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What is a Taxpayer Bill of Rights?

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  • Written By: Christopher John
  • Edited By: R. Halprin
  • Last Modified Date: 07 September 2016
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The Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TABOR) is a U.S. law that provides taxpayers with specific legalities when dealing with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). These rights include assistance from a taxpayer advocate, a requirement that the IRS provide notice to taxpayers of any intent to modify an installment agreement, the right to stop an IRS audit temporarily, and various others. Some U.S. states have also enacted taxpayer bill of rights statutes that provide similar protections to people dealing with state tax-collecting agencies. 

The federal Taxpayer Bill of Rights establishes a position called a taxpayer advocate. A person can request assistance from the taxpayer advocate through the Taxpayer Advocate Service (TAS). The TAS is an independent office and provides help to individual taxpayers and business entities dealing with the IRS. The Taxpayer Bill of Rights empowered a taxpayer advocate to issue Taxpayer Assistance Orders (TAOs). A taxpayer advocate can issue a TAO to stop the IRS from taking certain types of actions against a taxpayer such as seizing property and in some cases an order to return property already seized.

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A taxpayer that cannot afford to pay taxes in a lump sum can set up a payment plan through an installment agreement. The IRS must consider any reasonable proposed installment agreement. The IRS, however, is not required to accept the proposal. If an installment agreement is established, the Taxpayer Bill of Rights requires the IRS to provide a taxpayer with 30 days notice of any intent to modify or terminate the agreement. The IRS must provide an explanation to the taxpayer of why it intends on taking such action, and a taxpayer has the right to request an independent review of the action. 

TABOR allows a taxpayer to temporarily stop an IRS audit or any other meeting with an IRS official to obtain professional advice. The taxpayer can seek assistance from a lawyer, a certified public accountant, or an enrolled agent. An enrolled agent is a person licensed to represent people before the IRS. The Taxpayer Bill of Rights also prohibits the IRS from requiring meetings at a person’s place of business. The IRS, however, may visit a taxpayer’s business to determine whether certain items of equipment or inventory exist. 

IRS Publication 1, Your Rights as a Taxpayer, contains an explanation of additional protections and rights under the Taxpayer Bill of Rights. The IRS is required to provide this publication to taxpayers when it first notifies a taxpayer of delinquent taxes. The IRS, however, is not required to provide the publication to taxpayers when it initiates an audit process. Taxpayers may obtain a copy of IRS Publication 1 from the IRS website.

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