Tax Tips: What rights do I have as a taxpayer?

While our system of federal taxation may seem burdensome, taxpayers do have many rights when it comes to the process. The IRS does want taxpayers to be informed about their rights so that they can protect themselves.

There are many rights for taxpayers at all steps of the tax process, but here are some of the most common rights that you should be aware of:
  • Your civil rights are protected, and that means that no employee of the IRS can discriminate against you based upon your race, sex, age or disability.
  • You have a right to receive notices related to your tax matters. The IRS must notify you if they claim you owe more or less taxes, and they must give you the reason why you owe more or less. They also must provide you details of interest and penalties that are assessed.
  • You have a right to be represented in your tax matters. You can be represented by an attorney, an accountant, a family member, or other person of your choosing.
  • You have a right of confidentiality, both within the IRS and outside of the IRS. No IRS employee can release information about your tax situation to anyone but you, unless you have signed a power-of-attorney form. Also, employees of the IRS are not allowed to arbitrarily access your tax records. They must only access them for official business.
  • You have certain procedural rights when it comes to collecting your taxes. These rights include a timetable for collecting taxes, as well as certain methods for collecting taxes, which might include garnishing wages or levying bank accounts.
Along with rights come responsibilities, however. Taxpayers are responsible for filing accurate taxes on time, and for paying the taxes, interest, and penalties due. The IRS provides a Taxpayer Advocate Service which is there to take your complaints and help you resolve your problems with the IRS.

Tracy L. Coenen, CPA, MBA, CFE performs fraud examinations and financial investigations for her company Sequence Inc. Forensic Accounting, and is the author of Essentials of Corporate Fraud.

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