National Taxpayer Advocate Nina E. Olson has released her mid-year report to Congress. The report contains a review of the 2018 filing season, and identifies the priority issues the Taxpayer Advocate Service (TAS) will address during the upcoming fiscal year. It also includes the IRS’s responses to each of the 100 administrative recommendations made in the 2017 Annual Report to Congress.

The report identifies and discusses 12 priority issues the TAS plans to focus on during the upcoming fiscal year. The top five include implementation of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 (TCJA) ( P.L. 115-97), the effectiveness of IRS service channels in meeting taxpayer needs, the development of an integrated case management system, the impact of high false-positive rates on legitimate taxpayers and the protection of taxpayers facing financial hardship from IRS and private debt collection activities. The most significant challenge the IRS faces in the upcoming year is implementing the TCJA, which, among other things, requires programming an estimated 140 systems, writing or revising some 450 forms and publications and issuing guidance on dozens of TCJA provisions. The TAS has launched a new website that lists key tax return items under current law (2017), shows which ones have been impacted by the TCJA and illustrates how the changes will be reflected on tax year 2018 returns filed in 2019.

In her preface to the report, Ms. Olson focuses on the IRS’s customer service challenges. The report says the IRS uses narrow performance measures that suggest the agency is performing well but do not reflect the taxpayer experience. Recommendations to improve customer service include: (1) adopting robust performance measures that more accurately reflect the taxpayer experience; (2) providing taxpayers with modernized “omnichannel”services so that taxpayers can obtain assistance online, by phone or in-person; (3) accelerating the development of an integrated case management system; and (4) using “big data” to help taxpayers as well as to bolster enforcement. Further, Ms. Olson reiterated her longstanding concern that IRS funding reductions have undermined the agency’s ability to provide high-quality taxpayer service and to modernize its aging information technology infrastructure.