I have always been told since I was a kid that there are two absolute givens in this world we call the United States- that death and taxes are imminent. Washington’s Department of Revenue (WDOR) evidently understands this imminent concept of death and taxes also. On their website, they not only talk about a taxpayer’s rights, but under the same category and breath, they talk about your responsibilities to pay your taxes. By doing so, Washington implicitly reminds us that death and taxes are imminent.
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. Not to be confused with the TABOR laws of Colorado which limits government growth by tying the tax revenues to inflation and population increases, many state legislatures have taken the bull by the horn and passed Taxpayer Bill of Rights laws. These laws actually protect the taxpayer from unscrupulous collection activities of the state. Other states have allowed their Department of Revenue 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.
Washington begins their taxpayer rights and responsibility section by stating, “Whether you are a business owner, homeowner, nonprofit organization, or individual consumer, you are also a Washington State taxpayer with specific rights and responsibilities. As a taxpayer, it is important to understand the laws regarding your rights and your responsibilities. By understanding your responsibilities, you can better comply with your tax obligations and avoid mistakes. By understanding your rights, you will be
able to ensure that they are upheld. This brochure will help you learn about both, and the many taxpayer services” To the WDOR’s credit, they do not try to pass their rights and responsibility brochure off as some kind of Taxpayer’s Bill or Rights. It is a whole lot more than just a legislative bill passed as your taxpayer rights. Nevertheless, here is a quick list of the taxpayer rights they do include in the brochure. You have the right to:
- a simple and prompt administrative process for tax refunds and credits.
- timely, fair and equitable treatment with dignity and respect.
- accurate written information on reporting instructions, appeal procedures, refund claims and reasons for assessment.
- public hearings on proposed rules.
- remedies when statutes and rules are found to be unconstitutional.
- Confidentiality of financial and business information.
The list of rights in the brochure is not conclusive by any stretch of the imagination, and yes, the WDOR made it plain to me with what they included about responsibilities that death and taxes are imminent. They told me it was my responsibility to imminently pay my taxes. What I am most disappointed about the WDOR brochure is that it did not cover one of the primary and most important rights you enjoy, the right to be represented before the taxing entities. When dealing with federal authorities, you have that right. As listed on the Internal Revenue Service Website, you, as a United States taxpayer have the right to:
- be treated professionally, fairly, promptly, and courteously by IRS employees and Private Collection Agencies contacting you on behalf of the IRS;
- disagree with your tax bill;
- meet with an IRS manager if you disagree with the IRS employee who handled your tax case;
- appeal most IRS collection actions;
- have your case transferred to a different IRS office if you have a valid reason;
- be represented by someone when dealing with IRS matters; and receive a receipt for any payments you make.
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 area of Tacoma, Washington, and you have been faced with a taxing dilemma, contact us today so that we can help you find a tax lawyer in your area who will be able to help you answer all the questions you may have about tax law.