The 2022 filing season in the US promises to be most challenging for taxpayers and the IRS alike. The IRS is starting the filing season with a backlog of almost 12 million unprocessed 2020 individual and business tax returns and almost a half million unprocessed pieces of general taxpayer correspondence. All of this needs to be manually processed by IRS employees.
The combination of pandemic-related legislation and working conditions, declining taxpayer service funding, and IRS antiquated technology and procedures all have led us to this situation. Make no mistake – this situation did not happen overnight. Like an iceberg, it has been growing underwater for over a decade.
Every year, IRS systems stop tens of millions of returns because of inconsistencies, errors, suspicion of refund fraud or identity theft. Each of these returns must be manually processed by an IRS employee. Many of them will result in requests for additional information. The IRS may end up increasing a taxpayer’s tax due or reducing the refund.
What are taxpayers, their representatives, and preparers to do when their returns are held up or questioned? The LITC Support Center has pulled together a series of “fact sheets” to help taxpayers navigate the problems they may face in trying to file their returns and receive the tax benefits to which they are entitled.
Step 1: Know Your Rights
Congress has enacted the Taxpayer Bill of Rights (TBOR). The IRS is required to ensure IRS employees are trained in and adhere to all the rights in the Internal Revenue Code, including:
The right to be informed;
The right to quality service;
The right to pay no more than the correct amount of tax;
The right to challenge the IRS's position and be heard;
The right to appeal an IRS decision in an independent forum;
The right to finality;
The right to privacy;
The right to confidentiality;
The right to retain representation; and
The right to a fair and just tax system.
Here are some good resources to learn about your rights:
Taxpayer Roadmap - This page lets you enter the number of various notices the IRS sends you; it will show you where you are on the Taxpayer Roadmap, explain the notice, and suggest actions you should take to solve the problem.
Taxpayer Advocate Service Taxpayer Bill of Rights - This page explains what each of the 10 rights in the TBOR actually mean to you and how you can use them.
Step 2: Use Your Rights
Once you know your rights, you can advocate for yourself. If you disagree with a change the IRS has made on your return, you have the right to challenge the IRS and be heard. (This filing season it may take a while to be heard, but don’t be afraid to speak up!)
The LITC Support Center has created some “Know Your Rights” fact sheets to help you navigate the filing and dispute process. You can access them below:
You don’t have to do this alone. Qualified tax professionals – attorneys, CPAs, and Enrolled Agents – can represent you before the IRS. If you can’t afford to pay a representative, you may be able to get free help from a Low Income Taxpayer Clinic (LITC). LITCs help low income taxpayers in tax disputes with the IRS and with some state tax agencies. If they take your case, your lawyer will deal with the IRS for you. Click here to find an LITC for your state or city.
If your problem with the IRS is causing economic burden or you’ve tried to resolve it with no success, you can also seek help from the Taxpayer Advocate Service, a part of the IRS that helps taxpayers solve their problems with the IRS. The Taxpayer Advocate Service is free; if they take your case, they will give you a case advocate who will work directly with you.
If you speak English as a Second Language, don’t despair. The IRS has bilingual Spanish-speaking employees; you can ask to speak with one of them. The IRS also has an interpreter service in many languages; when you call the IRS you can ask to have a call set up with that service so they can translate for you and the IRS. Also, you can ask the IRS to send you notices in one of 20 different languages by filing Schedule LEP with your income tax return.
Remember: You have the right to challenge the IRS and be heard.
To be your own best advocate:
Keep a copy of your tax return; if you use a preparer, they are required by law to give you a copy of your return, signed by the preparer.
Save all notices the IRS sends you.
Keep copies of everything you send to the IRS.
Take notes when you speak to the IRS, including the employee’s name and badge number.
Be patient and keep trying. The IRS phones lines are very busy, but don’t give up!
Seek help. You are not alone. Call your LITC or local taxpayer advocate.