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A Taxpayer Bill of Rights?

The Taxpayer Advocate proposes a list of rights ó and responsibilities

In her January report to Congress, National Taxpayer Advocate Nina Olson proposed a Taxpayer Bill of Rights, saying that many taxpayers arenít aware of the rights they already have. A clear-cut expression of those rights, she suggested, would encourage compliance with the tax laws and help restore taxpayersí faith in the system, which has been shaken by recent scandals at the IRS.

Taking the Bill of Rights as her model, Olson proposed a list of 10 taxpayer rights that should be formally acknowledged -- and then added a list of five taxpayer responsibilities, including our personal favorite: The Responsibility to Be Courteous (to IRS personnel, that is).

1. The Right to Be Informed 1. The Right to Be Informed

Taxpayers have the right to know what they need to do to comply with the tax laws. They are entitled to clear explanations of the law and IRS procedures in all tax forms, instructions, publications, notices and correspondence. They have the right to be informed of IRS decisions about their tax accounts and to receive clear explanations of the outcomes.

2. The Right to Quality Service 2. The Right to Quality Service

Taxpayers have the right to receive prompt, courteous and professional assistance in their dealings with the IRS, to be spoken to in a way they can easily understand, to receive clear and easily understandable communications from the IRS, and to have a way to file complaints about inadequate service.

3. The Right to Pay No More than the Correct Amount of Tax 3. The Right to Pay No More than the Correct Amount of Tax

Taxpayers have the right to pay only the amount of tax legally due and to have the IRS apply all tax payments properly.

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4. The Right to Challenge the IRSís Position and Be Heard 4. The Right to Challenge the IRSís Position and Be Heard

Taxpayers have the right to raise objections and provide additional documentation in response to IRS actions or proposed actions, to expect that the IRS will consider their objections and documentation promptly and impartially, and to receive a written response if the IRS finds them insufficient.

5. The Right to Appeal an IRS Decision in an Independent Forum 5. The Right to Appeal an IRS Decision in an Independent Forum

Taxpayers are entitled to a prompt and impartial administrative appeal of IRS actions and have the right to receive a written response explaining the Appeals Divisionís decision. Taxpayers generally have the right to take their cases to court to challenge an adverse final determination.

6. The Right to Finality 6. The Right to Finality

Taxpayers have the right to know the maximum amount of time they have to challenge the IRSís position as well as the maximum amount of time the IRS has to audit a particular tax year. Taxpayers have the right to know when the IRS has finished an audit.

7. The Right to Privacy 7. The Right to Privacy

Taxpayers have the right to expect that any IRS inquiry, examination or enforcement action will comply with the law and be no more intrusive than necessary, and will respect all due process rights, including search and seizure protections and a collection due process hearing where applicable.

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8. The Right to Confidentiality 8. The Right to Confidentiality

Taxpayers have the right to expect that any information they provide to the IRS will not be disclosed unless authorized by the taxpayer or by law. Taxpayers have the right to expect the IRS to investigate and take appropriate action against its employees, return preparers, and others who wrongfully use or disclose taxpayer return information.

9. The Right to Retain Representation 9. The Right to Retain Representation

Taxpayers have the right to retain an authorized representative of their choice to represent them in their dealings with the IRS. Taxpayers have the right to be told that if they cannot afford to hire a representative they may be eligible for assistance from a Low Income Taxpayer Clinic.

10. The Right to a Fair and Just Tax System, Including Access to the Taxpayer Advocate Service 10. The Right to a Fair and Just Tax System, Including Access to the Taxpayer Advocate Service

Taxpayers have the right to expect the tax system to consider facts and circumstances that might affect their underlying liabilities, ability to pay, or ability to provide information timely. Taxpayers have the right to receive assistance from the Taxpayer Advocate Service if they are experiencing financial difficulty or if the IRS has not resolved their tax issues properly and timely through its normal channels.

Five Taxpayer Responsibilities1. The Responsibility to Be Honest Five Taxpayer Responsibilities

1. The Responsibility to Be Honest

Taxpayers have the responsibility to be truthful in preparing their tax returns and in all other dealings with the IRS.

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2. The Responsibility to Provide Accurate Information 2. The Responsibility to Provide Accurate Information

Taxpayers have the responsibility to answer all relevant questions completely and honestly, to provide all required information on a timely basis, and to explain all relevant facts and circumstances when seeking guidance from the IRS.

3. The Responsibility to Keep Records 3. The Responsibility to Keep Records

Taxpayers have the responsibility to maintain adequate books and records to fulfill their tax obligations, preserve them during the time they may be subject to IRS inspection, and provide the IRS with access to those books and records when asked so the IRS can examine their tax liabilities to the extent required by law.

4. The Responsibility to Pay Taxes on Time 4. The Responsibility to Pay Taxes on Time

Taxpayers have the responsibility to pay the full amount of taxes they owe by the due date and to pay any legally correct additional assessments in full. If they cannot pay in full, they have the responsibility to comply with all terms of any full or partial payment plans the IRS agrees to accept.

5. The Responsibility to Be Courteous 5. The Responsibility to Be Courteous

Taxpayers have the responsibility to treat IRS personnel politely and with respect.

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