Are you aware of your taxpayer rights? Given that taxation WITH representation exceeds anything King George’s government perpetrated on the distant colonies, I find little consolation in these rights. However, taxpayers should know these rights when dealing with the IRS. At least one government administration has to be nice to the people it serves.
Taxpayer Rights – History
The Internal Revenue Service adopted a Taxpayer Bill of Rights in June of 2014. The Taxpayer Bill of Rights takes the multiple existing rights embedded in the tax code and groups them into 10 broad categories. The tax code includes numerous taxpayer rights, but they are scattered throughout the code, making it difficult for people to track and understand. The Taxpayer Bill of Rights did not create new rights, but did make our rights easier to find and understand.
The IRS released the Taxpayer Bill of Rights following seven years of discussions with the Taxpayer Advocate Service, an independent office inside the IRS that represents the interests of U.S. taxpayers. Seven years for the IRS to acknowledge we have a right to expect quality service or be heard in an independent forum. A new Brad Pitt movie, “Seven Years in DC”? Congress in the role of the outside oppressor, Tibet portrayed as a zone where taxpayers exercise their right to challenge the system, IRS agents as… as… the monks helping our hero taxpayer Pitt navigate the system while finding internal peace? Ok, its a fantasy film.
Taxpayer Rights – Provisions
Similar to the U.S. Constitution’s Bill of Rights, the Taxpayer Bill of Rights contains 10 rights:
- Be Informed
- Quality Service
- Pay No More than the Correct Amount of Tax
- Challenge the IRS’s Position
- Appeal an IRS Decision in an Independent Forum
- Retain Representation
- A Fair and Just Tax System
A just and fair tax system, as decided by the same politicians who created the system. “Seems fair that you pay 43% of your income (in the form of ordinary income tax and payroll taxes) to the government.” To be fair to the IRS, they do not create the rules. Congress does. The IRS is just the enforcer, like Guido and Lefty, except they are required to be nice about it.
Taxpayer Rights – Awareness
The IRS condenses the rights in Publication 1, a document routinely included in IRS correspondence with taxpayers. Millions of Publication 1 mailings go out each year. The IRS has also created a special section of IRS.gov to highlight the 10 rights, and created an internal web site for employees to understand these rights as well. I wonder if if the headline is “YOU MUST BE NICE TO TAXPAYERS!”
The IRS does not have a good reputation with US taxpayers. I believe the passage of the Taxpayer Bill of Rights had more to do with PR than advocacy, but I am a skeptical conspiracy theorist by nature. I gladly admit that when I deal with IRS agents, I find them professional, courteous, and knowledgeable about the rules and process. They have a tough job to do. I wouldn’t want it, which is why I chose the easier path of enlisting in the US Army. I would rather face bullets from an enemy that animosity from a citizen.
A question for you to ponder. If you noticed an attorney and an IRS agent drowning, and you could only save one… would you go to lunch or tax a nap?