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Understanding your right to a tax appeal

If you are like countless other Americans, you may not realize that you have a legal right to appeal a decision of or tax assessment by the Internal Revenue Service. In fact, the ability to appeal an IRS decision in an independent forum is one of the fundamental provisions of the Taxpayer Bill of Rights, a collection of 10 privileges afforded taxpayers, including the rights to:

  1. Be informed
  2. Receive quality service
  3. Challenge the IRS's opinion
  4. File an appeal to an independent forum
  5. Receive finality
  6. Pay no more than the proper amount of tax assessed
  7. Have legal representation
  8. Keep proceedings private
  9. Maintain confidentiality
  10. Participate in a fair and just taxation system

Appeals

A key aspect of appeals of an IRS decision is that they are heard in an independent forum. This means that the office which assessed a tax or penalty will not be the same office deciding the appeal. Appeals are handled by a different branch office, and communication with the original office during an appeal is limited solely to the scope of the appeal.

Taxpayers can appeal most IRS decisions, including of penalties, tax assessments, denial of refunds and whether to accept credits and exemptions. Some appeals, such as those of "statutory notices of deficiency" (an IRS letter proposing an additional tax) can actually delay payment of taxes when done in conjunction with a tax court petition.  

Knowing when and how to appeal an IRS determination - or to move forward to tax court instead of continuing to negotiate directly with the IRS - can be tricky. Seeking the advice of an experienced tax attorney can help clear up and confusion and prevent you from inadvertently jeopardizing key rights while seeking to overturn an unfair IRS determination.

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