The most serious problem faced by American taxpayers today is finding someone at the Internal Revenue Service who can help them with a problem, according to the IRS' top consumer advocate.
A 406-page report submitted to Congress on Monday by Nina Olson, the national taxpayer advocate, also lists among the top 22 complaints what it called the confusing and uninformative notices the tax agency sends taxpayers claiming they made math errors.
More than a quarter of the problems cited in Olson's report involve the earned income tax credit. The low-income credit has been expanded over the years and is claimed on more than 19 million returns. The application is complicated, and errors and cheating are common.
The report also called for better oversight of private tax credit preparers, whom many low-income taxpayers are driven to use by the complexity of the credit. Nearly 67% of the 161,000 returns picked out for audit last year were prepared by professionals, Olson found, but those professionals accounted for one-third of math errors on the credit.
In addition to improved IRS procedures, the report recommends legislative changes that the advocate's office believes would make life easier for taxpayers. Among them is scaling back the agency's right to assess additional tax summarily based on what are referred to as math errors but may be much more subjective matters.