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IRS Outlines Additional Steps to Assist Unemployed Taxpayers and Others

WASHINGTON — The Internal Revenue Service (
today announced several additional steps it is taking this tax season to help
people having difficulties meeting their tax obligations because of unemployment
or other financial problems.

The steps –– an expansion of efforts that began more than a year
ago –– include additional flexibility on offers in compromise for
struggling taxpayers, a series of Saturday “open houses” offering
taxpayers extra opportunities to work out tax problems face to face with the
IRS, special outreach with partner groups to unemployed taxpayers and the availability
of more information on a special section of the IRS Web site.

“Times are tough for many people, and the IRS wants to do everything
it can to help people who have lost their job or face financial strain,”
IRS Commissioner Doug Shulman said. “We continue to make adjustments to
key programs and expand ways for people to get help. We’re doing everything
we can to help ease the burden on struggling taxpayers.”

New Flexibility for Offers in Compromise
For some taxpayers, an offer in compromise –– an agreement
between a taxpayer and the IRS that settles the taxpayer’s debt for less
than the full amount owed –– continues to be a viable option. IRS
employees will now have additional flexibility when considering offers in compromise
from taxpayers facing economic troubles, including the recently unemployed.

Specifically, IRS employees will be permitted to consider a taxpayer’s
current income and potential for future income when negotiating an offer in
compromise. Normally, the standard practice is to judge an offer amount on a
taxpayer’s earnings in prior years. This new step provides greater flexibility
when considering offers in compromise from the unemployed. The IRS may also
require that a taxpayer entering into such an offer in compromise agree to pay
more if the taxpayer’s financial situation improves significantly.

These immediate steps are part of an on-going effort by the IRS to ensure the
availability of the Offer in Compromise program for taxpayers.

Hundreds of Saturday Open Houses to Resolve Taxpayer Issues
In addition, IRS will hold hundreds of special Saturday open houses
to give struggling taxpayers more opportunity to work directly with IRS employees
to resolve issues. The offices will be open on March 27 and three additional
Saturdays in the spring and early summer. Dates, times and locations will be
announced shortly.

During the expanded Saturday hours, taxpayers will be able to address economic
hardship issues they may be facing or get help claiming any of the special tax
breaks in last year’s American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, including

* Homebuyer tax credit
* American Opportunity Credit
* Making Work Pay credit
* Expanded Earned Income Tax Credit

In addition to these special Saturdays, taxpayers can take advantage of toll-free
telephone assistance and regularly scheduled hours at local Taxpayer Assistance
Centers. Taxpayers can find the location, telephone number and business hours
of the nearest assistance center by visiting the Contact My Local Office page

Special Outreach Efforts to Unemployed
The IRS is working and coordinating with state departments of revenue
and state workforce agencies to help taxpayers who are having problems meeting
their tax liabilities because of unemployment or other financial problems.

These coordinated efforts may include opportunities for taxpayers to make payment
arrangements and resolve both federal and state tax issues in one place.

Special Section of Created
Taxpayers who are unemployed or struggling financially can find information
on a new page on the IRS Web site, This online tax center has numerous
resources including links to information on tax assistance and relief to help
struggling taxpayers

Other Options Available for Taxpayers
The IRS will continue to offer other help to taxpayers, including:

* Assistance of the Taxpayer Advocate Service for those taxpayers experiencing
particular hardship navigating the IRS.
* Postponement of collection actions in certain hardship cases.
* Added flexibility for missed payments on installment agreements and offers
in compromise for previously compliant individuals having difficulty paying.
* Additional review of home values for offers in compromise in cases where
real-estate valuations may not be accurate.
* Accelerated levy releases for taxpayers facing economic hardship.

In addition, the IRS will accelerate lien relief for homeowners if a taxpayer
cannot refinance or sell a home because of a tax lien. As previously announced,
a taxpayer seeking to refinance or sell a home may request the IRS make a tax
lien secondary to the lien by the lending institution that is refinancing or
restructuring a loan. The taxpayer may also request the IRS discharge its claim
if the home is being sold for less than the amount of the mortgage lien under
certain circumstances.


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