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Understanding the Taxpayer Bill of Rights

Income tax season is in full swing, and, as happens every year, some taxpayers will be audited or otherwise drawn into controversy with the IRS. In some cases, disputes can result from inadvertent mistake or intentional obfuscation on the part of the taxpayer. In others, it may be the result of error on the part of the IRS. Regardless of the cause, every taxpayer is entitled to certain protections, called the Taxpayer Bill of Rights.

The Taxpayer Bill of Rights is relatively robust. Below are highlights of some pertinent sections that may be of interest to you if you or a loved one is engaged in a dispute with the IRS:

You have the right to representation: If you so choose, you can hire an attorney to represent you in your interactions with the IRS. You can also enlist a CPA or enrolled agent to act on your behalf. If you want, you can empower your attorney to act without you having to be present. Low income taxpayers may be eligible to have an attorney appointed on their behalf.

You have the right to an explanation: The IRS is required to explain what is happening to you and why, and what you need to do to bring yourself into compliance. In addition, the IRS is required to promptly inform you of any decision it makes, and to provide a clear explanation of why that decision was made.

You have the right not to pay more than you owe: Of course, this includes any applicable fines or penalties related to tax law violations or late returns. But, if you think the IRS is asking you to pay more than you owe, you have a right to contest that request. Similarly, taxpayers have a right to have overpayments refunded, so long as they make that request within the appropriate time frame.

You have the right to appeal an unfavorable decision: You may appeal a decision you don’t agree with in an independent forum. Depending on the circumstances of the case, jurisdiction for the appeal may lie with the IRS Office of Appeals, the U.S. Tax Court or another federal court.

If you’re engaged in a dispute with the IRS and have questions about your rights, talk with an experienced tax attorney in your area.

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