Legislation has been introduced to formally establish an “Office of the Taxpayer Advocate.” S. 1072. In October 2009, the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance created a new Office of the Taxpayer Rights Advocate, headed by Jack Trachtenberg, and modeled after the National Taxpayer Rights Advocate. The Taxpayer Rights Advocate reports directly to the Commissioner, and is authorized to assist taxpayers who are experiencing problems with the Department. In the little more than a year since its formation, the Taxpayer Rights Advocate has been well received by the public, and many have felt that it would be important to formalize the position through legislation, similar to the establishment of the National Taxpayer Advocate.

If enacted, the bill would establish an Office of the Taxpayer Advocate, under the direction and supervision of the Taxpayer Advocate, who would be appointed by the Governor for a four-year term. The Taxpayer Advocate would report directly to the Commissioner, but the Commissioner would have no authority over the staffing, operations and management of the office, including any power or authority over its budget.

The bill would authorize the Taxpayer Advocate to assist taxpayers in resolving problems with the Department. It would also call upon the Taxpayer Advocate to identify problem areas, and to propose solutions and recommend legislative action to resolve problems. As part of those duties, the Taxpayer Advocate would be required to prepare an annual report to the Governor, legislative leaders and the Commissioner discussing its activities during the year, but also making recommendations for administrative and legislative action.  

Additional Insights

Given the vital role already played by the Taxpayer Rights Advocate in advocating for taxpayers and working on systemic problems within the Department, many practitioners and taxpayers will undoubtedly welcome this legislation to insure the continuation of the office going forward. The likelihood of the legislation being enacted will probably depend on whether the newlyelected Governor, and the Department itself, supports the bill.

The current Taxpayer Rights Advocate was to prepare an annual report to the Commissioner which, among other things, would identify systemic problems within the Department and recommend reforms. Perhaps the release of that report when finalized would further demonstrate the need for this legislation.