The Taxpayer Advocate Service (TAS) is an independent organization within the IRS that can help filers with tax problems they can’t resolve on their own, or if they have exhausted all standard IRS channels and not getting an adequate response.
Every state has at least one local TAS center that is independent of the local IRS office. They are especially helpful for those who cannot afford to see an accountant (or CPA) or tax lawyer to help with issues around their tax return and refund delays.
How do I get a Taxpayer Advocate?
The TAS can either be engaged directly via filing Form 911 (request for assistance). The TAS is also engaged by the IRS on behalf of taxpayers if their return has been processing for several months and the taxpayer needs help to resolve issues.
Taxpayers need to submit Form 911 (after their return has been processed), which is a essentially a request for taxpayer assistance or for those who and are facing undue hardship as a result of the IRS actions or inactions. You can send this form by mail or fax.
One your form is submitted or referred (by the IRS) allow up to 30 days to get a response and Taxpayer advocate assigned to your case. Once your case is assessed you could get temporary refund relief a few weeks afterwards.
With current backlogs, the TAS is taking longer than normal to handle cases and provide assistance. So expect delays in getting a response and lengthy wait times if you are trying to call them directly.
Also note that the TAS has to accept your case and just submitting a request does not guarantee they will support you. This is because per current procedures, the TAS does not accept cases in which they cannot meaningfully expedite or improve resolution for taxpayers.
Your tax return must have been processed (not in Suspense)
Before contacting the TAS as a measure of last resort, remember that they cannot help if the IRS has not loaded your return and started processing. Tax returns not loaded onto the IRS system are classified as in “suspense” status awaiting IRS action. These are causing the majority of processing delays.
Dealing with the TAS (a real example)
Here is an example from a reader (Lisa) in a recent tax season and how the TAS/Form 911 helped her. Lisa had the following challenge with getting her refund released, what is she to do?
- 1/21 filed
- 1/23 accepted
- 1/25 1 bar WMR, tax topic 152, no codes, no messages of a letter
- 2/2 4464c letter sent out, do nothing wait 60 days, I received on 2/8
- 2/7 we’ve received your return and it’s still processing
- 2/11 Path Act message indicating issue was related to tax topic 152
- 2/16 message changed to; we’ve received your return and it’s being processed a refund date will be provided when available, amount returned, no tax topic 152
- 2/25 still no DDD
- 4/28 IRS sent a letter (notice) to Lisa that they are still processing and need another 60 days.
Here was the suggestion offered to Lisa to help address her missing refund:
What did the letter indicate they are reviewing? The IRS can submit a form 911 request on your behalf if you ask them to do so. I would also contact them as well and request them open you a case.
The IRS request goes directly to a tax advocate since they actually are IRS employees; they have access to the system to pull up your return and review. I used one and once I faxed everything I got my return in 2 weeks.
Possible Cause #1: Did you file with your last check stub or with your actually W-2 form? The issue is that the IRS may be reviewing your W2’s because the amount you reported does not match the W-2 they received from your employer. When they say do nothing; they can fix it themselves by contacting your employer for verification which could delay your return even further.
Second possible cause: Claims for tax credits you made on your return. IRS is questioning the legitimacy of the dependents you are claiming and will NOT release your refund until you actually fax them documentation to prove they resided with you at least 7 months last year (birth certificate, school records, lease, government assistance/w children names on it). Tax Advocate will give you a list of items to fax.
If you want them to release your refund you MUST contact an advocate ASAP, they will tell you exactly what is needed and you fax it to them, IRS has exactly 1 week to accept/reject; if all is good; they will re sequence you back into queue and you will have your refund within 1-2 weeks.
NOTE: Unfortunately only the IRS or TAX ADVOCATE can tell you exactly what is going on and how long it might take. Every case is different. The magic word below is (ASK)….to be transferred…and let the advocate determine if your situation meets their criteria.
Your other option will be to contact IRS in the morning and request the following on your behalf. Per the IRS Manual:
If during a taxpayer contact it appears that the taxpayer is experiencing economic harm, seeking help in resolving tax problems that have not been resolved through normal channels, or who believe that an IRS system or procedure is not working as it should, and you can’t resolve the taxpayer’s issue the same day, complete Form 911, Request for Taxpayer Advocate Service Assistance (And Application for Taxpayer Assistance order), and refer the taxpayer to Taxpayer Advocate Service (TAS)
So the Taxpayer Advocate Service does work. See more stories in the comments below and please share your experience (good or bad) with using a tax advocate.
Amended Returns and Taxpayer Advocate Service Help
Marie submitted this question – “Anyone who amended get a tax advocate? How long did it take? I Amended in May and kept after the16 weeks was up that they the IRS needs 60 more days. Today they [IRS] put in for a tax advocate after I finally got through to someone.”
The answer is maybe. If your amended return is still waiting IRS processing (which are facing extended delays), the TAS won’t accept your case until you hear back from the IRS. This includes those taxpayers who are experiencing financial hardships and desperately need the funds.
The TAS can help with amended return delay issues after IRS processing and where they can meaningfully help.
The process to engage the TAS is the same as described above for regular returns. However the TAS will prioritize returns based on order of submission and hardship experienced by the taxpayer.