How to Talk With an IRS Tax Advocate

The IRS Taxpayer Advocate Service is designed to help taxpayers resolve a range of issues, including relief from collection action that causes you financial harm and assistance resolving issues if you're treated unfairly by an IRS agent. Your advocate’s job is to go to bat for you, so put your negative IRS experiences aside and think of your advocate as just that.

Explain the steps you’ve taken to resolve your case. Include the dates and outcomes of your dealings with the IRS thus far. State the facts and remain as neutral as possible.

Tell your advocate about any proposals you’ve made to resolve your case. For example, if you’ve requested a payment plan or settlement offer and have provided financial information to the IRS, your advocate needs to know when this happened. Specific dates for proposals are important, so have the information available for your advocate.

Inform your advocate of any enforced collection action. The IRS often uses aggressive measures to collect back taxes, such as bank levies or wage garnishments. However, the IRS must follow certain rules before taking enforced action to collect your balance. The advocate will investigate the collection activity on your account to see if the IRS followed the rules.

Discuss your financial situation. If paying your taxes will cause a financial burden, discuss this with your advocate. If you do not make enough money to cover your monthly bills, or do not have enough left over each month to make the monthly payments the IRS wants, your advocate can place you on financial hardship status — where you pay nothing each month — or place you on a partial payment plan, which allows you to pay no more than you can afford. If an existing bank levy or wage garnishment causes a financial burden on you, the advocate may be able to get partial or full release of the garnishment. Your advocate will review your financial information and discuss the options available to you.

Confirm deadlines to provide information. Your advocate must obtain information from you to process your case effectively. In many cases, you’ll have to provide a new IRS 433-A or 433-F financial form and documents to prove your income and expenses. The advocate may request other documents, like copies of tax returns you’ve filed or correspondence you’ve received from the IRS. The advocate will give you a deadline to provide this information. Many dealings with the IRS are time-sensitive, and your advocate must have your information on time so he can help you.

Stay in contact. Return all phone calls from your advocate promptly. If your case becomes inactive or the advocate is unable to continue working on your case due to a lapse in communication, you may have to open a new case with the taxpayer advocate office. This hinders the advocate’s ability to assist you, and you may lose some of your rights to appeal IRS actions due to missed appeal deadlines.


  • Don’t file new tax returns until you speak with your advocate. If you have returns due while your advocate has your case, discuss your return before you file. If you qualify for financial hardship and you’re due a refund on the return, your advocate may be able to get you the money instead of having it applied to your back taxes. If your return shows a balance due, your advocate can ensure the new liability is rolled into the payment plan or settlement offer he’s working on for you.

About the Author

With a background in taxation and financial consulting, Alia Nikolakopulos has over a decade of experience resolving tax and finance issues. She is an IRS Enrolled Agent and has been a writer for these topics since 2010. Nikolakopulos is pursuing Bachelor of Science in accounting at the Metropolitan State University of Denver.