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Know your rights regarding IRS interactions: Part I

The Internal Revenue Service is perhaps the most maligned of all government agencies. While some of this comes with the territory (people don't like paying taxes), the IRS has also earned much of its bad reputation. Many people view the agency as bureaucratic, authoritarian and uncompromising.

Because the IRS has this image, Americans often don't know their rights when dealing with the IRS - or even that they have such rights in the first place. In our next two posts, we hope to empower all taxpayers with some basic but important information on this topic.

It is perhaps understandable to view an IRS employee in the same way that you would view a police officer or other authority figure: You must answer all questions, produce all requested documents and put up with any rudeness or hostility. Thankfully, this isn't the way it works.

First and foremost, IRS employees are expected to act in a polite, professional manner. If one behaves rudely or belligerently toward you, you can report their behavior to their supervisor (or higher up the chain, if necessary).

When an IRS employee requests information from you (written or verbal), you don't have to give it to them blindly. You deserve to know and are allowed to ask:

  • Why the IRS wants the information
  • What they are planning to do with it
  • What happens if you refuse or otherwise fail to provide the information

If you have an interview/meeting with an IRS representative and cannot specifically remember your rights, at least remember that you have the right to have your rights explained. IRS employees must explain your rights to you in addition to protecting them.

Please check back later this week as we continue our discussion.

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