———————————————————————— FROM THE OFFICE OF PUBLIC AFFAIRS FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE February 9, 1998 RR-2204 TREASURY ANNOUNCES INNOCENT SPOUSE INITIATIVES As part of a year-long review of tax liability issues affecting innocent spouses, the Treasury Department today announced a comprehensive set of initiatives to address these issues. “It is imperative that we protect taxpayers whose spouses violate the tax laws without their knowledge and Treasury and the IRS are taking steps to achieve this goal,” said Secretary Robert E. Rubin. “Many in Congress have been focused on addressing this issue, and we are committed to working with them to find a solution.” The announcement comes as a result of increased Administration efforts to expand and protect taxpayer rights. The Treasury plan will affect taxpayer contacts with the IRS at all stages, from initial filings through a new ultimate remedy in the Tax Court. Furthermore, the IRS has strengthened the authority of the Taxpayer Advocate to intervene in such cases. “Taxpayers who feel they have nowhere to turn should be aware that they can seek assistance from the IRS’ Taxpayer Advocate,” said Secretary Rubin. The new initiatives include both administrative actions that Treasury and the IRS are implementing, and legislative proposals which the Administration hopes to work with Congress to enact. The administrative steps include: -Expediting the issuance of a new form to assist taxpayers in preparing claims for relief under the innocent spouse provisions. These forms will be processed in one central location to ensure the technical expertise of the IRS examiner and consistent treatment for taxpayers. -Reviewing current training materials to ensure that they stress the responsibility of employees to identify situations where the innocent spouse provisions might apply even if the taxpayer does not know about the provisions. When appropriate, the IRS will provide these taxpayers with the new form and assist them in preparing it. -Making telephone assistors, specially trained in the innocent spouse provisions, available to answer questions from taxpayers received through IRS’ toll free telephone system. – Developing special training courses on the innocent spouse provisions to be given to IRS collection and examination personnel in both basic training as well as annual continuing professional education training. – Alerting couples who file joint income tax returns of the legal consequences of joint filing in the instructions in their tax packages and revising other publications to make innocent spouses more aware of the relief provisions available to them. -Reaching out at both the national and local levels to community organizations that serve abused or battered spouses to identify those who might qualify for relief under the innocent spouse provisions. The legislative initiatives, which were proposed by President Clinton last October and included in last week’s budget, include: -Automatically suspending collection efforts against one spouse when the other is contesting a proposed joint assessment in Tax Court. -Making innocent spouse relief easier to obtain by changing statutory standards to help additional taxpayers, including those with smaller tax bills who are presently ineligible for relief in many cases. -Giving more taxpayers who are denied innocent spouse relief by the IRS an opportunity to appeal the IRS decision to Tax Court and automatically suspending collection while the Tax Court considers the appeal. Treasury also will release a technical report, required by Congress in the Taxpayer Bill of Rights 2, which examines proposals to change the current system as well as defects in current law.