRS is directed to come up with a plan to:

* Provide better assistance to taxpayers;

* Assess what services the IRS can "co locate" with other federal services;

* Propose ways to improve IRS customer service;

* Update guidance and training materials for IRS customer service employees; and

* Identify metrics and benchmarks for measuring progress in implementing the strategy.

The act eliminates the offer-in-compromise fee for taxpayers whose adjusted gross income is 250% or less of the applicable poverty level.

The act makes two changes to the innocent spouse relief provisions of Sec. 6015. Sec. 6015(e) is amended to provide that any determination under Sec. 6015 will be reviewed de novo by the Tax Court. The equitable relief provision of Sec. 6015(f) is amended to add a limitation that a request for equitable relief may be made only for the portion of any tax liability that has not been paid, as long as the request is made before the expiration of the applicable Sec. 6502 limitation period, or that has been paid, as long as the request is made during the period in which the individual could submit a timely claim for refund or credit.

The act further limits the types of tax receivables that can be assigned to private debt collection services. The changes remove taxpayers (identified by the...

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