Thursday, July 10, 2008

Your Rights as a Taxpayer -

Prior to 1988, various internal procedures within the IRS gave the taxpayers certain rights. But since these were internal directives only the taxpayer did not have recourse in court if one of the directives or procedures was violated. In 1988 Congress included a Taxpayer Bill of Rights in the Technical and Miscellaneous Revenue Act of 1988 (TBOR). It later added TBOR 2 and TBOR 3 in subsequent years.

Originally the Taxpayer Bill of Rights concentrated on your rights if audited. It allowed you to be represented by someone authorized to practice before the IRS, have the process explained to you, and to make an audio recording of the audit
(with advance notice). TBOR 2 was expanded to protect your rights in dealing with the collection division of the IRS.

TBOR 3 was passed as part of the IRS Restructuring and Reform Act of 1998. This was an outgrowth of the massive publicity and Congressional hearings on IRS abuses. While there were many provisions to TBOR 3 some of the more applicable items included requiring Chief Counsel approval before the IRS can make a jeopardy or termination assessment. This took some of the power from the IRS employee before you could ask for a review of that employee’s determinations. The new act also prohibited the IRS from requiring you to waive your right to sue the IRS or the US Government in order for them to accept an agreement with you regarding the payment of taxes. The new act disallowed the use of Pseudonyms by IRS employees (unless management approved the request). It also made talking with someone familiar with your situation easier because the IRS representative began adding their name and phone number to the letters they sent you. The act also prohibited the IRS practice of obtaining an extension of the statute of limitations on collections from every taxpayer who owed the government money. Now the requests must be tied to some specific action (like an installment agreement).
And most extensions will expire on December 31, 2002.

TBOR 3 also created the Taxpayer Advocate’s Office. This office replaced the much more taxpayer friendly Problem Resolution Office. The Taxpayer Advocate’s Office is good for straightening out paperwork snafus. But it is in no way a Taxpayer Advocate. It is staffed with front line IRS employees who have moved from Collection or Examination to finish up their career. They are great for moving paperwork along through the IRS but do not advocate for taxpayer rights.

The IRS has listed your rights as a taxpayer in Publication 1 (Your Rights as a Taxpayer). If you receive any notice from them regarding an audit or a collection issue, the IRS will include Publication 1. The publication is a quick read and something you should take a look at.

Let me recap what I think are the most important rights you have with the IRS.

1. The IRS is a part of the US Government. You have all the rights of any citizen including the right to not incriminate yourself.

2. You have the right to be represented by someone authorized to practice before the IRS (enrolled agents, attorneys, certified public accountants).

3. You have the right to stop any interview with the IRS to consult with a representative (unless you have been subpoenaed to the meeting).

4. You have all the rights conferred to you under the constitution as a citizen of the US.

5. You have the right to have the process explained to you

6. You have the right to appeal any decision to a group manager.

7. If you do not like the decision of the group manager you have the right to file an appeal and request that appeals review your case.

8. If an IRS employee violates your rights you have the right to sue the IRS in court and be awarded fees for your trouble.

9. You have the right to audio tape the proceedings (with prior notice to the IRS).

10. And you have the right to have your rights explained to you by the IRS representative you are working with.

The right I think you should exercise first before having any conversation with an employee of the IRS is to talk with an authorized taxpayer representative.

The IRS must allow you that right (unless you are under subpoena).

Whether you decide to retain the services of a taxpayer representative is up to you.
Failing to find out what kind of assistance the representative can offer you is like going to a gunfight with a water pistol. Your odds are not very good.

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