The IRS can be tough to navigate. At Polston Tax, it’s our job to look out for our clients, and guide them through whatever process needed to resolve their tax issues. But the IRS has also taken steps to protect taxpayers: Publication 1, also known as the Taxpayer Bill of Rights lays out the fundamental rights every taxpayer should know when dealing with the IRS. As a taxpayer, you have the right to:
First and foremost, you have the right to accurate and clear information. This means that you’re entitled to straightforward explanations from the IRS on how to pay your taxes, and a clear assessment of any payments, interest, or penalties you might owe. If worst comes to worst and the IRS initiates an audit or tax lien, you have the right to know why. The IRS must provide an initial letter, which explains the entire process from audit through collection. Even then, you have the right to assistance from the Taxpayer Advocate Service, or to challenge an audit through the Office of Appeals (more on that later).
Quality Customer Service
Paying taxes can be extremely confusing. If you don’t have representation and you’re dealing with the IRS directly, then you have a right to prompt, respectful, and professional customer service. Any representative of the IRS will provide you with his or her name, phone number, and a unique employee identification number. If for any reason the representative is not respectful, you have the right to speak to his or her supervisor. The IRS should only contact you between 8 A.M. and 9 P.M., and will not contact you at your place of business if you request.
The IRS will never make aggressive phone calls or leave threatening messages. If you have received either, please contact your local IRS office.
Only Pay What You Owe
This includes all tax legally due, as well as any interest and penalties owed. If you feel that you’ve overpaid you can file for a refund, but only within a certain time frame. 3 years from the date you filed the return, or 2 years from the date you paid the tax, whichever is later. The same time frame applies if you feel the IRS has made an error. Write to the office that sent the notice or bill, and include photocopies of any records that apply.
Challenge the IRS — And Be Heard
If you discover an error, but you’ve already submitted your return, you have two options: You can submit an amended return (more on that here), or you have 60 days to request that the IRS reverse the change. If the IRS disagrees, they’ll issue you what’s called a “statutory note of deficiency” — basically a notice that entitles you to challenge the IRS in the United State Tax Court. You have 90 days to file a petition (150 if you’re outside the U.S.). If they IRS is taking action against you, they will almost always provide an opportunity to petition the Office of Appeals.
Appeal the IRS In Court
If the Office of Appeals has made their ruling and you still disagree, you have the right to challenge the IRS in the United States Tax Court. For a basic guide on how to appeal your tax case, see Publication 5.
The IRS must clearly state any deadlines involved in the payment, refund, or collection, of taxes. Here are some of the major deadlines:
The IRS has 3 years from the date you file your taxes to assess any additional tax for that tax year, and 10 years from the date to collect any unpaid taxes. If you’re applying for a refund you have 3 years from the filing date, or 2 years from the date you paid the tax, whichever is later. You have 90 days to challenge the IRS in court (150 if you live outside the U.S.), after receiving your statutory note of deficiency.
You have a right to your privacy. Any action the IRS takes against you will be no more intrusive than necessary: There are limits on the amount of wages the IRS can seize, and the IRS can’t seize personal items. The IRS can only take action to seize your personal residence as a last resort, and even then must obtain court approval. The IRS can’t investigate anything outside of your financial records, as they pertain to the taxes in question. Even then, the Office of Appeals will still have to verify that the IRS is not using intrusive methods.
Additional information on taxpayer privacy can be found here.
You have a right to your confidentiality, and all personal information you give the IRS will not be shared with third parties without your permission. If the IRS does intend to contact a third party, it must notify you well in advance. This confidentiality extends to any attorneys that would represent you in dealing with the IRS. If a representative of the IRS “knowingly or recklessly discloses or uses your tax information” they are subject to criminal fines and potentially prison.
Taxpayers have the right to retain representation. You may select an attorney (such as those at The Law Offices of Rod Polston), agent, or CPA to represent you in any dealings with the IRS. If you can’t afford one, you can ask a Low Income Taxpayer clinic to represent you instead, either for frlee or for a small fee.
A Fair and Just Tax System
The IRS can seem cold and impersonal, but it’s important to remember that it’s made up of people. If you can’t pay your tax debt in full, you have the right to set up a payment plan. If you feel that you don’t owe all of your tax debt, you have the right to submit an Offer in Compromise. And if you’re going through a hard time, you have a right to taxpayer assistance.
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