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IRS Commissioner Says Taxpayers Have Rights

Monday, 16 June 2014 08:22 AM Current | Bio | Archive

IRS Commissioner John Koskinen announced a new Taxpayer Bill of Rights and stated that "respecting taxpayer's rights continues to be a top priority for IRS employees."

I bet you didn't know that your rights as a taxpayer are one of the IRS' top priorities. In fact, according to Nina Olson, the National Taxpayer Advocate for the IRS, "Taxpayer surveys conducted by my office have found that most taxpayers do not believe they have rights before the IRS and even fewer can name their rights."

There are, in fact, three previous laws, each one called the Taxpayer Bill of Rights — the Taxpayer Bill of Rights #1 (1988), the Taxpayer Bill of Rights #2 (1996) and the Taxpayer Bill of Rights #3 (1998).

Sounds confusing?

Of course it is. This is your federal tax law. Nothing done by Congress is intended to be fathomable by taxpayers. Or, for that matter, understandable by IRS employees.

There is nothing new in this new list of taxpayer rights. It is just a list of 10 aspirational concepts meant to educate taxpayers. At best, this is merely a symbolic gesture.

There are no new rights that do not already exist buried someplace in the tax code, and there are no new enforcement mechanisms to make sure that the IRS respects whatever rights a taxpayer may have.

Curiously, not mentioned in this public relations announcement are specific rights that taxpayers would find helpful. For example, the announcement doesn't state the right to make an audio recording of any interview or that the Taxpayer Advocate (previously named the IRS Ombudsman) can intervene in an enforcement action if the taxpayer is "suffering or about to suffer a significant hardship as the result of the manner in which the Internal Revenue Service are being administered."

What are the 10 core concepts that the IRS commissioner is touting as part of an effort to regain the taxpayer's trust in the tax system?

1. The Right to Be Informed. That is, somebody from the IRS is going to let you know you are in a world of hurt and that the process is going to be painful.

2. The Right to Quality Service. This should be interesting, since the National Taxpayer Advocate told Congress that the IRS is badly underfunded, undermanned and overburdened with a complex tax law that is incomprehensible under the best of circumstances.

3. The Right to Pay No More than the Correct Amount of Tax. A highly unlikely occurrence, since dealing with the IRS is an intense adversarial process where they are presumed to be correct and the taxpayer is presumed to be wrong. In other words, the game is rigged.

4. The Right to Challenge the IRS' Position and Be Heard. Basically, you can tell them you object to being robbed and they can tell you to stuff it.

5. The Right to Appeal an IRS Decision in an Independent Forum. This means you can take the case to the Office of Appeals, which is a part of the IRS, and even to the Tax Court, where the judges are either former IRS people or government prosecutors.

6. The Right to Finality. Even if you are dead, the IRS will go after your estate.

7. The Right to Privacy. The IRS will be only as intrusive as they want and will provide each taxpayer with the amount of due process as Congress has allowed in passing the tax statutes. Effectively, the taxpayer's will have more privacy in a hostile divorce than a tax audit.

8. The Right to Confidentiality. Think Lois Lerner or what it would be like appearing before Sen. Carl Levin's Subcommittee on Permanent Investigations.

9. The Right to Representation. At your own expense. Tax professionals do not come cheap.

10. The Right to a Fair and Just Tax System. Well, the United States doesn't have one. The taxpayers and the people working at the IRS are both made victims by Congress.

While I can appreciate the IRS commissioner's intentions in publicly expressing that taxpayers have rights, it is clearly a futile bureaucratic effort to try and rectify a tax system that is fundamentally and profoundly beyond all hope.

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IRS Commissioner John Koskinen announced a new Taxpayer Bill of Rights and stated that "respecting taxpayer's rights continues to be a top priority for IRS employees."
IRS, taxpayer, bill, right
Monday, 16 June 2014 08:22 AM
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