WASHINGTON, D.C.-Senate Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Susan Collins (R-ME) today urged the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to keep open the Lewiston Taxpayer Assistance Center, which provides face-to-face assistance to area residents. Recent reports suggest that the IRS is considering the elimination of the office’s walk-in assistance services despite the fact that it recently committed to a 10-year lease for the office space.
“The IRS shouldn’t make it more difficult for taxpayers in the Lewiston-Auburn area to gain access to the help they need,” said Collins, whose committee has oversight of the federal workforce. “Walk-in assistance is especially critical to Lewiston’s large immigrant population, many of whom are opening small businesses and will be filing returns for the first time in 2004.”
In her letter sent today to IRS Commissioner Mark Everson, Collins pointed out that the Lewiston office is available to serve more than 324,000 taxpayers in the Greater Lewiston-Auburn area and surrounding counties in Central and Western Maine. Walk-in assistance is particularly important to the large concentration of immigrants in the Lewiston-Auburn area, many of whom have limited access to transportation. If the office were closed, area residents would be forced to seek assistance in the Augusta or South Portland offices, both of which are approximately 40 miles from Lewiston.
Collins had written a letter to the IRS in November 2002 to express her concerns about the potential closure of the office, and the IRS responded by saying it recognized the continuing need for face-to-face assistance. In April 2003, the IRS signed a lease for the office space.
“The ratification of the lease, combined with the IRS’s November 21 response to my previous letter, in which the IRS acknowledged a continuing need for face-to-face assistance in the Lewiston office, stand in stark contrast to recent reports that the IRS is again considering closing the Taxpayer Assistance Center within the Lewiston office,” wrote Collins.