What the Taxpayer Bill of Rights Means for You
The Taxpayer Bill of Rights takes the rights that exist throughout the Internal Revenue Code (IRC), the IRS Restructuring and Reform Act of 1998 (RRA), and the Internal Revenue Manual (IRM) used by IRS employees and presents them in a clear and useful way. By looking at elements of the code and manuals that embody particular rights, you can see how your rights apply to specific situations you might encounter with the IRS.
A copy of the Internal Revenue Code is available online through The Legal Information Institute of Cornell University Law School.
The Right to Be Informed
- Certain notices must include the amount (if any) of the tax, interest, and certain penalties you owe and must explain why you owe these amounts. IRC § 7522
- All notices fully or partially disallowing your refund claim must explain the specific reasons why the claim is being disallowed. IRC § 6402(l)
- If the IRS proposes to assess tax against you, it must provide you in its initial letter, which allows for review by an Appeals officer, an explanation of the entire process from examination (audit) through collection and explain that the Taxpayer Advocate Service may be able to assist you. RRA § 3504
- Publication 5: Explanation of the appeals process; Publication 556: Explanation of the examination process; Publication 594: Explanation of the collection process
The Right to Quality Service
- IRS Mission Statement: Provide America's taxpayers top quality service by helping them understand and meet their tax responsibilities and enforce the law with integrity and fairness to all.
- When collecting tax, the IRS should treat you with courtesy. Generally, the IRS should only contact you between 8 a.m. and 9 p.m. The IRS should not contact you at your place of employment if the IRS knows or has reason to know that your employer does not allow such contacts. IRC § 6304
- Generally, you can speak to an employee’s supervisor if you have a problem. See, for example, IRM 188.8.131.52.
The Right to Pay No More than the Correct Amount of Tax
- If you believe you have overpaid your taxes, you can file a refund claim asking for the money back. IRC § 6402
- You can submit an offer in compromise of your tax debt asking the IRS to accept less than the full amount if you believe you do not owe all or part of the tax debt. Form 656-L: Offer in Compromise (Doubt as to Liability). IRC § 7122
The Right to Challenge the IRS's Position and Be Heard
- If you are notified by the IRS that your return has a mathematical or clerical error, you have 60 days to tell the IRS that you disagree. If the IRS is not persuaded, it will issue you a notice proposing a tax adjustment. The notice provides you with a right to challenge the proposed adjustment in Tax Court by filing a petition within 90 days of the date of the notice. IRC § 6213(b)
- Before the IRS takes enforcement action to collect a tax debt by levying, for example, your bank account, or immediately after the IRS files a notice of federal tax lien in the local county property records, the IRS must generally provide you with an opportunity for a hearing before an independent IRS Appeals officer, and if you disagree with Appeals’ determination, you can go to Tax Court. IRC §§ 6320, 6330
The Right to Appeal an IRS Decision in an Independent Forum
- The Commissioner must ensure an independent IRS Office of Appeals that is separate from the IRS Office that initially reviewed your case. Generally, Appeals will not discuss a case with the IRS to the extent that those communications appear to compromise the independence of Appeals. RRA 98 § 1001(a)(4) See Publication 4227, Overview of the Appeals Process.
- If the IRS has sent you a notice proposing additional tax (i.e., a Statutory Notice of Deficiency), you may dispute the proposed adjustment in the United States Tax Court before you have to pay the tax. IRC § 6213. For more information about the United States Tax Court, see the Court’s taxpayer information page.
- Generally, if you have fully paid the tax and your tax refund claim is denied or if no action is taken on the claim within six months, then you may file a refund suit in a United States District Court or the United States Court of Federal Claims. IRC § 7422
The Right to Finality
- The IRS generally has three years from the date your return was filed to assess the tax. There are some limited exceptions to the 3-year rule, however, including not filing a return or filing a fraudulent return. IRC § 6501
- The IRS generally has ten years from the assessment date to collect unpaid taxes from you. This ten-year period cannot be extended unless you are entering into an installment agreement or unless the IRS reduces the lien to a judgment. IRC § 6502
- If you believe you have overpaid your taxes, you can file a refund claim asking for the money back. Generally, you must file a refund claim within 3 years from the date you filed your original return or 2 years from the date you paid the tax, whichever is later. IRC § 6511
The Right to Privacy
- There are limits on the amount of wages that can be levied (seized) in order to collect tax that you owe. A portion of wages equivalent to the standard deduction combined with any deductions for personal exemptions is protected from levy. IRC § 6334
- The IRS cannot seize certain personal items, such as necessary schoolbooks, clothing, undelivered mail, and certain amounts of furniture and household items. Additionally, the IRS cannot seize your personal residence without first getting court approval. IRC § 6334
- The IRS should not seek intrusive and extraneous information about your lifestyle during an audit if there is no reasonable indication that you have unreported income. IRC § 7602(e)
- During a Collection Due Process hearing, an independent Appeals Officer must consider whether the IRS’s proposed collection action balances the overall need for efficient collection of taxes with your legitimate concern that the IRS’s collection actions are no more intrusive than necessary. IRC §§ 6320, 6330
The Right to Confidentiality
- In general, the IRS may not disclose your tax information to third parties unless you give us permission, e.g., you request that we disclose information in connection with a mortgage or student loan application. IRC § 6103
- In general, the IRS cannot contact third parties, e.g., your employer, neighbors, or bank, to obtain information about adjusting or collecting your tax liability unless it provides you with reasonable notice in advance. IRC § 7602(c)
- If tax return preparers knowingly or recklessly disclose or use your tax information for any reason other than for tax preparation, they may be subject to criminal fines and prison. IRC § 7216
The Right to Representation
- You may select a person, such as an attorney, CPA, or enrolled agent to represent you in an interview with the IRS. The IRS cannot require that you attend with your representative. IRC § 7521(c)
- If your current income is below a certain level, you may ask a Low Income Taxpayer Clinic to represent you (for free or a minimal fee) in your tax dispute before the IRS or federal court. IRC § 7526
The Right to a Fair and Just Tax System
- If you cannot pay your tax debt in full and you meet certain conditions, you can enter into a payment plan with the IRS where you pay a set amount over time, generally on a monthly basis. IRC § 6159 See the IRS Online Payment Agreement Application
- You can submit an offer in compromise asking the IRS to settle your tax debt for less than the full amount if you believe (1) you do not owe all or part of the tax debt, (2) if you are unable to pay all of the tax debt within the time permitted by law to collect, or (3) if paying it in full would cause you economic hardship or would be unjust. IRC § 7122
- The IRS has published a list of national and local guidelines covering the basic costs of living for use in considering a settlement offer reducing your tax debt. IRS employees cannot use these guidelines and will use your actual expenses if the guidelines would result in your not having enough money to pay your basic living expenses. IRC § 7122(d)(2)
- The IRS cannot levy (seize) all of your wages to collect your unpaid tax. A portion will be exempt from levy to allow you to pay basic living expenses. IRC § 6334
- You can receive help from the Taxpayer Advocate Service (TAS). IRC § 7803(c)