Tax Rights

 

Taxpayer rights and responsibilities

"Your Rights as a Taxpayer" has the honor of being Internal Revenue Service Publication 1.

But just giving a topic that exalted number-one ranking is not enough says the woman in charge of making sure the IRS does the best possible job.

National Taxpayer Advocate Nina E. Olson wants Congress to codify a Taxpayer Bill of Rights that would clearly list the major rights and responsibilities of taxpayers.

"The U.S. tax system is based on a social contract between the government and its taxpayers," wrote Olson in her 2011 Annual Report to Congress. "Taxpayers agree to report and pay the taxes they owe and the government agrees to provide the service and oversight necessary to ensure that taxpayers can and will do so."

Part of the problem, Olson said in her report, is that even though Congress has enacted three significant taxpayer rights' bills in the last two decades, most taxpayers don't know what their rights are.

 

"I believe taxpayers and tax administration will benefit from an explicit statement of what taxpayers have a right to expect from their government and what the government has a right to expect from its taxpayers," Olson told Congress.

10 tips

 

 

10 Taxpayer Rights: In her report, Olson would like for Congress to organize taxpayer rights under 10 broad principles.

 

They are:

  1. The right to be informed.
  2. The right to be assisted.
  3. The right to be heard.
  4. The right to pay no more than 
    the correct amount of tax.
  5. The right of appeal.
  6. The right to certainty.
  7. The right to privacy.
  8. The right to confidentiality.
  9. The right to representation.
  10. The right to a fair and just tax system.

Potential stumbling blocks: Numbers six and 10 are going to take some major work by Representatives and Senators.

Certainty in the tax code is a persistent problem thanks to a Congress that changes tax laws, or lets them lapse and then reinstates them (sometimes), well beyond any logical time frame.

Remember the estate tax? By the way, the current law is facing expiration again in just over 11 months.

And this year we also have a slew of tax breaks that expired at the end of 2011. (Yes, I'm working on a story and blog posts on these gone-for-now tax laws.)

As for tax fairness, that's a debate that's not likely to ever end.

Even before Occupy Wall Street tents started popping up in public parks, there was outrage over reports of big businesses benefiting greatly from the arcane twists in the tax code.

Was anyone really surprised?

Those firms can afford to hire lobbyists and/or belong to trade groups that spend lots of time and money on Capitol Hill. That guarantees the various business communities influence legislators as they craft tax breaks.

The issue of tax fairness and a more just tax system will continue to be a major topic in the 2012 presidential campaign. But don't expect any substantive changes until well after the November votes are tallied ... if then.

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