IRS Volunteer Opportunity — Where is the Representation for US Persons Living in Other Countries?

http://www.irs.gov/newsroom/article/0,,id=255756,00.html

IR-2012-35, March 19, 2012

WASHINGTON — The Internal Revenue Service seeks civic-minded volunteers to serve on the Taxpayer Advocacy Panel (TAP), a federal advisory committee that listens to taxpayers, identifies key issues, and makes recommendations for improving IRS service.

“TAP members give the IRS insights from every corner of our nation, helping the agency in its continuous effort to improve tax administration,” said IRS Commissioner Doug Shulman.

The TAP provides a forum for taxpayers from all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico to raise concerns about IRS service and offer suggestions for improvement. The TAP reports annually to the Secretary of the Treasury, the IRS Commissioner and the National Taxpayer Advocate. The Office of the Taxpayer Advocate, an independent organization within the IRS, provides oversight of the TAP.

“In trying to comply with an increasingly complex tax system, taxpayers may find they need different services than the IRS is currently providing,” said Nina E. Olson, National Taxpayer Advocate. “The TAP is vital because it provides the IRS with the taxpayers’ perspective as well as recommendations for improvement. This will help the IRS deliver the best possible service to assist taxpayers in meeting their tax obligations.”

To be a member of the TAP you must be a U.S. citizen, current with your federal tax obligations, able to commit 300 to 500 hours during the year and able to pass an FBI criminal background check. New TAP members will serve a three-year term starting in December 2012. If you’re chosen as an alternate member, you’ll be considered to fill any vacancies that open in your area during the next three years.

The TAP is seeking members in the following locations: Alabama, Arkansas, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Georgia, Kentucky, Maine, Missouri, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, West Virginia and Wisconsin. The panel needs alternates for Delaware, Hawaii, Minnesota, Montana, Nevada, Ohio, Oklahoma, Puerto Rico, South Dakota, Utah and Wyoming.

Applications for the TAP will be accepted through April 27, 2012. Applications are available online at http://www.improveirs.org. For additional information about the TAP or the application process, please call toll-free 888-912-1227.

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16 thoughts on “IRS Volunteer Opportunity — Where is the Representation for US Persons Living in Other Countries?

  1. I volunteered to serve on this commission a few years back mentioning specifically that having lived abroad I was particularly interested in the tax issues affecting US citizens residing outside of the US.

    I was not selected. Perhaps I told them too much. The reason I was not selected was not indicated in the reply letter I received, but I always suspected that they really did not anone on this voluntter commission “wasting time” over issues so far from the mainstream of IRS issues.

    I wonder why they are interested in somebody from Puerto Rico, since that is the only place in the entire world where a US citizen can live and totally escape any requriement to file a US tax return. Under an agreement signed with the then colonial government of Puerto Rico many years ago, the US ceeded full responsibility for taxation on that island to the Government of Puerto Rico. The tax laws of Puerto Rico largely mirror those of the US and information is exchanged with the IRS. But if you are a bona-fide resident of Puerto Rico you are not required to file a US tax return if your income is totally from sources within Puerto Rico. Those who are Federal Government employees are subject to US tax, as is income for residents of Puerto Rico from sources outside of Puerto Rico. But very few in Puerto Rico must file US tax returns. (I lived in Puerto Rico for about a year, back in the 1950s.)

  2. Expats do not live in any “corner of our nation”.

    Hence, only those “cornered” in the United States are apparently in need of representation. (Also, unlike expats, they tend to vote.)

    I once wrote to the TAP asking that they consider estabishing a representative for overseas Americans. I never received a response.

    So, while Ms. Olson’s recent report to Congress can be applauded for drawing attention to the plight of underserved US citizens (and nonresident aliens) residing abroad, it is up to the IRS and ultimately the Congress to come up with the extra funds for such assistance.

    Don’t hold your breath.

  3. @Roger,

    I am not at all surprised that you volunteered — you are such an unfailing advocate. That you were not even given a reason for is troubling. They say a lot in their silence. Are US citizens in the 50 States, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico clamouring for volunteering 300 to 500 hours per year of their time? Thank you for doing so!!

  4. @Todundsteur:

    Expats do not live in any “corner of our nation”.

    Well yes, in the real world that’s the case, but according to the alternate reality which IRS has constructed, we’re actually all Washington DC residents. Says so right there in the law in black ink: 26 USC 7701(a)(39). And TAP is taking applications for the District of Columbia. Anyone want to try applying just to see what they say in their rejection letter?

    And yes, I was just about to post the same rant about Puerto Rico. Topic 901 – Is a Person With Income From Puerto Rican Sources Required to File a U.S. Federal Income Tax Return?

    In general, United States citizens and resident aliens who are bona fide residents of Puerto Rico during the entire tax year, which for most individuals is January 1 to December 31, are only required to file a U.S. federal income tax return if they have income sources outside of Puerto Rico or if they are employees of the U.S. government.”

    Quite a nice deal. Far better than any U.S. person abroad gets. And in addition to that they get a voice on the Taxpayer Advocacy Panel but we don’t?

  5. Why not rent an address in PR and tell the IRS that’s where you live – that would put them on the backfoot for a number of years. Hell you can even buy a VOIP phone number in case they ever call in PR!! It’ll ring anywhere in the world where you have the “box” connected to the internet complete with a US ring tone.

  6. @Petros and all; I am sure that the IRS receives many more applications to volunteer than there are openings, many volunteer but few are chosen. I suspect preference is given to CPA types, but that is only a guess.

    The GAO, at the resquest of Congress, performed an evaluation of the effect of extending the US income tax to include residents of Puerto Rico back in 1996. The conclusion: It would likely result in more federal costs than the additional revenue it would produce for the US Treasury, so the idea was dropped like a hot potato. Here’s a link to that GAO report.

    http://www.gao.gov/archive/1996/gg96127.pdf.

    Remember that Puerto Rico is not a state, but a free-associated state. Estado Libre de Puerto Rico in Spanish, which is loosly tranlated into Commonwealth of Puerto Rico in Engish. Federa laws appliy in Puerto Rico, but whether Puerto Rico should reamain as is, become a state, or become totally independent is the subject of a vote every 20 years or so in Puerto Rico. So far the “remain as is” option has alway won. Puerto Ricans are US citizens by birth since 1917, but residents of Puerto Rico are not permitted to vote for President of the US. Puerto Rico has an elected delegate in Congress who is permitted to introduce legislation and participate in debates, but has NO vote on legislation. Puerto Rico has its own athletes in the Olympics when they are held, and losing this status by become a state, believe it or not, is always proclamed as an important reason why Puerto Ricans have never voted in favor of becoming a state. In Puerto Rico they describe Puerto Rico as “El pais de Puerto Rico” – the nation of Puerto Rico. When Rick Santorum suggesed a few days ago when he was there that Puerto Ricans would have to adopt English as their onl;y official language in order to qualify for statehood, he stuck his head in a buzzsaw no less severe than what happened in French-speaking Canada back in the 1960s when Rene Leveque was running for office and was elected by a vast majority. I remember because I was in Montreal on the day he was elected. Santorum got only 8% of the primary vote in Puerto Rico. The suprise to me was not that it was so low, but that he got any votes at all.

    If you ask why Puerto Ricans can vote in elections for primary presidential candidates but not for the president, I can only answer I don’t know.

  7. http://www.lsjournal.com/2012/02/24/79928/speak-up-to-improve-the-irs.html

    Speak up to improve the IRS

    Have a suggestion for improving the Internal Revenue Service and don’t know who to contact? I am a volunteer member of the Taxpayer Advocacy Panel within the state of Missouri (located in Lee’s Summit). I am part of an advisory group within the U.S. Treasury Department, and I would like to take this opportunity to introduce to you the work which our panel does.

    What is TAP?

    We are a group of approximately 80 volunteers demographically and geographically diverse, with at least one member from each state, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. Some of the professions represented on the panel include teachers, engineers, attorneys, public administrators, home makers, accountants, law enforcement officers, professors, retired military and small business owners. Our mission is to listen to what you have to say about the IRS. We will not only listen to what you have to say but will take action and give your suggestion a voice that will be heard by the IRS. We are made up of citizens just like you who want to improve the way the IRS works. Although we are volunteers appointed by the Secretary of Treasury, we are independent of the IRS. So when you bring us your ideas, you bring them to an unbiased group. We take your ideas very seriously and use our power as a Federal Advisory Committee to influence the IRS.

    The history of TAP

    In November 2001, The U.S. Treasury recognized the value of citizen participation in tax administration.

    And in October 2002, the first Taxpayer Advocacy Panel met for an orientation and training in Alexandria, Va. So TAP is now 10 years old.

    What do TAP members do?

    We speak at public meetings to gather citizen and tax practitioner input in order toidentify and capture grassroots issues for potential submission to the IRS.

    However, we are not empowered to act on behalf of individual taxpayers or to make direct congressional recommendations for legislative changes. Nina E. Olson, the National Taxpayer Advocate has the authority to make legislative recommendations; I will cover more information on the National Taxpayer Advocate in my next article.

    How do TAP Members work?

    We all serve on at least one of eight project committee groups that meet face-to-face annually and convene monthly by teleconference to discuss and work on taxpayer concerns and issues. These committees are empowered to work directly with the IRS to provide observations or recommendations on issues and areas for improvement, while monitoring the status and progress of those issues. I am the Chairman of the Bankruptcy Compliance Project committee. As Chairman I also serve on the Joint committee where all project committee issues are elevated and discussed to be forwarded to the National Taxpayer Advocate and submitted to the IRS.

    Since 2002, TAP has forwarded more than 605 issue recommendations to the IRS. The issues come directly from your feedback and input.

    If you have an issue that you believe can help improve all taxpayers in their contact with the IRS, call the Taxpayer Advocacy Panel at 1-888-912-1227, or you can post your suggestions for improvement on the TAP website, http://www.improveirs.org.

    Ken Donnelly is an Enrolled Agent with the IRS’s Taxpayers Advocacy Panel who represents taxpayers before the IRS and the Missouri state representative.
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  8. @calgary411. Thanks for p;ositing this information. Now I recall that at the time my reqest to volunteer as a member of this commission and I was not chosen, I was advised that another person, whose name I was given had been selectged as the Florida representative.

    I am sure that this panel, as is indicated in this posting, cannot really have any influence on the citizenship-based double taxation of citizens residing outside the US. The IRS is obligated to implement and enforce the tax laws enacted by Congress.It does not write these laws. Even the Tax Advocate can’t do that. Her focus is on how the IRS implements and enforces these laws.

  9. @Roger,

    I agree TAP will likely have little influence on international affairs. It is another clear indication that the international community isn’t represented and doesn’t count for much else than an extra-territorial method to collect penalties for the coffers of the “homeland”.

  10. Yet, it is said that there are 5.000.000 to 7.000.000 Americans Living Abroad. And they can vote in the State they last lived.

  11. @markpinetree, Yes they can vote in the state where they last lived, unless they were born abroad and have never lived in the US. Some born abroad are allowed to vote in the state where their US parent last lived, but this is not uniform. Some states permit this while others do not. Check the overseas citizen voting rules for the specific state to find out for sure.

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