10 Rights You Should Have as a Taxpayer

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Believe it or not, you have a voice with the Internal Revenue Service. It may not be the loudest voice and it may sometimes get drowned out in the cacophony of bureaucracy that characterizes much of U.S. government, but it’s a voice nonetheless, and most of the time, it’s saying good things. The voice is called the Taxpayer Advocate Service, an independent office within the IRS that was created in 1996 set up to assist taxpayers in resolving problems with the IRS, as well as to identify problems with the tax system and propose solutions to those problems.

Over the years, responding to the sometimes abusive nature of the tax system and its agents, the Office of the Taxpayer Advocate has helped codify a taxpayer bill of rights. But the taxpayer bill of rights, currently in its third iteration, is nearly 150 pages long and prescribes the rights with characteristically dense verbiage that is difficult to decipher. “These rights are scattered throughout the Code and are not presented in a coherent way,” said the Taxpayer Advocate in its 2013 Annual Report to Congress. “Consequently, most taxpayers have no idea what their rights are and therefore often cannot take advantage of them.”

Case in point, the Taxpayer Advocate cites a survey it conducted in 2012 that revealed that less than half of U.S. taxpayers believed they had any rights before the IRS at all. Of those who did believe they had rights, only 11 percent said they know what those rights are.

Because of this, the Taxpayer Advocate has been pushing for a straightforward, thematic bill of rights, similar to the one amended to the U.S. Constitution. “The simplicity and clarity of a thematic Bill of Rights help Americans understand their rights in general terms, and this knowledge empowers them to assert their rights and learn the nuances when the need arises,” said the Taxpayer Advocate. “A thematic Taxpayer Bill of Rights would serve the same purpose and its value can scarcely be overstated.”

Codifying a taxpayer bill of rights would require congressional action, but the IRS could “articulate by adopting a TBOR on its own.” To that end, the Taxpayer Advocate has proposed 10 rights. Click through to see what they are.

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