Share This Page

Taxpayers to be reminded of rights, courtesy of IRS

| Wednesday, June 11, 2014, 12:01 a.m.

WASHINGTON — The Internal Revenue Service is publicizing a “Bill of Rights” for taxpayers, including the right to quality service, the right to confidentiality and the right to a fair and just tax system, IRS Commissioner John Koskinen announced on Tuesday.

Koskinen acknowledged that none of the 10 rights is new. All are buried somewhere in the thick pages of the federal tax code.

But going forward, the IRS will post the rights at IRS offices and include an explanation of each one when the agency contacts taxpayers by mail. Koskinen said the list will be included in about 30 million mailings a year.

Koskinen admitted there are problems.

The right to quality service says, “Taxpayers have the right to receive prompt, courteous and professional assistance in their dealings with the IRS.” But, Koskinen said, budget cuts have diminished the agency's ability to answer questions from taxpayers.

As for the right to a fair and just tax system? Koskinen said: “We do the best we can with the code we have.”

Koskinen took over the top IRS job in January, tasked with stabilizing an agency that had spent much of past year under siege. Several top officials, including the acting commissioner, were forced to resign last year because it was revealed that agents had improperly singled out conservative groups for extra scrutiny when they applied for tax-exempt status.

Koskinen said the latest initiative is designed to improve taxpayer confidence in the IRS and the law. But, he said, it was not prompted by the ongoing controversy.

“This was not something that I thought of in terms of those investigations,” he said.

Koskinen said he got the idea from Nina E. Olson, the national taxpayer advocate. Olson has been lobbying for the taxpayer Bill of Rights since 2007. She runs an independent office within the IRS.

“This is a real issue that has real impact on taxpayers,” Olson said. “If you don't know what your rights are, you will never avail yourself of those rights.”

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.