New York State Department of Taxation appoints Taxpayer Rights Advocate

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New York State Department of Taxation and Finance Acting Commissioner Jamie Woodward have announced new initiatives to ensure that the department is accessible and responsive to taxpayers.

The far-reaching initiatives will include [private]a top-to-bottom review of current practices and policies with the best interests of taxpayers in mind. The review will lead to potential changes within the Tax Department to improve relations and could even include legislation if necessary.

To spearhead this effort, the department also announced the creation of a public Taxpayer Rights Advocate position, and appointed Jack Trachtenberg to the position. Trachtenberg will act as an ombudsman between the public and the department in resolving taxpayer disputes.

Trachtenberg, a widely-published author, lecturer and expert on tax and accounting issues, was recently a senior associate with the law firm of Hodgson Russ LLP, where he specialized in state and local tax law, as well as tax dispute resolution. Trachtenberg is currently an adjunct professor at both Albany Law School and the University at Buffalo Law School.

Acting Commissioner Woodward said, “Jack brings to the department broad knowledge and skills in Tax Law, policy and administration, and a deep understanding of the dynamic between our department and the public we serve. He’ll be particularly effective in identifying problem areas between the department and the public, a strong advocate for preserving and promoting taxpayer rights, and an impartial voice in resolving disputes.”

The Taxpayer Rights Advocate reports directly to the commissioner. Trachtenberg’s duties will include informing taxpayers of their rights and responsibilities with respect to audits, protests, reviews of adverse decisions, collection activities, mediation services and enforcement procedures; and identifying patterns in tax matters that may indicate systemic problems in department procedures or policies. He will also seek to assist the public with their tax problems when resolution has not been possible through normal Tax Department channels.

Trachtenberg will prepare an annual report to the commissioner that offers a full and substantive account of the nature of issues and problems that taxpayers encounter, and develop and make recommendations for legislative and regulatory changes, as well as best practices for services to taxpayers.

Trachtenberg said, “I am excited and honored to accept this appointment as New York State’s first Taxpayer Rights Advocate. During my time in private practice with Hodgson Russ, I’ve had the opportunity to represent taxpayers on a wide range of issues. I look forward to using that experience to give the citizens of this State a voice within the Tax Department, to help them resolve their tax disputes, and to effectuate positive change that will help make the New York State tax process run more smoothly and fairly for all parties involved.”

Trachtenberg is author, editor, co-author or publisher of many publications, including the Multistate Corporate Tax Guide and the Multistate Guide to Sales and Use Tax, the upcoming New York State Sales and Use Tax Answer Book, and LexisNexis’ Tax Practice Insights: New York.

He received a J.D. degree from the University at Buffalo Law School, and an M.A. and B.A. in Political Science from Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio.[/private]

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