Six Basic Tax Planning Techniques


Gregory S. DuPont Feb. 21, 2020

If there’s anything as disconcerting as having the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) call you about a problem, it’s having to call them. Dealing with the agency causes anxiety in many taxpayers. But, the IRS has a process to make resolving disputes with them easier. It’s called the Problem Resolution Program, and there are offices in every state.

A tax dispute is eligible for the Problem Resolution Program if it falls into any of the following categories: 1) you have tried repeatedly and unsuccessfully to contact the IRS to resolve the problem; 2) the agency did not respond to your call by the date it promised; 3) the routine IRS channels of communication failed you for any reason; or 4) it’s in your best interest, or that of the IRS, to use the program.

Becky’s Experience
For example, Becky Stewart used the Problem Resolution Program. She received her tax refund in the mail—only to discover the check was hundreds of dollars short. She could pretty much guess the reason for the problem. She suspected the IRS had failed to allow a deduction for the purchase of a personal computer her employer required for her home use as a telecommuter.

A phone conversation with a representative—called a local taxpayer advocate—of the program, confirmed her suspicions. A letter from Becky’s employer, documenting that the equipment was required as a condition of employment, had somehow become separated from her tax return. Becky re-sent a copy of the letter to the IRS and, now, with the agency’s agreement, expects to receive the additional refund check within several weeks.

What to Expect If You Call
Your problem may be more or less complicated than Becky’s and, thus, may take more or less time to resolve. However, the IRS says every taxpayer can expect the following: polite handling of the dispute; follow-up within seven days of the initial call; an estimate of how long it will take to settle the case; and a quick resolution.

If you call, be prepared to provide the following information:

o your Social Security or employer identification number

o the tax year(s) and type(s) of return involved

o a detailed description of the dispute

o information on your previous attempts to resolve the problem

The taxpayer advocate you speak with will identify himself or herself by an IRS number, in addition to a name. Be sure to jot down this number for your records, in case you need to call or follow-up again later.

For More Information
To request a free copy of Publication No. 1546, How to Use the Problem Resolution Program of the IRS, visit the IRS website at, or call 1-800-829-3676. To locate the Problem Resolution Program office nearest you, call 1-800-829-1040. Skip over the touch-tone menu and wait for an operator. Ask for Problem Resolution Program assistance and you will be connected to someone who will provide the address and telephone number of the nearest IRS office with a taxpayer advocate.

Although most taxpayers could probably live fulfilled lives without ever having direct interaction with the IRS, if you do have an unresolved tax problem there’s no need for unnecessary panic or avoidance. Courteous, quick, professional service is at hand with a call to your local taxpayer advocate at the Problem Resolution Program.