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Know Your IRS Rights


Every taxpayer ought to be aware that a Taxpayer Bill of Rights exists. It may come as little solace if you're holding an audit letter, but perhaps this is the time to know your rights. Yes, taxpayers have rights when dealing with the IRS.

The Taxpayer Bill of Rights takes its statements from the tax code and parcels them into 10 categories:

  • The Right to Finality — You have the right to know the maximum amount of time you have to challenge an IRS position. You have the right to know the maximum amount of time the IRS has to audit a particular tax year or to collect a tax debt. You have the right to know when the IRS concludes an audit.
  • The Right to Privacy — You have the right to expect that an IRS inquiry, examination or enforcement action complies with the law. It should be no more intrusive than necessary. If you're part of an IRS action, you have the IRS' word that it will respect all due process rights, including search and seizure protections. The IRS says it will provide a collection due process hearing as well.
  • The Right to Confidentiality — You certainly have the right to expect that your tax information remains confidential. The agency states that it will not disclose information unless you or the law authorizes it. You should expect that the IRS will take appropriate action against any IRS employees, return preparers or others who wrongfully disclose return information.
  • The Right to Retain Representation — You have the right to retain an authorized representative of your choice to aid you in dealings with the IRS. If you can't afford representation, you may seek assistance from a Low-Income Taxpayer Clinic.
  • The Right to a Fair and Just Tax System — You have the right to expect fairness from the tax system. The Taxpayer Bill of Rights says that the IRS must consider all facts and circumstances — any liabilities, as well as the ability to pay or to provide timely information. Taxpayers have the right to receive assistance from the Taxpayer Advocate Service, which helps taxpayers experiencing financial difficulties. It's an independent office to turn to when the IRS hasn't resolved tax issues through normal channels. 
  • The Right to Be Informed — You have the right to know what you need to do to comply with tax laws. You are entitled to clear explanations of the law and IRS procedures, as well as to IRS decisions about tax accounts and outcomes.
  • The Right to Quality Service — You have the right to receive prompt, courteous and professional assistance; to be spoken to in a way you can easily understand; and to receive clear and easily understandable communications from the IRS. You have a right to know that you can file complaints about inadequate service.
  • The Right to Pay No More Than the Correct Amount of Tax — You have the right to pay only the amount of tax legally due and to have the IRS apply all tax payments properly.
  • The Right to Challenge the IRS' Position and Be Heard — You can raise objections and provide additional documentation in response to formal IRS actions or proposed actions and to expect that the IRS will consider timely objections promptly and fairly, even if the IRS doesn't agree with your position.
  • The Right to Appeal an IRS Decision in an Independent Forum — You're entitled to a fair and impartial administrative appeal of most IRS decisions, including penalties. You have the right to take your case to court after receiving a written response regarding an Office of Appeals decision.

You can expect to receive notices about audits or collections in English and a variety of other languages. You can find the Taxpayer Bill of Rights on the IRS site.

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Our firm provides the information in this e-newsletter for general guidance only, and does not constitute the provision of legal advice, tax advice, accounting services, investment advice, or professional consulting of any kind. The information provided herein should not be used as a substitute for consultation with professional tax, accounting, legal, or other competent advisers. Before making any decision or taking any action, you should consult a professional adviser who has been provided with all pertinent facts relevant to your particular situation. Tax articles in this e-newsletter are not intended to be used, and cannot be used by any taxpayer, for the purpose of avoiding accuracy-related penalties that may be imposed on the taxpayer. The information is provided "as is," with no assurance or guarantee of completeness, accuracy, or timeliness of the information, and without warranty of any kind, express or implied, including but not limited to warranties of performance, merchantability, and fitness for a particular purpose.
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