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Push to End Use of Private Debt Collectors by U.S.
The national taxpayer advocate called on Congress today to repeal the authority it gave the Internal Revenue Service to use private debt collectors.
In her annual report, the taxpayer advocate, Nina E. Olson, said the private debt collection program was inefficient, uneconomical and prone to abuse. In particular, she faulted the I.R.S. for not disclosing certain “psychological techniques” used by the private firms when trying to collect unpaid taxes.
The office of the taxpayer advocate was created by Congress to identify problems within the I.R.S. that affect taxpayers and to promote taxpayers’ interests before the agency and before Congress, which writes the tax code.
Ms. Olson’s office provided its most extensive review yet of the private debt-collection program, which it has been monitoring for two years, since plans for it were announced.
The program, which formally began in September, is meant to farm out easily collectible tax bills, typically those owed by low-income taxpayers, to private collection agencies. When the I.R.S. announced the program, it said that the private agencies would abide by the same publicly disclosed rules as I.R.S. employees.
Private collection of tax debts has sparked criticism from opponents, who say that it costs the Treasury too much to supervise and that some of the private agencies use questionable business practices.
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