As Americans face the April 15 tax-filing deadline, they are not happy about how their tax dollars are spent.
Nine in 10 voting-age Americans (224 million people) do not believe the government is currently spending their tax dollars wisely, according to a new survey from the personal-finance website WalletHub.
“It’s common that people think a lot of government spending is wasted; this is standard over time too,” according to William G. Gale, the Arjay and Frances Fearing Miller Chair in Federal Economic Policy at The Brookings Institution. “However, when asked whether individual programs should be cut, most people say no.”
Whatever your views on taxes and how they are spent, it’s crucial to file on time, even if you can’t pay. And if you want to have an effect on how your tax dollars are used, it’s important to vote for representatives you feel will reflect your views.
But an electoral victory by the politician reflecting your views is no guarantee of change in how tax money is spent. It is up to the president and a diverse Congress to make such decisions.
Individual power to effect what our leaders do is limited, but people are not without rights. The Internal Revenue Service calls its list the Taxpayer Bill of Rights:
• The right to be informed: Taxpayers have the right to know what they need to do to comply with the tax laws. They are entitled to clear explanations of the laws and IRS procedures in all tax forms, instructions, publications, notices, and correspondence. They have the right to be informed of IRS decisions about their tax accounts and to receive clear explanations of the outcomes.
• The right to quality service: Taxpayers have the right to receive prompt, courteous, and professional assistance in their dealings with the IRS, to be spoken to in a way they can easily understand, to receive clear and easily understandable communications from the IRS, and to speak to a supervisor about inadequate service.
• The right to pay no more than the correct amount of tax: Taxpayers have the right to pay only the amount of tax legally due, including interest and penalties, and to have the IRS apply all tax payments properly.
• The right to challenge the IRS’s position and be heard: Taxpayers have the right to raise objections and provide additional documentation in response to formal IRS actions or proposed actions, to expect that the IRS will consider their timely objections and documentation promptly and fairly, and to receive a response if the IRS does not agree with their position.
• The right to appeal an IRS decision in an independent forum: Taxpayers are entitled to a fair and impartial administrative appeal of most IRS decisions, including many penalties, and have the right to receive a written response regarding the Office of Appeals’ decision. Taxpayers generally have the right to take their cases to court.
• The right to finality: Taxpayers have the right to know the maximum amount of time they have to challenge the IRS’s position as well as the maximum amount of time the IRS has to audit a particular tax year or collect a tax debt. Taxpayers have the right to know when the IRS has finished an audit.
• The right to privacy: Taxpayers have the right to expect that any IRS inquiry, examination, or enforcement action will comply with the law and be no more intrusive than necessary, and will respect all due process rights, including search and seizure protections and will provide, where applicable, a collection due process hearing.
• The right to confidentiality: Taxpayers have the right to expect that any information they provide to the IRS will not be disclosed unless authorized by the taxpayer or by law. Taxpayers have the right to expect appropriate action will be taken against employees, return preparers, and others who wrongfully use or disclose taxpayer return information.
• The right to retain representation: Taxpayers have the right to retain an authorized representative of their choice to represent them in their dealings with the IRS. Taxpayers have the right to seek assistance from a Low Income Taxpayer Clinic if they cannot afford representation.
• The right to a fair and just tax system: Taxpayers have the right to expect the tax system to consider facts and circumstances that might affect their underlying liabilities, ability to pay, or ability to provide information timely. Taxpayers have the right to receive assistance from the Taxpayer Advocate Service if they are experiencing financial difficulty or if the IRS has not resolved their tax issues properly and timely through its normal channels.
Death and taxes are certain, so we’re told. In meeting your financial obligation to our governments, remember you have rights. Exercise them.