Many Iowans don’t give much thought to the Internal Revenue Service outside the month of April, but there’s a branch of the tax collection agency designed to focus directly on lending troubled taxpayers a hand. Mary Hickey is spokeswoman for the Taxpayer Advocate office, a division of the agency she says is relatively unknown.

Hickey says they’ve been called "the best kept secret in the IRS" but she wants to get word out that help exists for people who are having trouble with the agency. The service is for individual taxpayers and businesses. Hickey says the local Taxpayer Advocates are not the first point of contact, but rather professionals appointed to taxpayers’ individual cases when other avenues have failed. She explains the sorts of troubles they tackle.

Hickey says they typically deal with taxpayers who are experiencing an economic burden or hardship as the result of something the IRS is doing or planning to do, and they’ll work with taxpayers who have gotten no response from the agency. She says her office also responds to people who encounter problems in the IRS system that impacts them as individuals but may also effect a larger group of taxpayers in similar situations.

Hickey says the attention for taxpayer advocates is personalized, as the IRS is a complex system that can often be hard to navigate. She says, "We’ll actually assign one person that they can deal with and that’s something we often hear from people is a very valuable thing." To contact the local Taxpayer Advocate office, call 877-777-4778 or surf to " " and click on "Taxpayer Advocate."