Every taxpayer has rights. The Taxpayer Bill of Rights takes these rights from the tax code and groups them into 10 categories. Taxpayers interacting with the IRS should know their rights, which are highlighted in Publication 1, Your Rights as a Taxpayer:
The Right to Finality. Taxpayers have the right to know the maximum amount of time allowed to challenge an IRS position. They also have the right to know the maximum amount of time the IRS has to audit a particular tax year or collect a tax debt. Taxpayers have the right to know when the IRS concludes an audit.
This sounds all well and good assuming the IRS agents follow this instruction and let you know what you are entitled to. Whether they actually adhere to this rule is a different story.
The Right to Privacy. Taxpayers have the right to expect that any IRS inquiry, examination or enforcement action will comply with the law and be no more intrusive than necessary. During these proceedings, the IRS will respect all due process rights, including search and seizure protections. When applicable, the IRS will provide a collection due process hearing.
Here’s a common theme – in theory, this taxpayer right is great. But who is checking on the IRS to make sure they follow the laws? Make sure you have someone knowledgeable about these laws representing you to ensure you are not deprived of due process.
The Right to Confidentiality. Taxpayers have the right to expect that their tax information will remain confidential. The IRS will not disclose information unless authorized by the taxpayers or by law. Taxpayers should expect the IRS to take appropriate action against employees, return preparers and others who wrongfully disclose return information.
The Right to Retain Representation. Taxpayers have the right to retain an authorized representative of their choice for representation during dealings with the IRS. When a taxpayer cannot afford representation, they may seek assistance from a Low Income Taxpayer Clinic.
Generally IRS representatives welcome the inclusion of a tax attorney or other tax professional into the process because he or she is well versed in the procedure and can help move the case along. However, I’ve seen instances where IRS representatives tell clients that they do not need and should not hire a tax professional. When I hear these remarks, it is always a red flag indicating that the agent is pulling a fast one with the taxpayer and doesn’t want a tax professional to step in and call them on it. Be careful if you hear this.
The Right to a Fair and Just Tax System. Taxpayers have the right to expect fairness from the tax system. The IRS must consider all facts and circumstances that might affect any liabilities, the ability to pay or the ability to provide information timely. Taxpayers have the right to receive assistance from the Taxpayer Advocate Service. TAS can help taxpayers who are experiencing financial difficulty. They can also help when the IRS has not resolved tax issues properly and timely through normal channels.
Thanks for reading our two part series, Get to Know the Taxpayer Bill of Rights.
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