In early 2021, Representative Fahey sponsored HB3373 in an effort to establish the office of the Taxpayer Advocate in the Department of Revenue. The bill is currently awaiting the governor’s signature and the office will become an active office in the Department of Revenue on January 1st, 2022.
The purpose of the Office of Taxpayer Advocate is to provide understandable and concise information to taxpayers to answer common questions about tax policy, Department of Revenue policies and procedures, audits, collections, and appeals. The office will also assist with questions about preparation and filing of returns and locate documents filed with those returns and audits. Semi-annual reports will be provided to the legislature on any identified issues relating to issues or barriers of equitable and fair collection of taxes. The Taxpayer Advocate office will also be responsible for receiving and evaluating any complaints of improper, abusive, or inefficient service by employees of the department and recommending appropriate action to the director.
The Office will be particularly helpful for low-income Oregonians, says Alicia Temple of the Oregon Law Center in their April 15th testimony letter. Temple points out that many low-income Oregonians have a fear of the Department of Revenue and taxes in general and see the Department as “an agency that is simply out to take their money”. The Office of Taxpayer Advocate is anticipated to appease those fears by increasing transparency and developing trust between taxpayers and the Department of Revenue, which should prove beneficial to all Oregonian taxpayers and tax practitioners. The Office will benefit practitioners by making available additional materials about common tax issues and providing an additional, accessible pathway to relief for clients.
In addition to the creation of the Taxpayer Advocate Office, the bill now authorizes the Oregon Tax Court to order attorney’s fees if an opposing party disobeys any court order or makes claims and assertions without an objectively reasonable basis. Attorney’s fees can now also be awarded in cases involving transit self-employment taxes.
The bill is expected to have no revenue impact, a $571,682 fiscal impact for the 2021-2023 biennium, and a $758,937 fiscal impact for the 2023-2025 biennium. This cost includes furniture and equipment, legal costs, all salaries, and anticipated related expenses.