Understanding taxpayer rights: The right to retain representation

Taxpayers have the right to retain an authorized representative of their choice to represent them in their dealings with the IRS. Taxpayers have the right to seek assistance from a Low Income Taxpayer Clinic if they cannot afford representation. This is one of the fundamental rights of all taxpayers as outlined in the Taxpayer Bill of Rights.

Here's what the right to retain representation means to taxpayers:

• Taxpayers have the right to retain an authorized representative of their choice to represent them in their dealings with the IRS.
• Taxpayers who are heading to an interview with the IRS may select someone to represent them.
• Taxpayers who retain representation don't have to attend with their representative unless the IRS formally summons them to appear.
• In most situations, the IRS must suspend an interview if the taxpayer requests to consult with a representative, such as an attorney, certified public accountant or enrolled agent.
• Any attorney, CPA, enrolled agent, enrolled actuary or other person permitted to represent a taxpayer before the IRS, who's not disbarred or suspended from practice before the IRS, may submit a written power of attorney to represent a taxpayer before the IRS.
• Taxpayers have the right to seek assistance from a Low Income Taxpayer Clinic if they can't afford representation. They can find a LITC near them by visiting the Low Income Taxpayer Clinics page on IRS.gov or by calling the IRS toll-free at 800-829-3676.

Low-Income Taxpayer Clinics are independent from the IRS and the Taxpayer Advocate Service. These clinics may charge a small fee to represent individuals whose income is below a certain level and who need to resolve tax problems with the IRS. LITCs can represent taxpayers in audits, appeals and tax collection disputes before the IRS and in court. In addition, LITCs can provide information about taxpayer rights and responsibilities in different languages for individuals who speak English as a second language.

More Information:
Publication 1, Your Rights as a Taxpayer
Publication 4134, Low Income Taxpayer Clinic List 
Taxpayer Advocate Service

All taxpayers have the right to privacy – it’s the law

One of the IRS's top priorities is protecting the privacy rights of America's taxpayers. The agency takes this so seriously that the right to privacy is one of ten rights the Taxpayer Bill of Rights gives all taxpayers.

Taxpayers have the right to expect that any IRS inquiry, audit or enforcement action will comply with the law and be no more intrusive than necessary. Taxpayers can also expect that the IRS will respect all due process rights, including search and seizure protections and provide a collection due process hearing when appropriate.

Here are a few more details about what a taxpayer's right to privacy means:

  • The IRS cannot seize certain personal items, such as schoolbooks, clothing and undelivered mail.

  • The IRS cannot seize a personal residence without first getting court approval, and the agency must show there is no reasonable alternative for collecting the tax debt.

  • Sometimes, taxpayers submit offers to settle their tax debt that relate only to how much they owe. This is formally known as a Doubt as to Liability Offer in Compromise. Taxpayers who make this offer do not need to submit any financial documentation.

  • During an audit, if the IRS finds no reasonable indication that a taxpayer has no unreported income, the agency will not seek intrusive and extraneous information about the taxpayer's lifestyle.

  • A taxpayer can expect that the IRS's collection actions are no more intrusive than necessary. During a collection due process hearing, the Office of Appeals must balance that expectation with the IRS's proposed collection action and the overall need for efficient tax collection.

More information:

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