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What are some of a taxpayer's rights during an IRS audit?

Regardless of one’s political preferences, it’s hard to escape media coverage of the presidential candidates. A recent hullabaloo involves Donald Trump’s refusal to discuss certain of his income tax returns that may be the subject of an audit by the Internal Revenue Service. Right or wrong, Trump’s action warrants a discussion of an individual taxpayer’s rights when it comes to an IRS audit.

As a preliminary matter, the privacy decision is entirely within Trump’s control. A taxpayer should know that the IRS would not release an individual's confidential tax information to the public. Furthermore, it is inaccurate to claim that returns that are under audit can’t be released.

Keep in mind that an IRS audit is an administrative process, not a court proceeding. Whereas certain communications involving the jury and the media might be prohibited in a civil or criminal trial, the same rules do not apply to an IRS audit. In short, Trump could make the returns public, if he desired.

Finally, a taxpayer has the right to hire an attorney to act on his or her behalf in all communications with the IRS. That means that a taxpayer could consult with an attorney as soon as her or she receives an audit letter, which is the start of the administrative audit process. Accidental disclosures or inaccurate statements made to the IRS that could potentially develop into civil or even criminal penalties. An attorney can work to ensure that communications with the IRS are in a taxpayer’s best interest.

Source: Huffington Post, “Trump Lawyers Claim He’s Under ‘Continuous’ IRS Audit,” Christina Wilkie, March 31, 2016

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