26 CFR § 301.7811-1 - Taxpayer assistance orders.
(a) Authority To Issue -
(1) In general. When an application for a taxpayer assistance order (TAO) is filed by the taxpayer or the taxpayer's authorized representative in the form, manner and time specified in paragraph (b) of this section, the National Taxpayer Advocate (NTA) may issue a TAO if, in the determination of the NTA, the taxpayer is suffering or is about to suffer a significant hardship as a result of the manner in which the internal revenue laws are being administered by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), including action or inaction on the part of the IRS.
(2) The National Taxpayer Advocate defined. The term National Taxpayer Advocate includes any designee of the NTA, such as a Local Taxpayer Advocate.
(3) Issuance without a written application. The NTA may issue a TAO in the absence of a written application by the taxpayer under section 7811(a).
(4) Significant hardship -
(i) Determination required. Before a TAO may be issued, the NTA is required to make a determination regarding significant hardship.
(ii) Term defined. The term significant hardship means a serious privation caused or about to be caused to the taxpayer as the result of the particular manner in which the revenue laws are being administered by the IRS. Significant hardship includes situations in which a system or procedure fails to operate as intended or fails to resolve the taxpayer's problem or dispute with the IRS. A significant hardship also includes, but is not limited to:
(A) An immediate threat of adverse action;
(C) The incurring by the taxpayer of significant costs (including fees for professional representation) if relief is not granted; or
(D) Irreparable injury to, or a long-term adverse impact on, the taxpayer if relief is not granted.
(iii) A delay of more than 30 days in resolving taxpayer account problems is further defined. A delay of more than 30 days in resolving taxpayer account problems exists under the following conditions:
(A) When a taxpayer does not receive a response by the date promised by the IRS; or
(iv) Examples of significant hardship. The provisions of this section are illustrated by the following examples:
(5) Distinction between significant hardship and the issuance of a TAO. A finding that a taxpayer is suffering or about to suffer a significant hardship as a result of the manner in which the internal revenue laws are being administered by the IRS will not automatically result in the issuance of a TAO. After making a determination of significant hardship, the NTA must determine whether the facts and the law support relief for the taxpayer. In cases where any IRS employee is not following applicable published administrative guidance (including the Internal Revenue Manual), the NTA shall construe the factors taken into account in determining whether to issue a TAO in the manner most favorable to the taxpayer.
(b) Generally. A TAO is an order by the NTA to the IRS. The IRS will comply with a TAO unless it is appealed and then modified or rescinded by the NTA, the Commissioner, or the Deputy Commissioner. If a TAO is modified or rescinded by the Commissioner or the Deputy Commissioner, a written explanation of the reasons for the modification or rescission must be provided to the NTA. The NTA may not make a substantive determination of any tax liability. A TAO is also not intended to be a substitute for an established administrative or judicial review procedure, but rather is intended to supplement existing procedures if a taxpayer is about to suffer or is suffering a significant hardship. A request for a TAO shall be made on a Form 911, “Request for Taxpayer Advocate Service Assistance (And Application for Taxpayer Assistance Order)” (or other specified form) or in a written statement that provides sufficient information for the Taxpayer Advocate Service (TAS) to determine the nature of the harm or the need for assistance. A taxpayer's right to administrative or judicial review will not be diminished or expanded in any way as a result of the taxpayer's seeking assistance from TAS.
(c) Contents of taxpayer assistance orders. After establishing that the taxpayer is facing significant hardship and determining that the facts and law support relief to the taxpayer, the NTA may issue a TAO ordering the IRS within a specified time to -
(1) Release a levy. Release levied property (to the extent that the IRS may by law release such property); or
(i) Chapter 64 (relating to collection);
(ii) Chapter 70, subchapter B (relating to bankruptcy and receiverships);
(iii) Chapter 78 (relating to discovery of liability and enforcement of title); or
(iv) Any other provision of the internal revenue laws specifically described by the NTA in the TAO.
(3) Expedite, review, or reconsider an action at a higher level. Although the NTA may not make the substantive determination, a TAO may be issued to require the IRS to expedite, reconsider, or review at a higher level an action taken with respect to a determination or collection of a tax liability.
(4) Examples. The following examples assume the existence of significant hardship:
(d) Issuance. A TAO may be issued to any office, operating division, or function of the IRS. A TAO shall apply to persons performing services under a qualified tax collection contract (as defined in section 6306(b)) to the same extent and in the same manner as the order applies to IRS employees. A TAO will not be issued to IRS Criminal Investigation division (CI), or any successor IRS division responsible for the criminal investigation function, if the action ordered in the TAO could reasonably be expected to impede a criminal investigation. CI will determine whether the action ordered in the TAO could reasonably be expected to impede an investigation. Generally, a TAO may not be issued to the Office of Chief Counsel.
(e) Suspension of statutes of limitations -
(1) In general. The running of the applicable period of limitations for any action which is the subject of a taxpayer assistance order shall be suspended for the period beginning on the date the Ombudsman receives an application for a taxpayer assistance order in the form, manner, and time specified in paragraph (b) of this section and ending on the date on which the Ombudsman makes a determination with respect to the application, and for any additional period specified by the Ombudsman in an order issued pursuant to a taxpayer's application. For the purpose of computing the period suspended, all calendar days except the date of receipt of the application shall be included.
(2) Date of decision. The “date on which the Ombudsman makes a decision with respect to the application” is the date on which the taxpayer's request for a taxpayer assistance order is denied, or agreement is reached with the involved function of the Service, or a taxpayer assistance order is issued (except that when the taxpayer assistance order is reviewed by an official who may modify or rescind the taxpayer assistance order as provided in paragraph (d) of this section, the decision date is the date on which such review is completed).
(3) Periods suspended. The periods of limitations which are suspended under section 7811(d) are those which apply to the taxable periods to which the application for a taxpayer assistance order relate or the taxable periods specifically indicated in the terms of a taxpayer assistance order.
(4) Absence of a written application. The statute of limitations is not suspended in cases where the Ombudsman issues an order in the absence of a written application for relief by the taxpayer or the taxpayer's duly authorized representative.
(f) Effective/applicability date. These regulations are applicable for TAOs issued on or after April 1, 2011, except that paragraph (e) of this section is applicable beginning March 20, 1992.