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What are my rights as a taxpayer?

Dealing with the IRS can be a complicated and involved process. Know your rights as a taxpayer to make the process a little easier. The IRS has adopted a “Taxpayer Bill of Rights,” (see As a taxpayer, you have:

1. The Right to Be Informed. You have the right to know how to follow the tax laws. You are entitled to clear explanations of the law. Anytime you receive a notice from the IRS, the agency must explain its reason for contacting you. If you have questions, call the number located at the top right corner of most notices.

2. The Right to Quality Service. You have the right to prompt and professional assistance when dealing with the IRS. The people you speak with should be respectful, and help you understand the information they provide to you. You have the right to file a complaint for poor service. First, ask to speak with a supervisor.

3. The Right to Pay No More than the Correct Amount of Tax. You have the right to only pay what is legally owed. You can schedule an appointment with your local Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) site to have your tax returns done by a professional free of charge.

4. The Right to Challenge the IRS and Be Heard. You have the right to disagree with the IRS and to submit documents that support your side. You have the right to receive a quick and fair response from the IRS. You can expect to get a reply from the IRS within 30 days.

5. The Right to Appeal an IRS Decision. You have the right to appeal most IRS decisions when you disagree. You have the right to take your tax case to court.

6. The Right to Finality. You have the right to know how much time you have to challenge the IRS. You have the right to know how much time the IRS is allowed to take to audit a particular tax year and when an audit is complete. In most cases, the IRS can audit the past 3 years of tax returns. In the case of more substantial errors, the IRS can go back 6 years. You should keep at least the last 6 years of tax returns for your records.

7. The Right to Privacy. You have the right to expect that any IRS action will comply with the law and will only be as intrusive as necessary. The IRS will also respect all other rights you are owed.

8. The Right to Confidentiality. You have the right to expect that any information you provide will not be given to anyone without your permission or unless required by law. Only after you sign a release form can your information be shared.

9. The Right to Retain Representation. You have the right to hire a lawyer when dealing with the IRS. You also have the right to know that if you cannot afford a lawyer you may be eligible for assistance from a Low Income Taxpayer Clinic.

10. The Right to a Fair and Just Tax System. You have the right to expect the tax system to consider all facts and circumstances that might affect your ability to pay.

For more information about how these rights apply to you, visit


This article was written by John Sayers and appeared in The Alert: Volume 31, Issue 2. Click here to read a full PDF of this issue!

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