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I, a CPA in publice practice, who has been a taxpayer's advocate before the IRS started using the phrase, have used the services of the Taxpayers' Advocate Office a number of times - most recently, yesterday and today. They have never failed to help me get a resolution of my problems.

I'm really glad to hear this. I suspect part of it is like real estate: location, location, location. Unfortunately my experience when sending cases to their office from the inside was different. I also hear a lot of current griping from the rep community. DGMW, this is a terrific idea if properly implemented. I'm happy to hear it has been where you practice.

My biggest problem with the Advocate's office was at National Office, where they were supposed to be looking at systemic issues. Too often they came up with some incredibly stupid ideas that futiley wasted time and money while ignoring things that they could have been addressing effectively.

Now, the IRS has done some dumb things for PR purposes. They've changed the name of the office a couple of times. "Ombudsman" isn't widely used, outside of Norway, so that was dumb to start with. And the former "service centers" are now "campuses". That's just too cute.

Aw, cut 'em some slack. After they decided to call Employee Development, nee Training, "IRS University" (Whatsamatta U to some smartmouths inside) and branch chiefs became "deans," then got tired of that, you just couldn't let a nifty word like "campus" go to waste.

But Phil REALLY doesn't like the Taxpayers' Advocate Office because they did, and do, their job, which is listening to the taxpayer's side of the story. This interfered with his job, being a professional extortionist, and perhaps prevented him from meeting his monthly quotas of pounds of flesh.

No offense taken. We're all allowed a little rhetorical excess now and again.

I never audited, so I can't speak to that, but as a very effective collection officer I can assure you that perhaps the most important thing was listening to the taxpayer, followed closely by being able to explain his options and the consequences of each. And yes, when dealing with a good collector, they've always had options, even before the bill of rights days. I kept few mementoes of my career, but the most prized is a letter from a taxpayer I'd put out of business thanking me for finally forcing him to do what he should have done years before. And yes, I blacked out the name.

Sadly, I could probably tell you collection horror stories that would make even your hair stand on end. I was still a trainee when a taxpayer slugged the most obnoxious guy in the office and the entire office burst into applause. He wasn't the only bad one I ever encountered, and the presence of such is why I was so hopeful when the subject program appeared. And so disappointed when it did little, at least where I was working.

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