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National Taxpayer Advocate Purple Book Introduction

This is the inaugural edition of the National Taxpayer Advocate Purple Book. In it, we present a concise summary of 50 legislative recommendations that we believe will strengthen taxpayer rights and improve tax administration. Most of these recommendations have been made in detail in our prior reports, but others are presented here for the first time.

During the last two years, Congress has shown renewed interest in improving the operations of the IRS. Most notably, the House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Oversight has held several hearings to consider “IRS reform,” and Chairman Buchanan has said he plans to introduce and move legislation on a bipartisan basis during 2018 in collaboration with Ranking Member Lewis.

The Purple Book is designed to assist them in their efforts, and we have aimed to make it as user friendly as possible. Most of our recommendations have been introduced at one time or another as freestanding bills, and some have been reported favorably by the House Ways and Means Committee or the Senate Finance Committee. A few have been approved by the House or Senate.

At the end of each recommendation, we identify bills that have been introduced in the House or Senate that are consistent with our proposal. In a separate spreadsheet, we list additional reference material which includes prior bills and committee report descriptions and National Taxpayer Advocate recommendations presented in prior annual reports, congressional testimony, or other forums.

The Office of the Taxpayer Advocate is an independent organization within the IRS that advocates for the interests of taxpayers. The office is non-partisan, and we have dubbed this the “Purple Book” because the color purple, as a mix of red and blue, has come to symbolize a blending of the parties.

In that vein, it is worth emphasizing that congressional efforts to protect taxpayer rights and improve tax administration have almost always proceeded on a bipartisan basis.

Between 1988 and 1998, Congress passed three significant pieces of legislation to improve tax administration and protect taxpayer rights. Members of both parties contributed to each of these bills, and the landmark IRS Restructuring and Reform Act of 1998 (RRA 98) was enacted only after a bipartisan commission known as the National Commission on Restructuring the Internal Revenue Service had conducted a broad assessment of IRS operations and made recommendations for reform.

It has now been almost 20 years since the enactment of RRA 98, and over that period, we have had ample time to assess the impact of the changes made by these three taxpayer rights acts. Despite the lack of comprehensive tax administration legislation since RRA 98, Members of Congress have introduced hundreds of relevant bills, and the House and Senate tax-writing committees have favorably reported several significant pieces of legislation. These bills have generally proceeded on a bipartisan basis and have enjoyed broad support.

The recommendations included in this volume are drawn from a multitude of sources including but not limited to the National Taxpayer Advocate’s annual reports to Congress and wide-ranging legislation sponsored as far back as 2003. many sources, including:

We believe most of the recommendations presented in this volume are non-controversial, common sense reforms that will strengthen taxpayer rights and improve tax administration. We hope the tax-writing committees and other Members of Congress find this compilation useful.