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IRS seeks volunteers for taxpayer advocacy panel

Posted by Elena del Valle on April 20, 2009

By Shawn Collins
Acting director, IRS Taxpayer Advocacy Panel

Shawn Collins, acting director, Taxpayer Advocacy Panel

Shawn Collins, acting director, Taxpayer Advocacy Panel

You have a unique opportunity to contribute to improving your tax administration system by becoming a member of the IRS Taxpayer Advocacy Panel (TAP).  We are seeking approximately 40 civic-minded volunteers from around the nation to serve on the TAP, which listens to taxpayers, identifies key issues and makes recommendations for improving IRS service and customer satisfaction.

“TAP members are your friends and neighbors, walking in the shoes of the average taxpayer. A better understanding of how to serve the taxpayer well is a key to sound tax administration,” said Doug Shulman, IRS Commissioner.

TAP provides a forum for taxpayers from all 50 states as well as the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. New TAP members will serve a three-year term starting in December 2009. Our members come from a wide variety of backgrounds including tax practitioners, college students, small business owners and retirees.

Each member serves on two subcommittees. One is a geographic subcommittee that allows the member to represent his or her state. The other is a national issue subcommittee that works directly with IRS personnel in identifying and improving IRS programs, policies and procedures. In all, a member may dedicate 300 to 500 hours of volunteer work in a year. These hours are apportioned by participating in monthly meetings (teleconferences), two annual face-to-face meetings (one per committee) and a mandatory orientation meeting held in December. The term of a TAP member is 3 years and that of an alternate is two years.

“As the IRS continues to examine taxpayers’ needs in the area of service, the Taxpayer Advocacy Panel has emerged as a vital source for gathering and providing information from the perspective of taxpayers,” said Nina E. Olson, National Taxpayer Advocate. “TAP’s role will ultimately aid taxpayers by helping the IRS to provide them with the top quality service they deserve.”

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One of the 15 committees that comprise the TAP is the Multi-Lingual Committee. This committee works closely with the IRS to review Spanish translations of IRS publications, such as Publication 17, for accuracy, and to develop outreach strategies for English as Second Language communities. The Multi-Lingual Committee needs English-Spanish speaking bilingual members to accomplish its mission.

Julie Jason, the current TAP panel member for Connecticut, is a money manager and principal of Jackson, Grant Investment Advisers and a financial columnist for several Connecticut newspapers. She will be completing her three-year term in November.

Jason sums up the experience, “As I have said many times to anyone who will listen, I recommend that tax preparers, accountants, attorneys, and members of the general public consider volunteering for TAP. You will learn more about how the IRS works, meet some of the most impressive tax specialists you will ever come across (IRS subject-matter experts), get to know a very dedicated TAP staff, and work shoulder-to-shoulder with other TAP volunteers from across the nation. There is great satisfaction in being able to have a part in helping improve the taxpayer’s experience with the IRS.”

To be a member of TAP you must be

  • a U.S. citizen, current with your tax obligations,
  • able to commit 300 to 500 hours during the year, and
  • pass an FBI criminal background check.

For the Taxpayer Advocacy Panel to be most effective, the members of the Panel must possess good interpersonal communications skills, organizational skills, and have access to a computer. Members should also have good listening skills and the ability to problem solve within a group of other civic-minded professionals. Ideal candidates should be able to separate their personal views from TAP/IRS issues.

This year TAP is accepting applications to fill member and alternate vacancies from individuals who reside in the locations listed below. Applicants selected from these locations will serve a three-year membership term beginning in December 2009, or be chosen as an alternate member to be considered for membership if a vacancy occurs in their state during the next two years.

Member and Alternate Vacancies – Arkansas, California, Connecticut , Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania,  Tennessee and Texas.

Alternate Vacancies Only – Alaska, Arizona, Delaware, District of Columbia, Hawaii, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Massachusetts, Michigan, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, Puerto Rico, South Dakota, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia and Wyoming.

All applications must be received no later than April 30, 2009. If you know someone interested in applying for a TAP opening, please refer that individual to the website or the TAP toll-free line at 1-888-912-1227 to request an application.

A team composed of IRS professionals will review applications and rank candidates by their experience and suitability.  The most qualified candidates will be interviewed by a team comprised of IRS staff and a current TAP member. Interviews usually take place in June and July.  The Secretary of the Treasury will review the recommended candidates and make final selections in October or November.

The Department of the Treasury, the IRS, and the Taxpayer Advocacy Panel are committed to creating the most user-friendly, customer-oriented tax administration system possible. We are looking forward to fulfilling the TAP vision: Citizen Volunteers valued for improving IRS services. With your help, we can make that happen.

Shawn is the acting director of the Taxpayer Advocacy Panel (TAP) program in Washington, DC. She has a staff of 24 employees who support 100 citizen volunteers from across the country. She became a revenue officer in Hampton, VA in 1991 and spent 13 years as a field revenue officer working collection cases in Virginia, South Carolina, Texas, Ohio, and Utah. Shawn joined the ranks of management in February 2004 as the Collections Field Manager in West Chester, OH.