Friday, July 18, 2008

York Town Manager On Panel Designed To
Improve IRS Service

By Larry Favinger
Staff Columnist

When you think of organizations or government agencies interested in improving customer service, the Internal Revenue Service isn’t even close to being on the top of the list.
York Town Manager Rob Yandow is the Maine representative to a group that is working on just that idea.       
“The Taxpayer Advocacy Panel is a citizens advisory group to the Internal Revenue Service,” Yandow said. He said the IRS had “a few” such groups but TAP is the largest of those. In includes over 90 members from across the country, with at least one representative from each state. Yandow is included in Area 1 that includes New England and New York. There are seven areas in all. Yandow is the vice chairman of Area 1.
Members of the panel are appointed by the Secretary of the Treasury with the approval “of some arm of the White House,” Yandow said.
The membership is varied, he said, with people from all walks of life included.
The purpose of TAP “is to assist in improving the service delivery of the Internal Revenue Service.” Yandow said.
TAP was established in 2001 “to help the IRS improve” and it took a couple of years to get off the ground. “But now,” he said, “it is a very effective organization.”
The group does not get involved in individual tax disputes between a taxpayer and the IRS or legislative matters, which is the purview of Congress, the President and the Secretary of the Treasury.
TAP does get involved in grass roots issues. “We go out and do outreach,” he said. “We try to make people aware of the panel and the opportunity that they have to help the service delivery.”
Yandow said everyone has some kind of issue with the Internal Revenue Service. The TAP encourages people to bring issues to its attention. When that happens the issue is assigned to a subcommittee, studied and then comes before the area group with a recommendation.
A decision is then made whether or not to forward it “up the chain” with a recommendation to the executive committee of the entire TAP. If the issue is deemed worthy it then goes to managers within the IRS for action.
“Sometimes they agree with the recommendation and take action,” he said, and other times they can’t accept the recommendation as is but can address the issue in another way. Sometimes nothing can be done for a variety of circumstances.
Issues can also come to the TAP from the top down when IRS managers define a specific issue that has come to light that needs to be addressed.
Yandow, a native of Vermont, has always had an interest in finance. He discovered TAP while a town manager in Arizona and applied for a position. He became an alternate while in Arizona.
When he came to Maine, he checked again and found the three-year term of the woman serving from Maine was about to expire, so he sought that position. He was actually appointed in November.
People are named to TAP for a single three-year term and it is completely voluntary. Each TAP member is expected to put in 300 to 500 hours a year working for the panel.
“It’s not often you have an opportunity to serve on a nationwide panel and have an opportunity to have a positive impact on something as significant as the service delivery of the Internal Revenue Service and have an impact on people’s lives.” he said. “I think it’s a great opportunity.”
As to hearing of issues, he has had some contacts already and anticipates more as people become aware of TAP and his involvement with it.
“I talked to a lot of people about it,” he said. He makes an effort to talk about TAP to various service organizations and other interested groups. “The more people are aware of it the more people can take advantage of it.”
The entire panel gets together once a year in Washington for a four-day conference to discuss issues.
People with issues can send them to which is TAP’s headquarters in Brooklyn, N.Y., or submit them to
“I’ll be happy to try and help them out,” he said.
Caption: York Town Manager Rob Yandow, appointed to the Taxpayer Advocacy Panel, hopes to improve the customer service of the IRS. (Weekly Sentinel photo)

Local Students Help a Kentucky School “Go Green”

Ten Upper School Berwick Academy students and two faculty members recently took a week out of their summer to travel to Louisville, Kentucky to participate in an environmental summer camp with students from Lassiter Middle School. The purpose of the trip was to assist Lassiter’s students in improving their outdoor classroom, which includes a man-made pond, a compost pile, several gardens, and a greenhouse.           
With the completion of the outdoor classroom, Lassiter will be able to market itself as a school specializing in environmental education. The importance of this is immense, because with this new status, the school will be eligible for funding through the school district for better programs for their students, something they would otherwise be unlikely to receive.
Berwick’s involvement with Lassiter began last year when Berwick alum and 6th grade Lassiter teacher Rachel Davis ‘02, reached out to Berwick to “Please please please help my kids.” Heartbreaking stories of poverty-stricken and disability-laden students prompted upper school faculty member, Dana Clinton, to get Berwick students involved. Rachel’s initial request of a donation for her students turned into a year-long buddy program that included exchanging letters and postcards and four care packages sent from Berwick to Lassiter.
The program went so well that a handful of Berwick students, including Emil Cashin (Acton, ME), Hannah Coon (Dover, NH), Mike Grenier (Stratham, NH), Olivia Hutton (Madbury, NH), Derek Lavigne (Saco, ME), Mike MacVane (Hampton Falls, NH), Clara Penati (Newmarket, NH), Meg Platt (South Berwick, ME), Emma Siegel (York, ME), and John Tackeff (Rye Beach, NH) felt compelled to visit the school and help the children even further.
During their time in Louisville, Berwick students worked side-by-side with Lassiter 6th graders on several environmental projects, including gardening, building the pond, clearing out space for the compost pile, and organizing work sheds.
Recent Berwick graduate, Meg Platt of South Berwick, reflected on the trip, “The Lassiter students come from a variety of backgrounds and have different experiences because they’ve grown up in a different part of the country. We’ve learned a lot from each other.”
The buddy program will continue next year.
Caption: Meg Platt (South Berwick, ME) and Emil Cashin (Acton, ME) work alongside a Louisville, KY student to build a raised garden for the Lassiter Middle School outdoor classroom. (Courtesy photo)