Auditing the auditors

Historically, Oregon has been pretty good with its tax administration. Many years ago, it borrowed a fine idea from the federal government and created a specialized Tax Court where taxpayers could resolve their differences with the state Department of Revenue. Having a tax expert in the black robe is far superior to leaving tax matters up to Tom, Dick, and Harry judges all over the state. Oregon was the first state to have its own tax court. So yay, us.

Another good idea the feds have had, starting a few decades ago now, is to have an independent "taxpayer advocate" inside the IRS. This person, with a crew of local underlings, helps taxpayers get the IRS off its duff when one its systems isn't working properly, which as you might expect is often. The taxpayer advocate also produces annual reports on various aspects of tax administration, including an influential one that goes to Congress. Most tax practitioners I know think the advocate has done a good job over the years, at least at the national level, and I suspect even a few people at the IRS are glad that she's around. 

Congress has gradually expanded the advocate's authority, in response to all the good work that's been done. The current taxpayer advocate at the IRS is Erin Collins. For nearly two decades, it was Nina Olson, whose name became synonymous with tireless work on behalf of the most vulnerable of  taxpayers. Olson was largely responsible for the mostly good reputation that the office enjoys today.

Well, now Oregon is getting in on the act. Last year the legislature created a taxpayer advocate's office at the state Department of Revenue. And now we have the person who will be the first to run the new operation. Her name is Codi Trudell.

I'm disappointed to see that Trudell is not a tax person. She has worked in other state agencies, including Transportation, Elections, and the Legislature. She appears to be another one of those Kate Brown appointments, where bureaucrats from any old department are fine to be wheeled into any position anywhere. For example, we currently have a former building permit guy running the state's Covid response. It's no wonder they lose 550 corpses from time to time.

It would have been a lot better to put a true tax person in the taxpayer advocate's slot. Preferably someone from outside state government.

Oh, well. Be that as it may, you can't help but wish Trudell luck. If her office is as good as the IRS's turned out to be, she'll be doing us all an important service.


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