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Feb. 29, 2020, 8:11 a.m. EST

There’s a new watchdog for taxpayers at the IRS

The National Taxpayer Advocate flags problems that make life difficult for taxpayers

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By Andrew Keshner

SAUL LOEB/AFP via Getty Images
The IRS has a new head for an independent internal agency that speaks up for taxpayers.

A longtime accounting executive and former IRS lawyer has been picked to lead the internal IRS watchdog agency that speaks up on behalf of taxpayers.

Erin Collins will serve as the National Taxpayer Advocate, according to a Treasury Department announcement Thursday in which Secretary Steven Mnuchin called Collins “the ideal candidate to help the IRS modernize and improve service for American families and businesses.”

Collins comes to the role after more than 20 years as a managing director for KPMG’s Tax Controversy Services practice, according to the announcement. Before joining the prominent accounting firm, Collins worked as a lawyer inside the IRS’ Office of Chief Counsel for 15 years.

The National Taxpayer Advocate flags problems that can potentially make life difficult for people paying their taxes or who are trying to resolve a problem with their taxes. The advocate has previously looked at lengthy phone wait times , potential barriers for free filers and problems with the IRS’ own equipment and technology.

“I will work every day to be a strong and effective representative of American taxpayers,” Collins said in a statement.

Collins will replace Bridget Roberts, the acting National Taxpayer Advocate who was serving as the interim head. Roberts stepped in after the previous National Taxpayer Advocate, Nina Olson, retired in 2019 after 18 years of service.

In one of her outgoing acts, Olson devised a “roadmap” to help taxpayers understand the complexity of the system and call attention to the need for simplification.

Andrew Keshner is a personal finance reporter based in New York.

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