Do you snicker when you hear the words "I'm with the IRS and I'm here to help you"? Then meet W. Val Oveson, who really is with the IRS and who really is there to help you, the taxpayer.
As the first National Taxpayer Advocate, Oveson is responsible for protecting the interests of individuals and businesses. By the time you read this, he will have established a nationwide network of 85 offices responsible for solving problems between taxpayers and the IRS. His office gets involved in cases where delays in handling problems exceed 30 days, where agents threaten to take adverse action against taxpayers, and where taxpayers incur significant costs while awaiting relief from IRS action.
"In fiscal 1998, we resolved more than 270,000 cases, 70 percent of which involved procedural errors and snafus," says Oveson, who was appointed in September 1998 by outgoing Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin. "Most involved audit reconsiderations, misapplied payments and refunds."
Oveson urges entrepreneurs to contact his office "if you can't work out a serious problem at the local level. Often we can take care of it on the telephone. If the matter is outside our purview, we'll direct you to the right office." You can contact Oveson's office toll-free at (877) 777-4778.
During his year in office, Oveson, 47, has already helped create "a kinder, gentler IRS more responsive to and understanding of the needs of taxpayers," he says. "The change has been substantial."