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IRS becoming more user-friendly

form
IRS is working to repair its relationship with taxpayers

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CNN's Gene Randall reports on efforts to improve the IRS
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A new attitude emerges after taxpayer horror stories

February 15, 1999
Web posted at: 11:09 a.m. EST (1609 GMT)

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- With two months to go before the national tax-filing deadline, the government agency Americans love to hate -- the Internal Revenue Service -- is trying hard to regain lost trust.

Horror stories told by citizens who complained of arrogance and threats at the hands of tax collectors led Congress last year to pass reforms aimed at making the IRS more taxpayer- friendly.

The early reviews are good. "This is not your father's IRS," says Rep. Bob Portman, R-0hio. "We are truly beginning to see some changes."

After five months on the job, IRS Deputy Commissioner W. Val Oveson sees uneven enforcement of tax laws.

But, adds Oveson, whose duties make him the agency's national taxpayer advocate, there is a "new mood, a new vision moving through the IRS and we are on the leading edge of it right now."

Since taking over as IRS commissioner 15 months ago, Charles Rossotti has overseen several changes to instill a new attitude among his 100,000 employees. Among them:

Rossotti
Rossotti sees uneven enforcement of tax laws  
  • A 24-hour-a-day, seven-day-a-week IRS hot line (1-877-777-4778). On holidays such as Presidents Day, only recorded help is available.
  • Taxpayer help on the Web.
  • Public service TV announcements touting a new tax credit allowing parents to deduct up to $400 per child.

Such changes, says David Lifson of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, have made the IRS "more oriented toward collecting the correct tax, not simply collecting money from people."

But even with improvements and praise, Rossotti acknowledges there is more to do.

"I think we are fundamentally changing the relationship with the taxpayer and you don't convince people of that through any one transaction overnight," he told CNN.

Correspondent Gene Randall contributed to this report.

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RELATED SITES:
Internal Revenue Service
Never Fear the IRS Home Page
IRS - The Digital Daily: Income Tax Forms, Instructions, Publications, Regulations, and other stuff
American Institute of Certified Accountants
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