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The National Taxpayer Advocate Center is an office within the IRS designed to aid taxpayers in resolving their tax issues. They share responsibility with the IRS for evaluating systems and procedures. Each year the Taxpayer Advocate issues an annual report to Congress in which they make recommendations for improvements and identify systematic deficiencies.

The 2012 Annual Report submitted to Congress once again contained a request that the IRS provide authoritative guidance to domestic partners (DP) and same-sex couples (SSC). They have made this request each year since 2010 when new filing requirements were first implemented for DPs and SSCs living in community property states (CA, WA and NV).

To date, the only guidance the IRS has provided is an FAQ page that is periodically updated. The FAQ page is sadly insufficient however.  It excludes several issues that many DPs and SSCs face. Additionally, since the FAQ page is not authoritative it leaves over a million taxpayers in the position of being required to follow procedures to which there are little to no official rules. These taxpayers are thus forced to attempt to interpret the requirements on their own, or seek professional help from a tax advisor.

Each year the IRS has responded to the National Taxpayer Advocate Center with a claim that issuing guidance would be premature.  Their reasoning is that the political landscape surrounding DPs and SSCs is changing too rapidly and it would affect an “insignificant” number of taxpayers. While I do understand that until the Supreme Court rules DOMA unconstitutional the IRS’ rule making abilities are limited, I find it highly offensive to disregard the needs of over a million taxpayers because they are deemed “insignificant.” Meanwhile, the IRS has delayed tax return processing for the majority of Americans because of disputes on legislation that affects the small amount of taxpayers earning over $400,000/year.

The Taxpayer Advocate report also noted that data from the 2010 Census revealed an increase of documented DPs and SSCs of 100%. Since then, over five states have enacted legislation enabling Domestic Partnerships and/or Same-Sex marriages.  How many couples must there be before the IRS will help taxpayers? How many times must the Taxpayer Advocate urge Congress to enable the IRS to establish and implement authoritative guidance? Despite its apparent lack of effectiveness, it’s nice to know that someone is speaking up for DPs and SSCs. Thanks Taxpayer Advocate.

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