When facing a tax dispute it is perfectly normal (and common) to feel intimidated by the government. Often, when determining whether or not to contest a tax bill, our clients voice the fear that 'it is not worth it to go against the government.' This fear is often based in emotion and not in law. We want you to know your rights. Even the IRS wants you to know your rights, so you can assert them.
Some of this 'taxpayer education' stems from the recent Lerner email scandal which brought the IRS’ less-than-ideal recordkeeping under public scrutiny. Many were infuriated when they learned that the IRS not only lost key emails, but also backs up only 6 months’ worth of server data—while taxpayers are required to store information for a far longer period of time.
Lost emails is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to taxpayer grievances with the IRS. Since the 1990s, Congress has enacted various laws regarding taxpayer rights, yet a 2012 study by the IRS Taxpayer Advocate Service (TAS) showed that only 46% of taxpayers knew they had rights and only 11% knew what those rights were.
Finally this past June the TAS announced the IRS Taxpayer Bill of Rights, a compilation of 10 fundamental rights taken from those already embedded in the Tax Code.
The IRS Taxpayer Bill of Rights
1. The Right to Be Informed
2. The Right to Quality Service
3. The Right to Pay No More than the Correct Amount of Tax
4. The Right to Challenge the IRS’ Position and Be Heard
5. The Right to Appeal an IRS Decision in an Independent Forum
6. The Right to Finality
7. The Right to Privacy
8. The Right to Confidentiality
9. The Right to Retain Representation
10. The Right to a Fair and Just Tax System
Following are some specific examples of what you may expect from the IRS and its representatives if you are involved in an audit or contested tax matter:
Fairness, Courtesy and Respect
Taxpayers have the right to be treated with fairness, courtesy and respect. No one should feel harassed or intimidated by a government employee.
Privacy and Confidentiality
You have the right to have all information regarding your financial situation, assessments and tax history kept in the strictest of confidences. Note that IRS employees who violate this rule may be subject to criminal prosecution, fines and, of course, dismissal.
Right to Representation
You have the right to have an attorney, accountant or any designated agent present with you or on your behalf during any examination or conference with the IRS. You are also entitled to have any meeting suspended until you can confer with counsel and to make an audio recording of any call or meeting with IRS agents.
Notice of Interest Charges
You have the right to have all charges – interest and penalties – itemized, and to receive an interest computation upon your request.
Right to Reimbursement, Release and Return
You have the right to reimbursement of your costs and expenses, including bank charges, for erroneous levies, stop payment fees on checks lost by the IRS, fees due to IRS online payment processing errors, etc. You also have the right to have wrongfully levied or seized property (or its value) released or returned to you.
You have the right to appeal IRS decisions.
A tax firm dedicated to defending your rights before the IRS
The tax lawyers and accountants at Moskowitz LLP have represented thousands of clients in tax audits and tax disputes, the United States Tax Court, the United States Court of Federal Claims, and the United States District Court, with outstanding results. If you are seeking professional, efficient and personalized assistance with your tax matter, contact our San Francisco office.