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100 West Cypress Creek Road, Suite 930

Fort Lauderdale, FL 33309

Office (954) 761-3700

Fax (954) 761-1004

8875 Hidden river PKWY, Suite 230

Tampa, FL 33637

Office (813) 775-2131

Fax (866) 388-3029

3500 Financial Plaza, Suite 330

Tallahassee, FL 32312

Office (850) 250-3830

Fax (866) 388-3029


Florida's Taxpayer Advocate Can Finally Advocate!

After years in the making, a major win has unfolder for taxpayers – the Taxpayer Advocate is no longer under the complete control of the Department of Revenue effective July 1, 2018. The Taxpayer Advocate now reports to the Chief Inspector General, which is outside of the Department of Revenue. The Chief Inspector General is the only one who may fire the Taxpayer Advocate.

This is huge because the shift in to whom the Taxpayer Advocate reports means the advocate’s effectiveness increases. The effectiveness increases since the advocate no longer has to worry about reporting to Department of Revenue personnel to keep his or her job. The Taxpayer Advocate can be a lot more vocal in standing up for taxpayers, which was the original intended purposes for the position. The Taxpayer Advocate can also decide to put teeth finally in the Taxpayer Bill of Rights.

The teeth, so to speak, line in the annual reporting required from the Taxpayer Advocate. For instance, the Taxpayer Advocate must provide to the governor, Senate President, House Speaker, and Chief Inspector General a report by January 1 of each year. The report must contain the Taxpayer Advocate’s objectives for the coming fiscal year, the number of complaints filed in the previous fiscal year, a summary of resolutions or outstanding issues from the prior fiscal year, a summary of the most common problems encountered by taxpayers, initiatives the Taxpayer Advocate has or will take to improve taxpayer services and Department of Revenue responsiveness, and recommendations for administrative or legislative actions to resolve taxpayer problems.

I’ve personally witnessed the Taxpayer Advocate get chewed out by the (former) executive director and the head of Taxpayer Assistance and Dispute Resolution for even suggesting that the Department of Revenue tends to make high estimated assessments. I’ve also heard that the Taxpayer Advocate has been forbidden to produce reports on certain shortcomings of the Department because any report would be subject to a Freedom of Information Act request. In a very positive step forward, the office of the Taxpayer Advocate will be required to report the positives and negatives of the Department to the highest-ranking government officials. Finally, the average citizen of Florida has the power have his or her complaints heard when interacting with the Department of Revenue. It also gives the state the chance to remedy issues faced by taxpayers in a more beneficial, direct, and timely manner.

This legislation is something I have a very personal interest in as it is the culmination of 3 years of my efforts to give the Taxpayer Advocate and the Taxpayer Bills of Rights (sec. 213.015) more power to protect taxpayers. Thanks should be given to many organizations for supporting this legislative effort. Organizations that have contributed time and input into this effort are Florida TaxWatch, the Florida Institute of CPAs, Florida’s Retail Federation, and Florida United Business Association. I would like to give a special thanks to Dominic Calabro and Kurt Wenner of Florida TaxWatch for their efforts in make this legislation a reality.

Florida Sales Tax Attorney; Florida Sales Tax Audit; Tampa sales tax attorney; Miami Sales Tax Audit ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Mr. Sutton is a Florida licensed CPA and Attorney and a shareholder in the law firm the Law Offices of Moffa, Sutton, & Donnini, P.A. Mr. Sutton is in charge of the Tampa office of the firm and his primary practice area is Florida sales and use tax controversy. Mr. Sutton worked in the State and Local Tax department of a "big five" accounting firm for a number of years and has been an adjunct professor at Stetson University College of Law since 2002 teaching State and Local Taxation, Accounting for Lawyers, and Federal Income Tax I. You can read more about Mr. Sutton in his firm BIO.

At the Law Office of Moffa, Sutton, & Donnini, PA, our primary practice area is Florida taxes, with a very heavy emphasis in Florida sales and use tax. We have defended clients against Florida sales and use taxes for more than 25 years with over 100 years of cumulative experience working for our firm. Our partners are both CPAs/Accountants and Attorneys, so we understand both the accounting side of the situation as well as the legal side. We represent taxpayers and business owners from the entire State of Florida. Call our offices today for a FREE INITIAL CONSULTATION to confidentially discuss how we can help put this nightmare behind you.

The amended text of section 20.21 reads as follows:

20.21 Department of Revenue.—There is created a Department of Revenue.

(3) The position of taxpayers' rights advocate is created within the Department of Revenue. The taxpayers' rights advocate shall be appointed by the Chief Inspector General but is under the general supervision of the executive director for administrative purposes. The taxpayers' rights advocate must report to the Chief Inspector General and may be removed from office only by the Chief Inspector General shall be appointed by and report to the executive director of the department. The responsibilities of the taxpayers' rights advocate include, but are not limited to, the following:

(a) Facilitating the resolution of taxpayer complaints and problems which have not been resolved through normal administrative channels within the department, including any taxpayer complaints regarding unsatisfactory treatment of taxpayers by employees of the department.

(b) Issuing a stay action on behalf of a taxpayer who has suffered or is about to suffer irreparable loss as a result of action by the department.

(c) On or before January 1 of each year, the taxpayers' rights advocate shall furnish to the Governor, the President of the Senate, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, and the

Chief Inspector General a report that must include the following:

1. The objectives of the taxpayers' rights advocate for the upcoming fiscal year.

2. The number of complaints filed in the previous fiscal year.

3. A summary of resolutions or outstanding issues from the previous fiscal year report.

4. A summary of the most common problems encountered by taxpayers, including a description of the nature of the problems, and the number of complaints for each such problem.

5. The initiatives the taxpayers' rights advocate has taken or is planning to take to improve taxpayer services and the department's responsiveness.

6. Recommendations for administrative or legislative action as appropriate to resolve problems encountered by taxpayers.

7. Other information as the taxpayers' rights advocate may deem advisable.

The report must contain a complete and substantive analysis in addition to statistical information.

Section 2. The person who serves as the taxpayers' rights advocate as of July 1, 2018, shall continue to serve in that capacity until such person voluntarily leaves the position or is removed by the Chief Inspector General.

ADDITIONAL ARTICLES TO READ

MUNICIPAL GOLF COURSE - NEW SALES TAX EXEMPTION, published July 25, 2017, by Moffa, Sutton, & Donnini, P.A.

NEW FL SALES TAX EXEMPTION - DATA CENTERS, published July 21, 2017, by Moffa, Sutton, & Donnini, P.A.

© Copyright 2018 to James H Sutton, Jr. All Rights Reserved

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