Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Must Respect the Taxpayer Bill of Rights
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Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Must Respect the Taxpayer Bill of Rights

Taxpayers have specific rights that apply to everyone

February 13, 2017

Tax season is upon us! You should be either preparing your return or getting ready to do so, at least to prevent an identity thief from filing a fake return in your name to get your refund. As you file, remember that taxpayers have particular rights that apply to everyone and that have to be respected by the IRS when it collects money.

The Right to Be Informed

The IRS explains everything that you—or your tax preparer—needs to know in its publications. Whenever a problem comes up, you have the right to understand decisions that the IRS makes and what it is required to do.

The Right to Quality Service

Service should be both prompt and courteous, and you ought to be able to reach a supervisor to complain whenever you have a problem with an individual agent. The agency's decisions, the taxpayer's next steps, and the amount they have to pay should all be clear.

The Right to Pay No More than the Correct Amount of Tax

When taxpayers are behind on their taxes, they may owe interest and penalties. However, the amount the IRS says they owe should be accurate. What matters for most people is they should get a refund when their employers withhold too much from their returns.

The Right to Challenge the Position Held by the IRS and Be Heard

The IRS corresponds with taxpayers through the mail. It will not call or email you and demand payment. And when you have a dispute with the amount of tax the agency has asked you to pay, you have the right to formally dispute it.

The Right to Appeal an IRS Decision in an Independent Forum

In most disputes, you have the right to take your case to court, and you can request a written decision from the independent Office of Appeal.

The Right to Finality

You should know how long you have to pay a debt as well as how long the IRS has to collect it. You should also know the deadline for challenging or disputing a decision as well as when an audit has been done.

The Right to Privacy

In rare cases, an IRS investigation will involve searching a taxpayer's home or business and seizing property. The taxpayer has the right to due process in these instances just as they would in a criminal proceeding. The agency also states that such investigations will "comply with the law and be no more intrusive than necessary."

The Right to Confidentiality

The IRS is expected to keep your tax return information confidential and to take action against any agency employee, tax preparer, or other party who obtains your information and misuses it.

The Right to Representation

When you're in a dispute with the IRS, you have the right to an attorney or other authorized representative. For those who need help or representation but can't afford to pay for it, Low Income Taxpayer Clinics are available.

The Right to a Fair and Just Tax System

You have the right to expect that the tax system will be fair. You also have the right to expect that the agency will take into consideration any financial, technological, or language-related barriers that might impact either your ability to provide the information that the agency requested or to pay the total of what you owe.

You also have the right to get help from the Taxpayer Advocate Service whenever you have a problem with normal IRS channels.

The official Taxpayer Bill of Rights—as well as specific fact sheets about each individual right—is available here on the official IRS website.