Americans have a new “Taxpayer Bill of Rights,” thanks partly to a visit this spring by the new IRS chief to the agency’s Ogden service center and its sister facilities.
IRS Commissioner John Koskinen said Tuesday that talking to employees in Utah and elsewhere on his recent tour convinced him that the workers are focused on helping taxpayers, but “we need to do a better job of communicating how deeply we respect those rights.”
So he unveiled the new Taxpayer Bill of Rights. It says taxpayers have the right to be informed, have quality service, pay only what they owe, challenge the IRS, appeal its decisions, retain representation, and maintain rights to privacy and confidentiality.
Koskinen noted the rights already are contained in the tax code. “But if you’ve ever read a section of the tax code, you can understand how these rights are not easy to find or understand,” he said in a teleconference.
Nina Olson, the independent IRS taxpayer advocate, said her office has recommended such a move since 2007, and it was her top recommendation last year.
Amid a scandal over the IRS targeting the tax-exempt status of conservative and other groups during the past election, the U.S. House last year passed a bill seeking a similar Taxpayer Bill of Rights. However, the Senate has not acted on it.
Koskinen said the timing of his action is not related to the ongoing investigations in Congress, but does coincide with the peak season when the IRS is asking taxpayers questions about their recently filed returns. He said anyone questioned by the IRS will receive a copy of the Bill.
Olson hailed the move, and said, “If you don’t know what your rights are, you will never avail yourself of those rights and things will happen to you.”
She said a survey conducted by her office found most taxpayers believed they had no rights in dealing with the IRS, and only 11 percent knew what their rights were.
“An educated consumer,” she added, “is actually the most protected tax consumer.”
The rights 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’ position and be heard.
• The right to appeal an IRS decision in an independent forum.
• The right to finality (and not leave decisions hanging).
• The right to privacy.
• The right to confidentiality.
• The right to retain representation.
• The right to a fair and just tax system.