Vincent Pease, a 14-year employee of the Department of Revenue, was recently named the department's Taxpayers' Rights Advocate. Since starting in his new position, Pease has been working on several process improvements to reshape the way the office interacts with taxpayers.
"Our office is here to help Pennsylvanians who have exhausted the other resources offered by the department and need specific assistance with personal income tax and inheritance tax issues," Pease said. "We are determined to increase the level of customer service for anyone who contacts our office."
Created by the Pennsylvania General Assembly in 1996, the Department of Revenue's
Office of Taxpayers' Rights Advocate (OTRA) was established to provide free and confidential assistance to taxpayers with Pennsylvania personal income tax and inheritance tax concerns that have not been resolved through normal, established department procedures. The office's mission is to ensure that the department applies Pennsylvania laws fairly and equitably, and that the department does not hurt individual taxpayer rights.
"Within the scope of the office, we frequently address issues regarding inheritance tax, relief from joint liabilities, injured spouse relief, as well as duress, but we are frequently contacted by taxpayers with issues that fall outside of our purview or just want to talk to a person on the phone," Pease said. "We will do everything that we can to address a taxpayer's issue or connect them with the appropriate bureau in the department."
The efforts to bolster customer service include recent technological upgrades. Notably, Pease's office has implemented an electronic
Taxpayer Request for Assistance Form (REV-556) that helps OTRA closely monitor and respond to all incoming inquiries to the office. Since the form went live on the department's website, OTRA has opened nearly 80 new cases as a result of the electronic form. Additionally, overall Pease's team has opened an average of 50 percent more new cases when compared to the same time period in 2018.
"One of the most exciting improvements in our office is the ability for taxpayers to contact us electronically," Pease said. "By creating an electronic Taxpayer Request for Assistance form, taxpayers now have an easy option to contact us. The electronic option also helps us improve the organization of the inquiries on the back end in a way that allows us to quickly and efficiently address new cases."
As a reminder, before seeking help from OTRA, you should first try to resolve any issues by working directly with the Department of Revenue. If you have been unsuccessful in resolving a problem related to individual or inheritance tax, OTRA provides assistance for taxpayers with concerns about the following:
- An issue with, or action by, the Department of Revenue that has not been resolved by normal, established procedures.
- A delay of more than 180 days.
- A response or resolution not received by the date promised.
- An action by the Department of Revenue that will cause a substantial hardship.
"We are here to help, and in some cases the people that we work with are contacting us as a last resort," Pease said. "We are mindful that not everyone has access to the internet, which is why we are dedicated to improving and monitoring all communication avenues to our office."
If you have been unsuccessful in resolving a problem related to individual or inheritance tax, the Office of the Taxpayers' Rights Advocate can be reached through the following methods:
Taxpayer Request for Assistance Form
Phone: (717) 772-9347
Fax: (717) 787-8264
PA Department of Revenue
Office of Taxpayers' Rights Advocate
Lobby, Strawberry Square
Harrisburg, PA 17128-0101