UF student already tuned into the IRS
Published: Sunday, March 1, 2009 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, February 28, 2009 at 12:40 a.m.
Got anything to say to the Internal Revenue Service?
Justin Axelrod wants you to know that you have the ear of the Taxpayer Advocacy Panel and the panel has the ear of the IRS.
The federal advisory committee of 100 citizen volunteers takes suggestions about how the IRS can improve its services. Taxpayers who leave their contact information also get updates about whether the IRS accepts or rejects their ideas.
In recent years, suggestions from the panel have led to changes such as eliminating the second filing requirement for a six-month extension and raising the minimum dollar amount for a business to file shorter forms.
A lot of comments are about taxpayers’ frustrations with the forms.
Axelrod is a third-year University of Florida law student who plans to go into tax litigation when he graduates in December, helping people deal with IRS issues.
Motivated to improve IRS services, he applied for the panel in April and was appointed by the U.S. Secretary of the Treasury in October.
“I saw issues with the Internal Revenue Service and I think that they can do much better,” he said. “I wanted to become a part of this panel because I think that if you see a problem, you should go out there and fix it.”
Most of the problems he sees have to do with the complexity of the tax code. He points to a report from National Taxpayer Advocate Nina Olson saying that taxpayers spend 7.6 billion hours a year complying with tax requirements at a cost of $193 billion. The tax code has reached 3.7 million words.
“If we can help them understand the tax law better so that they can file their return, I think I would feel satisfied,” Axelrod said.
The panel does not help people who have personal tax problems, but can refer them to local taxpayer advocates who do.
Axelrod also hopes to start free taxpayer clinics for low-income people who have issues with the IRS through law schools at the University of Florida and the Florida A&M University’s Orlando campus.
There are a lot of volunteer sites that help with tax preparation, he said, but few that help low-income people who are audited or owe deficient taxes.
“It’s scary when you get a call that you’re going to be audited because you owe a certain amount of money. If you don’t have the money to go to an accountant or go to a tax attorney, what do you do? The clinic can help them with that.”
At 25, Axelrod is the youngest ever member of the Taxpayer Advocacy Panel.
“I see my role to use outreach to get in touch with my generation. We need to get young people involved in tax administration. It affects us all.”
To reach his generation, Axelrod has started a blog at Justintimewjustin.wordpress.com and a Taxpayer Advocacy Panel Facebook group.
Contact Anthony Clark at firstname.lastname@example.org or 352-374-5094.
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