TBOR: An acronym taxpayers might actually like

Washington, D.C., loves acronyms. Nearly everything has one and they are so widespread that a Google search of "government acronyms" delivers a whole slew of sites that offer guides to help people decipher who's who and what's what. In the tax realm, the Internal Revenue Service provides a list of about 80 different acronyms.

The ones that we seem to mention a lot in this blog stem from tax issues related to FATCA, which stands for Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act, and FBAR, standing for the Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts Report. (Interestingly, for reasons unknown, while these two subjects are a significant focus of IRS attention these days, they don't appear on the agency's acronym list).

Another acronym that doesn't appear on the IRS list, but which might actually be greeted by some taxpayers with some satisfaction, is TBOR. That stands for the Taxpayer Bill of Rights.

National Taxpayer Advocate (NTA) Nina E. Olson has long advocated for such a document. She made a pitch for the concept again earlier this month in her annual report to Congress.

The NTA office operates independently within the IRS. In Olson's just-issued assessment, she notes that 2013 was a tough year for the IRS. Sequestration forced staffing cuts that reduced taxpayer services. There were also the widely publicized accusations that applications for tax-exempt status from groups with political-sounding names were subjected to undue scrutiny and delays.

Olson's review of 2013 offers the opinion that the IRS practices related to tax-exempt status reviews violated eight of 10 of the rights that she has proposed for a new TBOR. She observes, as she has in the past, that while the IRS code lists dozens of substantial rights for taxpayers, most citizens have no idea what they are and so can't exercise them.

She says a Taxpayer Bill of Rights, as she proposes it, would help the agency identify and achieve its goals, help employees in dealing with taxpayers, and give taxpayers greater confidence they are not being arbitrarily targeted.   

Olson says the IRS appears to be willing to produce a TBOR. She says one of her objectives is to see that it gets done this year.

Source: AccountingWEB, "National Taxpayer Advocate Wants Taxpayer Bill of Rights," Ken Berry, Jan. 15, 2014

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