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Why you don't have to feel powerless against tax authorities

If you were to find a random letter from the Internal Revenue Service or Comptroller of Maryland in your mailbox, chances are good that you would experience a tremendous sinking sensation. Indeed, you'd probably be reluctant to open this unanticipated correspondence, fearful of whatever presumably bad news was contained on the pages within.

Why does any correspondence from federal or state tax officials evoke such a response? While some of it can obviously be attributed to the fear of being hit with a large tax bill or worse, at least some of it likely has to do with the feeling of powerlessness. Specifically, taxpayers feel they're outmatched and without rights.

As we've made clear on our blog, taxpayers are never outmatched when it comes to challenging tax-related issues. Furthermore, it's imperative for them to know that they do have clearly defined rights under both federal and state law.

Indeed, the Comptroller of Maryland has set forth a host of taxpayer rights as they relate to everything from audits to appeals.

General rights

  • The right to fair and courteous treatment
  • The right to clear and comprehensive instructions enabling legal compliance
  • The right to examine any and all records in possession of the Comptroller's office containing their personal information
  • The right to expect strict confidentiality of the entirety of tax records

Refunds  

  • The right to file a claim for a refund of individual income tax within two years of the payment date of the tax or three years of the filing date of the original return (whatever is later)
  • The right to file a claim for a refund of sales and use tax within four years of having paid
  • The right to prompt action on such claims

Audits

  • The right to have your tax return examined in a reasonably convenient manner
  • The right to be supplied with a written explanation of the hearing, audit or collection process
  • The right to be informed of what records will need to be provided to verify a return/support a claim in advance of the audit
  • The right to have representation present when your return is examined

While these are just a few of the rights extended to Maryland taxpayers, it nevertheless serves to demonstrate the degree to which you are protected and why it's so important to consider speaking with a skilled legal professional if you encounter any sort of difficulties with tax authorities.

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