Your woman at the IRS
Nina Olson, the national taxpayer advocate represents your point of view in disputes with her own employer, the IRS. Tough job.
NEW YORK (Money Magazine) -- Challenging the IRS can feel like facing off against Goliath. So David, meet your slingshot: Nina Olson, the national taxpayer advocate.
Olson's office, which functions as a pro-citizen ombudsman within the IRS, tackles some 240,000 complaints yearly and resolves 70 percent of them in favor of the lowly taxpayer.
She also recommends policy changes. On this year's to-do list: abolishing the AMT and safeguarding your privacy.
Question: You've been up against the AMT for a while now. Any luck?
Answer: There's strong support for getting rid of it. The catch is that it's projected to bring hundreds of billions of dollars in revenue in the coming years, so repeal will require raising taxes or cutting spending, or else the budget deficit will widen dramatically.
Congress may continue to limit its expansion in the near term, but repeal may come only as part of a broader tax reform.
Question: You're also concerned about privacy. I'm almost afraid to ask.
Answer: Well, your preparer might say, "There's a good rate on IRAs at x bank," so you agree to let him share your information. But somewhere in that sheet of paper you signed, they're telling you that you've agreed to let them disclose not just your name, but all the information from your tax return to any of their affiliates.
Question: Wait, I think I signed something like that! What will happen?
Answer: Once your return leaves the hands of the preparer, there are almost no limits: The affiliates can keep selling it down the line. And soon you're bombarded by marketing.
The bank, for instance, might see you take a mortgage interest deduction and send that to an affiliate - you end up getting calls about refinancing. The tax system shouldn't be trafficking in this kind of stuff. We have proposed a regulation to limit this disclosure.
Question: And until these rules are in place?
Answer: Really read what you're agreeing to, ask what happens to your information, and be careful about those click boxes in tax software - don't just click them to make them go away.