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The Taxpayer Bill of Rights

Twenty years in the making, the Taxpayer Bill of Rights is a list of 10 rights that Americans can use when dealing with the IRS. The Taxpayer Bill of Rights is the result of the effort of many organizations, the primary one being the National Taxpayer Advocate.

united states bill of rights

A 2012 study shows that half of the taxpayers questioned in the survey believed that they had rights before the IRS, and only 11% said that they knew what those rights were. The report said that, “The Internal Revenue Code provides dozens of real, substantive taxpayer rights. However, these rights are scattered throughout the Code and are not presented in a coherent way. Consequently, most taxpayers have no idea what their rights are and, therefore, often cannot take advantage of them.”

The 10 primary rights that every U.S. taxpayer has before the IRS are:

  1. 1. The Right to Be Informed
    Taxpayers must be given explanations of tax laws and IRS procedures in simple language that they can understand. They must be provided with clear instructions on tax forms, notices, and other correspondences by the IRS. If a taxpayer is unclear about something, the IRS should provide them with relevant information in a simple language.
  2. 2. The Right to Quality Service
    Taxpayers have the right to receive quality service from the IRS. They must be provided prompt service in a courteous manner. They have the right to be spoken to in a way that is clear and easily understandable.
  3. 3. The Right to Pay No More than the Correct Amount of Tax
    Taxpayers have the right to pay only the amount of tax they owe. This includes interest and penalties that the IRS charges on back taxes. The IRS must apply all tax payments properly.
  4. 4. The Right to Challenge the IRS’s Position and Be Heard
    Taxpayers have the right to challenge the IRS’ decisions if they believe that the IRS is in the wrong. They have the right to provide additional documentation in response to formal IRS actions or proposed actions. Taxpayers can expect to receive timely objections and documentation from the IRS.
  5. 5. The Right to Appeal an IRS Decision in an Independent Forum
    Taxpayers have the right to a fair and impartial administrative appeal of many of the IRS decisions, including penalties. They have the right to receive a written response regarding the Office of Appeals’ decision. Taxpayers can take the IRS to court if they feel that they are wronged.
  6. 6. The Right to Finality
    Taxpayers have the right to know the maximum time they have to challenge the IRS’s position. They also have the right to know the maximum time the IRS has to audit a particular tax year or collect tax debt.
  7. 7. The Right to Privacy
    Taxpayers have the right to expect the IRS to comply with the law with respect to inquiries, examination and enforcement action. Taxpayers can expect audits and inquiries to be no more intrusive than necessary. The IRS is required to follow all due process rights.
  8. 8. The Right to Confidentiality
    Taxpayers have the right to expect the IRS to keep the information they provide to them confidential unless otherwise required by law. Taxpayers can expect the IRS to take action against employees, return preparers, etc. who wrongfully use or disclose taxpayer’s information.
  9. 9. The Right to Retain Representation
    Taxpayers have the right to choose their representative when dealing with the IRS. They can get help from Low Income Taxpayer Clinic if they cannot afford to hire a tax representative.
  10. 10. The Right to a Fair and Just Tax System
    Taxpayers have the right to expect the tax system to be fair. The IRS must consider the unique facts and circumstances of the tax cases of taxpayers, including their liabilities, ability to pay, or ability to provide information timely. Taxpayers can use help from the Taxpayer Advocate Service.