PREMIUM LEGAL RESOURCES
ASK A LAWYER
As a taxpayer, you have the right to be treated fairly, professionally,
promptly, and courteously by Internal Revenue Service employees. Our
goal at the IRS is to make sure that your rights are protected, so that
you will have the highest confidence in the integrity, efficiency, and
fairness of our tax system. To ensure that you always receive such
treatment, you should know about the many rights you have at each step of
the tax process.
Free Information and Help in Preparing Returns
You have the right to information and help in complying with the tax
laws. In addition to the basic instructions we provide with the tax
forms, we make available a great deal of other information.
Taxpayer publications. We publish over 100 free taxpayer information
publications on various subjects. One of these, Publication 910, Guide
to Free Tax Services, is a catalog of the free services we offer. You
can order these publications and any tax forms or instructions you need
by calling us toll-free at 1-800-424-FORM (3676).
Other assistance. We also provide walk-in tax help at many IRS offices,
and recorded telephone information on many topics (through our Tele-Tax
system). The telephone numbers for Tele-Tax, and the topics covered, are
in the tax forms instructions. We make many of our materials available
in Braille (at regional libraries for the handicapped) and in Spanish.
We provide assistance for the hearing impaired via special telephone
We have produced informational videotapes that you can borrow. In
addition, you may want to attend our educational programs for specific
groups of taxpayers, such as farmers and those with small businesses. In
cooperation with local volunteers, we offer free tax return preparation
assistance to low-income and elderly taxpayers through Volunteer Income
Tax Assistance (VITA) and Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) Programs.
You can get information on these programs by calling the toll-free
telephone number for your area listed at the end of this publication.
Copies of tax returns. If you need a copy of your tax return for an
earlier year, you can get one by filling out Form 4506, Request for Copy
of Tax Form, and paying a small fee.
However, you often only need certain information, such as the amount of
your reported income, the number of your exemptions, and the tax shown on
the return. You can get this information free if you write or visit an
IRS office, or call the toll-free number for your area listed at the end
of this publication.
If you have trouble clearing up any tax matter with the IRS through
normal channels, you can get special help from our Problem Resolution
Office, as explained later.
Privacy and Confidentiality
You have the right to have your personal and financial information kept
confidential. You also have the right to know why we are asking you for
information, exactly how any information you give will be used, and what
might happen if you do not give the information.
Information sharing. Under the law, we may share your tax information
with State tax agencies with which we have information exchange
agreements, the Department of Justice and other federal agencies under
strict legal guidelines, and certain foreign governments under tax treaty
Courtesy and Consideration
You are entitled to courteous and considerate treatment from IRS
employees at all times. If you ever feel that you are not being treated
with fairness, courtesy, and consideration by an IRS employee, you should
tell the employee's supervisor.
Payment of Only the Required Tax
You have the right to plan your business and personal finances in such a
way that you will pay the least tax that is due under the law. You are
liable only for the correct amount of tax. Our purpose is to apply the
law consistently and fairly to all taxpayers.
Fairness if Your Return is Examined
Most taxpayers' returns are accepted as filed. But if your return is
selected for examination, it does not suggest that you are dishonest.
The examination may or may not result in more tax. Your case may be
closed without change. Or, you may receive a refund.
Arranging the examination. Many examinations are handled entirely by
mail. For information on this, get Publication 1383, The Correspondence
Process (Income Tax Accounts), available free by calling 1-800-424-FORM
(3676). If we notify you that your examination is to be conducted
through a face-to-face interview, you have the right to ask that the
examination take place at a reasonable time and place that is convenient
for both you and the IRS. If the time or place suggested by the IRS is
not convenient, the examiner will try to work out something more
suitable. However, in any case, the IRS makes the final determination of
how, when and where the examination will take place.
Representation. Throughout the examination, you may represent yourself,
have someone else accompany you, or, with proper written authorization,
have someone represent you in your absence.
Recordings. You may make a sound recording of the examination if you
wish, provided you let the examiner know in advance so that he or she can
do the same.
Repeat examinations. We try to avoid repeat examinations of the same
items, but this sometimes happens. If we examined your tax return for
the same items in either of the 2 previous years and proposed no change
to your tax liability, please contact us as soon as possible so that we
can see if we should discontinue the repeat examination.
Explanation of changes. If we propose any changes to your return, we
will explain the reasons for the changes. It is important that you
understand the reasons for any proposed change. You should not hesitate
to ask about anything that is unclear to you.
Interest. You must pay interest on additional tax that you owe. The
interest is figured from the due date of the return. But if our error
caused a delay in your case, and this was grossly unfair, you may be
entitled to a reduction in the interest. Only delays caused by
procedural or mechanical acts that do not involve the exercise of
judgment or discretion qualify. If you think we caused such a delay,
please discuss it with the examiner and file a claim.
Business taxpayers. If you are in an individual business, the rights
covered in this publication generally apply to you. If you are a member
of a partnership or a shareholder in a small business corporation,
special rules (which may be different from those described here) may
apply to the examination of your partnership or corporation items. The
examination of partnership items is discussed in Publication 556,
Examination of Returns, Appeal Rights, and Claims for Refund. The rules
for regular corporations are covered in Publication 542, Tax Information
on Corporations. The rules for S corporations are described in
Publication 589, Tax Information on S Corporations. You can get these
publications free by calling us at 1-800-424-FORM (3676).
An Appeal of the Examination Findings
If you do not agree with the examiner's report, you may meet with the
examiner's supervisor to discuss your case further. If you still don't
agree with the examiner's findings, you have the right to appeal them.
The examiner will explain your appeal rights and will give you a copy of
Publication 5, Appeal Rights and Preparation of Protests for Unagreed
Cases. This publication explains your appeal rights in detail and tells
you exactly what to do if you want to appeal. You can get it by calling
us tollfree at 1-800-424-FORM (3676).
Appeals Office. You can appeal the findings of an examination within the
IRS through our Appeals Office. Most differences can be settled through
this appeals system without expensive and time-consuming court trials.
If the matter cannot be settled to your satisfaction in Appeals, you can
take your case to court.
Appeals to the courts. Depending on whether you first pay the disputed
tax, you can take your case to the U.S. Tax Court, the U.S. Claims
Court, or your U.S. District Court. These courts are entirely
independent of the IRS. As always, you can represent yourself or have
someone admitted to practice before the court represent you.
If you disagree about whether you owe additional tax, you generally have
the right to take your case to the Tax Court if you have not yet paid the
tax. Ordinarily, you have 90 days from the time we mail you a formal
notice (called a "notice of deficiency") telling you that you owe
additional tax to file a petition with the Tax Court.
If you have already paid the disputed tax in full and filed a claim
for refund for it that we disallowed (or on which we did not take
action within 6 months), then you may take your case to the U.S.
District Court or U.S. Claims Court.
Recovering litigation expenses. If the court agrees with you on most
issues in your case, and finds the IRS's position to be largely
unjustified, you may be able to recover some of your litigation expenses
from us. But to do this, you must have used up all the administrative
remedies available to you within the IRS, including going through our
Publication 556, Examination of Returns, Appeals Rights, and Claims
for Refund, will help you more fully understand your appeal rights.
You can get it free by calling us at 1-800-424-FORM (3676).
Fair Collection of Tax
Whenever you owe tax, we will send you a bill. Be sure to check any
bill you receive to make sure it is correct. You have the right to have
your bill adjusted if it is incorrect, so you should let us know about an
incorrect bill right away.
If we tell you that you owe tax because of a math or clerical error on
your return, you have the right to ask us to send you a formal notice (a
"notice of deficiency") so that you can dispute the tax, as discussed
earlier. You do not have to pay the additional tax when you ask us for
the formal notice, if you ask for it within 60 days of the time we tell
you of the error.
If the tax is correct, we will give you a specific period of time to pay
the bill in full. If you pay the bill within the time allowed, we will
not have to take any further action.
Payment arrangements. You should make every effort to pay your bill in
full. However, if you can't, you should pay as much as you can and
contact us right away. In order to make other payment arrangements with
you, we may ask you for a complete financial statement to determine how
you can pay the amount due. You may qualify for an installment agreement
based on your financial condition, or we may arrange for your employer to
deduct amounts from your pay to be sent to us. We will give you copies
of all agreements you make with us.
Only after we have tried to contact you and given you the chance to pay
any tax due voluntarily, do we take any enforcement action (such as
recording a tax lien, or levying on or seizing property). Therefore, it
is very important for you to respond right away to our attempts to
contact you (by mail, telephone, or personal visit). If you do not
respond, we may have no choice but to begin enforcement.
Release of liens. If we have to place a lien on your property (to secure
the amount of tax due), you can expect us to release the lien promptly
when you pay the tax and certain charges.
Property that is exempt from levy. If we must seize (levy on) your
property, you have the legal right to keep:
- A limited amount of personal belongings, clothing, furni ture, and
business or professional books and tools.
- Unemployment, worker's compensation, and certain pension benefits.
- Court-ordered child support payments.
- An amount of wages, salary, and other income ($75 per week, plus $25
for each legal dependent).
If at any time during the collection process you do not agree with the
collection employee, you can discuss your case with his or her
Access to your private premises. A court order is not generally needed
for a collection employee to seize your property. However, you don't
have to allow the employee access to your private premises, such as your
home or the non-public area of your business, if the employee does not
have court authorization to be there.
Withheld taxes. If we believe that you were responsible for seeing that
a corporation paid us income and social security taxes withheld from its
employees, and the taxes were not paid, we may look to you to personally
pay an amount based on the unpaid taxes. If you feel that you don't owe
this, you have the right to discuss the case with the collection
employee's supervisor. Also, you generally have the same IRS appeal
rights as other taxpayers. Because the Tax Court has no jurisdiction in
this situation, you must pay at least part of the withheld taxes and file
a claim for refund in order to take the matter to the U.S. District Court
or U.S. Claims Court.
Publication 586A, The Collection Process (Income Tax Accounts), and 594,
The Collection Process (Employment Tax Accounts), will help you
understand your rights during the collection process. You can get these
publications free by calling us at 1-800-424-FORM (3676).
The Collection Process
To stop the process at any stage, you should pay the tax in full. If you
cannot pay the tax in full, contact us right away to discuss possible
ways to pay the tax.
First notice and demand for unpaid tax.
10 days later.
Enforcement authority arises.
Up to 3 more notices sent over a period of time asking for payment.
Notice of intent to levy is sent by certified mail (final notice).
10 days later.
Enforcement action to collect the tax begins (lien, levy, seizure, etc.)
Refund of Overpaid Tax
Once you have paid all your tax, you have the right to file a claim for a
refund if you think the tax is incorrect. Generally, you have 3 years
from the date you filed the return or 2 years from the date you paid the
tax (whichever is later) to file a claim. If we examine your claim for
any reason, you have the same rights that you would have during an
examination of your return.
Interest on refunds. You will receive interest on any income tax refund
delayed more than 45 days after the later of either the date you filed
your return or the date your return was due.
Checking on your refund. Normally, you will receive your refund about
six weeks after you file your return. If you have not received your
refund in 8 weeks after mailing your return, you may check on it by
calling the toll-free Tele-Tax number in the tax forms instructions.
If your refund is reduced because of a debt you owe another Federal
agency or because you owe child support, we must notify you that this has
occurred. However, if you have a question about the debt that caused the
reduction, you should contact the other agency.
Cancellation of Penalties
You have the right to ask that certain penalties (but not interest) be
canceled (abated) if you can show reasonable cause for the failure that
led to the penalty (or can show that you exercised due diligence, if that
is the applicable standard for that penalty).
If you relied on wrong advice given to you by IRS employees on the
toll-free telephone system, we will cancel certain penalties that may
result. But you have to show that your reliance on the advice was
Special Help to Resolve Your Problems
We have a Problem Resolution Program for taxpayers who have been unable
to resolve their problems with the IRS. If you have a tax problem that
you cannot clear up through normal channels, write to the Problem
Resolution Office in the district or Service Center with which you have
the problem. You may also reach the Problem Resolution Office by calling
the IRS taxpayer assistance number listed in your phone book. If the tax
problem is causing or will cause you significant hardship, the Problem
Resolution Officer will arrange for an immediate review of your problem.
During the review, we will not take any enforcement action.
Brought to you by - The 'Lectric Law Library
The Net's Finest Legal Resource For Legal Pros & Laypeople Alike.