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Are individuals aware of their rights during IRS questioning?

Responding to questions from the Internal Revenue Service can be intimidating. Even a minor federal income tax controversy or alleged tax underpayment may raise fears of tax penalties, an IRS tax audit or even criminal tax fraud charges. 

Although such fears may be extreme, our law office recommends that an individual contact a tax law attorney at the outset of any questioning from the IRS. Many individuals may not understand that there are both administrative and judicial processes by which they can defend against IRS allegations. In addition, there are many resolutions that can be achieved outside of the courtroom, regardless of whether the issue is a tax lien, tax levy, or other collection activity

Yet in order to utilize a taxpayer’s full spectrum of legal rights, one must be aware of those rights. In fact, readers may not even realize that the IRS has adopted a so-called Taxpayer Bill of Rights. Although the document can be found on the IRS’ website, it does not carry the same weight as a federal law or regulation. In other words, the document itself does not create a right of legal enforcement. 

Readers may recall that the IRS came under scrutiny two years ago for improper scrutiny of some conservative organizations seeking tax-exempt applications. Two federal lawmakers apparently share a continued concern about the IRS overstepping its authority, as they recently called for enhancements to taxpayers' rights.

The proposed legislation, called the Taxpayer Bill of Rights Enhancement Act of 2015, would beef up the consequences for improper IRS collection activities, as well as impose an affirmative obligation on the IRS commissioner to ensure that all of the agency’s employees honor existing taxpayer protections. In addition, the proposal would create a new cause of action, allowing taxpayers to sue the IRS for unauthorized collection actions.

Source: Accounting Web, “GOP Senators Introduce Bill to Create New Taxpayer Protections,” Jason Bramwell, June 22, 2015

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