Ask the Advocate August 2020 Tax News

New guidelines and contact information for Advocate Assistance

Susan Maples, Taxpayers' Rights Advocate.

Susan Maples, CPA
Taxpayers’ Rights Advocate
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Now that we’re past the July 15th initial filing deadline, FTB’s contact centers will start hearing from tax professionals regarding notices issued for recently filed returns. This year, we expect notices for 2019 returns to start going out near the end of August. One of the most common filing notices sent is when there is a difference in withholding or payments between a return and FTB’s records. While these and other issues your clients have with FTB can and will be resolved quickly, there are times when going through the normal channels doesn’t resolve a problem or issue and additional assistance is needed.

One of my core functions as the Taxpayers’ Rights Advocate is helping taxpayers when they are unable to resolve their issues with FTB through the normal channels. My staff and I work to protect taxpayers’ rights and ensure that even the most difficult problems are handled promptly and fairly. To facilitate this, we have a formal account resolution process in place for when the normal channels don’t work. This month, I want to let you know about some recent changes to this process.

Earlier this year, we transitioned three Account Resolution Specialists from our Executive Services Section to the Taxpayers’ Rights Advocate’s Office (TRAO). These three individuals have a broad range of knowledge and extensive experience working with taxpayers and accounts. Some of you may have already worked with one of our Specialists. They are very good at what they do and are a welcome addition to our team.

Requests for Advocate assistance primarily come into the TRAO three different ways:

  1. Email:
  2. Mail or Fax: Taxpayer Advocate Assistance Request, FTB Form 914
  3. Online form: Unresolved Account Issues

Regardless of how requests for assistance come in, my staff first reviews them to ensure they meet our criteria and warrant action.  Broadly speaking, we primarily focus on taxpayers’ problems with FTB that may cause unwarranted financial difficulties, have an immediate threat of adverse action, and repeated contacts have been made to FTB without a response or resolution.

This brings me to an important point: A request for Advocate assistance should not be your first step in the problem resolution process.  We have a very small staff in TRAO and are limited to helping taxpayers who have been unable to resolve their issue through normal channels. For this reason, we may initially refer taxpayers and tax professionals to our contact centers or other business areas as their first step in the problem resolution process. We may also route a case to a different business area within FTB if their assistance is needed or when a case does not meet Taxpayer advocate criteria.

I know that notices and other unforeseen problems can be frustrating, especially when your client believes the fault is not theirs. And, in many instances, the problem is not something they caused. Our contact center and other public facing staff work very hard to resolve issues as efficiently as possible and in nearly all cases, they are able to resolve an issue or notice with the first contact.  Sometimes though, despite FTB’s best efforts and yours, this isn’t the case. When this happens, it may be time to request Advocate assistance. We will be there for you and will work with you to resolve the matter at hand.