The federal tax code is complex and if you’re not a financial professional, trying to make sense of it is often an exercise in frustration. When you have a tax question or issue that needs to be resolved, calling up the IRS for help can lead to more confusion. Part of the problem is that consumers often don’t realize they’re entitled to certain protections under the tax code.
In an effort to improve the resolution process, the IRS recently unveiled its Taxpayer Bill of Rights, which summarizes several key provisions of the tax law. The agency plans to provide the millions of Americans who receive a tax notice this year with a detailed description of their rights. If you’re facing an audit or attempting to negotiate the payment of a tax debt, here’s what the IRS wants you to keep in mind.
1. You have the right to be informed
When there’s a problem with your tax filing, you have the right to know what the issue is and what you need to do to be in compliance with the tax laws. Tax publications, forms, notices or any other correspondence must clearly outline IRS procedures. You’re also entitled to a detailed explanation behind any decisions the IRS makes with regard to your tax account.
2. You have the right to quality service
Excellent customer service is the cornerstone of any business and the IRS believes that consumers deserve to be addressed in timely, courteous and professional manner. If you feel like you’ve been mistreated by an agency representative you have to right to speak to a supervisor about your experience.
3. You have the right to pay the correct amount of tax
If you find yourself owing additional tax or you’ve got an outstanding tax liability, the IRS can only require you to pay the correct amount due. While this includes any interest and penalties that have accrued you can’t be forced to pay a penny more than what you legally owe.
4. You have the right to object to the IRS’s actions
When the IRS proposes formal action against you or attempts to enforce them you have the right to raise objections or provide documentation arguing against the action. If you do so, the IRS is required to consider the objection or documentation fairly and provide you with an explanation if your claim is deemed invalid.
5. You have the right appeal an IRS decision
If the IRS rules against you regarding an issue with your tax account, you have the right to appeal. The Office of Appeals is required to conduct a fair and impartial review and provide you with a written explanation of their decision. If further appeals are necessary, you can typically take the case to court.
6. You have the right to finality
Your ability to appeal the IRS’s decision or challenge their position is limited to a specific time frame and you have the right to know how long you have to take action. If you’re being audited, you’re also entitled to know how long the IRS has to complete it and to be notified when the audit is finished.
7. You have a right to privacy
Your personal information is protected under the tax code and any IRS inquiry or examination must comply with federal law. Your due process rights must be respected and if a collection due process hearing is necessary the IRS is required to provide it.
8. You have the right to confidentiality
When you provide information to the IRS, it can’t be disclosed to outside individuals or organizations without your consent. If your information is used or accessed inappropriately, you have the right to request that appropriate action be taken against the parties involved.
9. You have the right to seek representation
Dealing with the IRS can be intimidating but you have the right to retain an authorized representative to help guide you through the process. If you can’t afford to hire a tax attorney or other tax professional, you can get help from a Low Income Taxpayer Clinic so you don’t have to go it alone.
10. You have the right to a fair and just tax system
The IRS is prohibited from engaging in bullying tactics and taxpayers have the right to be treated fairly when resolving tax issues. If there are facts or circumstances that affect your ability to pay your tax debt or provide information in a timely manner, the IRS has to take this into account. You also have the right to get help from the Taxpayer Advocate Service if you can’t pay because of financial difficulty or if the IRS hasn’t addressed your situation in a timely manner.
In addition to notifying taxpayers directly, the IRS also plans to post copies of the 10 rights in all agency offices so they’re visible to employees and consumers. In a press release issued in June of 2014, Commissioner John Koskinen said it was “critically important” for taxpayers to read and understand the information. He also emphasized that the Taxpayer Bill of Rights is “a clear reminder that all of the IRS takes seriously our responsibility to treat taxpayers fairly.”