Senators from both sides of the aisle and the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration questioned the plan by the Internal Revenue Service to cut back its walk-in and telephone Taxpayer Assistance Centers during a hearing on the 2006 IRS budget. IRS Commissioner Mark Everson discussed the agency's plan to close as many as 105 TACs and cut back its toll-free telephone service by 15 hours a week at the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee hearing. TACs are located nationwide and allow taxpayers to have face-to-face meetings with IRS employees who can assist taxpayers with tax law, tax return preparation and account inquiry resolution. "The IRS needs to balance customer service with its compliance and enforcement efforts," said Sen. Christopher Bond, R-Mo., chairman of the Transportation, Treasury and Housing and Urban Development Subcommittee. "I believe that most people who fail to comply with the tax code do so unintentionally because of its difficulty and complexity. Accurate and timely guidance from the service is imperative to ensuring taxpayer compliance." Colleen M. Kelley, president of the National Treasury Employees Union, warned that closing Taxpayer Assistance Centers will result in reduced taxpayer education and compliance at a time when the gap between taxes owed and amounts paid has increased to upwards of $298 billion.

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