Last week, the Internal Revenue Service adopted what it is calling the “Taxpayer Bill of Rights.” The themes found in the list exist throughout the tax code created by Congress. Essentially, the IRS has grouped all of these into a single document and adopted them as a guide for their treatment of taxpayers. This is a major step forward for this agency that gets so much bad press. The pendulum continues to swing back and forth between better service and better enforcement which seem to be mutually exclusive. Heavy-handed collection techniques and policies get bad press and funding cuts which leads to weaker policies and better customer service. I’m not sure why the agency can’t do both. Whatever the case, the National Taxpayer Advocate office has been calling for this for several years. If you have any dealings with the IRS, it will be interesting to see how quickly their training actually makes it down through the levels and out to the common taxpayer.
The list adopted by the IRS follows:
The tax code includes numerous taxpayer rights, but they are scattered throughout the code, making it difficult for people to track and understand. Similar to the U.S. Constitution’s Bill of Rights, the Taxpayer Bill of Rights contains 10 provisions. They are:
- The Right to Be Informed
- The Right to Quality Service
- The Right to Pay No More than the Correct Amount of Tax
- The Right to Challenge the IRS’s Position and Be Heard
- The Right to Appeal an IRS Decision in an Independent Forum
- The Right to Finality
- The Right to Privacy
- The Right to Confidentiality
- The Right to Retain Representation
- The Right to a Fair and Just Tax System
All of these positions will be published and posted with new posters in the coming months in IRS offices. An official document of these can be found here. It seems ironic that the government agency that most citizens are affected by the most has a parallel list of rights outside of the original Bill of Rights. On a side note, remember that the tax laws are not written by the IRS. Voters elect members of Congress who serve on committees to write the tax laws. If you are concerned with or disagree with a tax or a law, it does no good to get mad at the IRS. It does make more sense to go on record with a quick letter, email or phone call to your elected official explaining what you would like to have changed. If more people got involved with the tax system in this way, I think the kinds of laws that are passed would be a little different.