Want to Know How Complicated Our Tax System Is? Check Out the IRS's "Taxpayer Roadmap"

The roadmap, which looks like a subway map, makes navigating the tax system as clear as mud.

We all know the U.S. tax system is complicated. And now, thanks to outgoing National Taxpayer Advocate Nina Olson, there's a poster you can hang up in your home or office to prove it. (It's great for college dorm rooms, too!) In her final report to Congress, Olson introduced the "Taxpayer Roadmap," which "shows, at a high level, the taxpayer's 'journey' through the tax system—from getting answers to tax law questions and preparing a return, through return processing, audit, appeals, litigation, and collection." Talk about your head-spinners! You can view it online or, if you want your very own 18" x 18" poster that's suitable for framing, call 800-829-3676 and request Publication 5341. Get 'em while supplies last!

This two-dimensional roadmap is really just the first step in the Taxpayer Advocate Service's (TAS's) development of a more robust "digital roadmap" that will allow taxpayers and tax professional to "input the document number of any IRS letter or notice and receive a plain English summary of that letter or notice." With the digital tool, you'll also be able to click on the map and see where you are in the overall process. From there, you'll also be able to "learn more about that step in the tax process and the surrounding steps through pop-ups and links into additional TAS and IRS content." The first iteration of the digital map is expected to be released during the IRS's 2020 fiscal year.

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Rocky Mengle

Rocky Mengle was a Senior Tax Editor for Kiplinger from October 2018 to January 2023 with more than 20 years of experience covering federal and state tax developments. Before coming to Kiplinger, Rocky worked for Wolters Kluwer Tax & Accounting, and Kleinrock Publishing, where he provided breaking news and guidance for CPAs, tax attorneys, and other tax professionals. He has also been quoted as an expert by USA Today, Forbes, U.S. News & World Report, Reuters, Accounting Today, and other media outlets. Rocky holds a law degree from the University of Connecticut and a B.A. in History from Salisbury University.