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Montgomery – On the first day that bills could be brought to the chamber floor for consideration in the 2016 regular legislative session, the Alabama House on Tuesday approved legislation sponsored by State Rep. Mark Tuggle (R – Alexander City) that would strengthen and broaden the duties of the Taxpayer Advocate in the Department of Revenue.

Tuggle’s bill was included in the House Republican Caucus’s 2016 “Right for Alabama” legislative agenda that was announced prior to the session’s start.

“Our state government has had an official office of taxpayer advocate located in the Department of Revenue for many years, but that job is appointed by the revenue commissioner, and the person who holds it works for the tax collectors, not the taxpayers,” Tuggle said.  “My legislation ensures that the taxpayer advocate will be independent, autonomous, and a true champion for taxpayers when disputes arise.”

Under the provisions of Tuggle’s legislation, the state’s taxpayer advocate would be appointed by the governor, not the revenue commissioner, and potential candidates for the post would be recommended by a committee of government officials and business professionals.

The advocate would be charged with the responsibility of promoting the interests of taxpayers when ambiguities in the law or tax policy arise, recommending solutions to the Legislature, and meeting with the legislative budget chairs annually.

The taxpayer advocate would have a website separate from the Department of Revenue’s and use it to educate taxpayer’s about their rights when tax disputes arise.

Tuggle said he realized the need for strengthening the taxpayer advocate’s role when revenue officials attempted to charge a tax for Internet streaming services using an old law that applied to VHS tape rentals in the 1980s.  The decision was later reversed after lawmakers spoke out.

“When the revenue department attempted to circumvent the Legislature and tax Netflix, Amazon Prime, and other internet streaming services in the same manner that VHS tape rentals were taxed decades ago, I knew it was time to take action,” Tuggle said.  “Now the taxpayer advocate within the department will be discouraging such surprise attack tax increases from occurring.”

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