Taxpayer Advocate Service: Your Voice at the IRS

National Taxpayer Advocate Annual Report to Congress

IRS Should Adopt a Taxpayer Bill of Rights

IRS Should Adopt a Taxpayer Bill of Rights

The U.S. tax system is built on voluntary compliance. Voluntary compliance is much cheaper than enforced compliance, because the government does not have to spend money to collect amounts that are voluntarily paid. Taxpayer rights are central to voluntary compliance. If taxpayers believe they can be treated in an arbitrary and capricious manner, they will mistrust the tax system and be less likely to comply with the laws voluntarily. If taxpayers have confidence in the fairness and integrity of the tax system, they will be more likely to comply. 

There are dozens of discrete taxpayer rights scattered throughout the Internal Revenue Code, but they are not organized or presented in a coherent way. Just as the U.S. Constitution’s Bill of Rights is organized and presented in a manner that U.S. citizens and the government itself can understand and respect, a Taxpayer Bill of Rights would serve the same function in the realm of taxation. A thematic, principle-based list of core taxpayer rights would serve as an organizing principle for tax administrators in establishing agency goals and performance measures, provide foundational principles to guide IRS employees in their dealings with taxpayers, and provide information to taxpayers to assist them in their dealings with the IRS.


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The National Taxpayer Advocate recommends that the IRS adopt and promote a Taxpayer Bill of Rights, and actively apply its principles to all IRS strategic planning, compliance and taxpayer service activities, and to outreach and education. Doing so will ensure taxpayers know their rights, enable them to avail themselves of those rights, and restore trust in the tax system.