When the IRS is breathing down your neck, it may feel like you have no choice but to just roll over and take whatever they dish out.

But here’s the thing… You actually have an extensive set of tax rights, guaranteed by law, when dealing with the IRS. 

They’re pretty extensive, too.

And it’s important for every Long Island taxpayer to know this, whether you owe the IRS or not. Of course, exercising your tax rights starts by knowing what they actually are. You can find them here: IRS Publication 1

So … What do they actually mean?

Today, we’ll dive into the first five tax rights and explain them in everyday language. (Be on the lookout for #6-10 in the next installment.) Here we go.

Tax Right #1: The Right to Be Informed

The IRS is not supposed to be a black box that just cranks out tax bills and takes your money. As a taxpayer, you have the right to know what’s going on with your tax matters, and the IRS is required to communicate with you in a clear, plain English manner about what you need to do and when.

Through legislation, Congress has mandated that the IRS simplify tax forms, instructions, and letters. This is obviously a tall order with something as complex as tax law, but if the IRS expects people to actually comply with those laws, the means to do so needs to be as clear as it possibly can be.

If you’re having an issue with the IRS, such as a tax debt or audit, they must clearly explain what they’re doing and why. They also need to explain what your options are and what they expect of you. Over the past 20 years, IRS notices have become progressively easier to read and understand. When you receive any letter from the IRS, don’t throw it away as it contains valuable information.

Tax Right #2: The Right to Quality Service

In an era of looooong hold times with the IRS, this one might sound like a joke. But really, it’s what they’re supposed to do. When you actually do speak to somebody at the IRS, they’re supposed to be professional and courteous, while explaining your options and requirements as simply as possible.

The IRS is not allowed to threaten or harass you in an aggressive manner. If you receive such a call from somebody claiming to be the IRS, be forewarned that it’s probably a scam call, not actually the IRS.

What’s also interesting about this one is that if you’re not receiving “quality service,” then you have the right to speak to any IRS employee’s immediate supervisor. This ability to escalate issues can come in handy when trying to get things done.

Tax Right #3: The Right to Pay No More than the Correct Amount of Tax

This one sounds pretty straightforward, but with the IRS juggling over 200 million different tax accounts, mistakes are unfortunately bound to happen. You have the right to have mistakes corrected and receive refunds when you are charged too much in tax, penalties, or interest.

The IRS has certain legal deadlines they must adhere to in regard to many tax matters. These deadlines are not negotiable — they are the law — and if the IRS tries to waffle on one of them, you have the right for that to be corrected. These deadlines can have a significant impact on what you’re billed by the government, so they’re worth paying attention to.

Tax Right #4: The Right to Challenge the IRS’s Position and Be Heard

Your government is not infallible. Shocking, I know — but it’s true. Sometimes the IRS screws up, and when they do, you should bring it to their attention … and they are required to hear you out.

From simple math errors on their part to incorrect assumptions during an audit to the improper garnishment of your wages, the IRS does make mistakes. Most of them are genuinely just that — mistakes — not malicious attacks that you should take personally. But their mistakes can have serious repercussions for Suffolk County taxpayers, and so the IRS needs to be held accountable, and you have the right to do just that.

If something the IRS sends you or does to you just doesn’t feel right, question it. Seek further explanation, and don’t rest until the numbers and the actions are correct.

Tax Right #5: The Right to Appeal an IRS Decision in an Independent Forum

Many of the actions the IRS takes against you personally, such as audits and collection actions when you owe them money, can be appealed to the independent IRS Office of Appeals. If you can’t get things resolved there, most (not all) issues can be taken to Tax Court, where you’ll have an opportunity to make your case to a judge.

Understand that many front-line IRS employees are grinding through dozens, if not hundreds, of taxpayer accounts at a time. They’re actually under a lot of stress and a huge workload these days, so it may feel as if they’re just trying to push your situation out the door sometimes. That doesn’t mean they get to railroad you, though, so be on the lookout for appeals opportunities, and take advantage of them to ensure that you are heard.


Ultimately, remember that the IRS isn’t “out to get you.” They have to play by the rules and will be very upfront with you. 

But sometimes they can be persistent in going after what they want. So, if you’re facing an IRS issue and want to make sure that your tax rights are protected, let’s have a chat:

We’ve got you covered…

Frantz Pierre-Louis