I do a lot of legal research, and I have been researching the state’s Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights. This movement, led by taxpayer protests and the state of Colorado in 1992, has gained momentum in recent years and many states have joined the bandwagon.
There are a lot different ways the states have approached the movement. Many state legislatures have taken the bull by the horn and passed Taxpayer Bill of Rights laws. Other states have allowed their Department of Revenue (DOR) write their legal policies and procedures when it comes to dealing with the state’s taxpayers. Some of these Bills of Rights are good, and frankly, some of them are, in my opinion, a downright insult to taxpayers. States, when dealing with the issue of our taxpayer rights, should deal with the single issue alone in a professional and non-condescending manner.
In New Jersey, they begin their Taxpayer Bill of Rights by stating the taxpayer’s right to know. They say, “as a taxpayer, you have the right to obtain information about:
- the tax implications of any situation or transaction
- your liability and how it was determined
- any notice you receive from the Division
- your responsibilities and rights”
So, I wonder if the New Jersey governing authorities think the sum total of your rights really is in your right to know. Certainly, there is power in knowledge, but is part of your rights the knowledge of your responsibilities? Or, is asking you to understand what the government thinks is your moral obligation a judgment that should be made by our taxing authorities? In other words, what do they mean when they say it is your right as a taxpayer to know your responsibilities?
The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines responsibilities as the quality of the state of being moral, legal, or mentally accountable. It also can mean something for which someone is responsible or has a burden. In my opinion, it is one thing to inform us of our rights as a taxpayer and quiet another to condescendingly expect us to act within some moral framework of the taxing authorities design and understanding that they hold us accountable. After all, isn’t the difference exactly why courts have come into existence?
What your rights should be as a taxpayer, is the right to be protected against unscrupulous collection activities from an overzealous state. Therefore, the onus of any taxpayer bill of rights should be pointed toward the state, not the taxpayer. I realize that it must be hard for taxing authorities to collect taxes, and I certainly believe it is not always pleasant or a nice job. Some people just do not want to pay.
The majority of us, I believe, really do not mind paying their fair share of taxes. Where the rub comes is in determining what is fair. Our tax laws should spell out what is fair in a way that is complete and cannot be misunderstood by the greatest majority of taxpayers.
If taxing authorities really have the taxpayers rights in mind, then it may be a good thing to consider when addressing a taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, they consider only how that taxpayer may be protected from the taxing authorities and the human errors they can make. We, as taxpayers, already know all too much what our responsibilities are when it comes to paying taxes. We simply pay.
The primary and most import right that both New Jersey and the federal government should include in their Taxpayer Bill of Rights is that you have the right to be represented before the taxing entities. Not all things will go right for every taxpayer faced with being audited, so, it is a good idea that you have a tax attorney to represent you.
If you live in or around the areas of the Middlesex, Somerset, and Hunterdon counties of New Jersey, and you have been faced with a taxing dilemma, contact us today and we will get you in touch with a tax lawyer in your area who will be able to help you answer all the questions you may have about tax law.